I should have a little more time as a major project I’ve been working on is wrapping up. Time to blow the dust and cobwebs off this blog.
I recently received an offer from a major publishing house to review a book. Obviously, I enjoy doing book reviews. And this book looks interesting and intriguing. Unfortunately, it’s about 15th century events. It is in an area I find interesting; an aspect of society which added a new, very significant variable into contemporary culture. I’ve even read a little bit about it, but not enough. I’m not up on recent scholarship, don’t read journals related to the topic or period, and this isn’t an area I’ve chosen to focus on.
After debating with myself for several weeks I decided to decline the offer. It is a popular history but this is no problem. There absolutely is a place for well-written books designed to reach a wider audience. One of the problems is I probably could have written at least a decent review, though I’d have had to do some additional reading to “brush up” on things. However if someone had responded to an item of the review with something like, “What do you think of Jane Smith’s book detailing new evidence which directly counters this?” I’d have to reply with, “I don’t know.” Not good.
This is the second time I’ve received an offer like this in the past six months (the other was for a book on the development of the Arthur legend). One reason I was tempted to say yes is that there’s enough content on this blog for a publisher to get a pretty good sense of what I do and don’t know. They were OK with me reviewing it, maybe I should have been too.
What I really want is for someone to send me the same type of request for a book about Aetius, Stilicho, Clovis, the Avars, the Ravenna-Papacy conflict, even Liutprand(pick which one, I think I could manage any of ’em). I’m hoping that turning these last two down doesn’t end the requests.