Absolutely essential history, as told by the people who made it

The 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War is just around the corner (April 12), and various media

The 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War is just around the corner (April 12), and various media outlets have already opened the floodgates of remembrance (and ad revenue). Some of the TV shows, coffee-table books, and newspaper columns we’ve seen have been shallow or tired; a few have been callous and/or exploitative. But one new cultural object—a Library of America anthology called The Civil War: The First Year Told by Those Who Lived It—has been a revelation.

Reporting Vietnam, Reporting Civil Rights, and other titles in the nonprofit publisher’s “Reporting” series took thousands of carefully chosen newspaper articles, analyses, and frontline reports and put them in chronological order: The resulting collage gave readers a super-immediate sense of events unfolding in real time. The new anthology’s a bit broader: It includes diary entries, speeches, legal opinions, and other documents. But like those other books, it reads like a thriller, and it has all the shadings of a Shakespearean tragedy. The first in a set of four projected volumes, it’s a totally fascinating, utterly fresh way of looking at a war that still sends tremors through our body politic.

Editor’s note: Yesterday’s VSL was so popular that we helped overload the virtual circuits at the website we linked you to. (As it turns out, Mitoza’s service provider was good for only 50,000 visitors a day.) We apologize, and promise to link you back to the site as soon as it’s up and running again.

This post is from Observer Short List—an email of three favorite things from people you want to know. Sign up to receive OSL here. Absolutely essential history, as told by the people who made it