Share This Article

CIVIL WAR BOOK REVIEW, For subscription information, call 615-292-8926, extension 34.

A consuming curiosity about Civil War history and an insatiable appetite for books go together like a saber and scabbard. It’s not television that converts people with a nagging interest in the war into bona fide experts. It’s the Shelby Foote trilogy spread across the coffee table. It’s the soldiers’ memoirs, biographies of generals, and wartime-photograph collections that overload the living-room bookshelves. It’s the battle narratives with nowhere else to go but into piles alongside the couch.

To many a spouse’s chagrin, publishers put out some 500 new books on the Civil War, antebellum, and Reconstruction eras every year. Ignoring for the moment the task of finding storage space for more books, readers must first figure out what books are available in their particular area of interest and then which of those are worth owning. Now, those readers can turn to Civil War Book Review.

Published quarterly by the United States Civil War Center at Louisiana State University, Civil War Book Review runs about two dozen critical reviews in each of its 48-page issues. Many of the reviewers come straight out of Who’s Who of Civil War experts; the Winter 2000 issue, for example, boasts the likes of Harold Holzer, Steven Woodworth, and Mark Neely. The reviews range from 600-word opinionated briefs to 2,000-word detailed critiques, the latter often serving as a virtual crash course in a book’s subject.

In addition to the critical reviews, every issue of Civil War Book Review features listings of more than 100 newly available books. Each listing includes a one- to three-sentence description of the book’s content, but no verdict on its merit. Rounding out each issue are a short interview with an author of Civil War books (Webb Garrison in Winter 2000) and a review of a classic work of Civil War history.

Civil War Book Review does a fine job of filling a niche in the Civil War periodicals market. And considering how quickly hundreds of dollars can turn into Civil War-history books, the valuable advice in this publication is a bargain at $16 a year. Just don’t forget to figure in the cost of extra bookcases.

Carl Zebrowski