The Roaring Writers

The story of rootless young Americans abroad in the 1920s long ago calcified into literary myth, but the entwined story of their engagement in journalism and international politics still offers plenty of surprises. In her fascinating new book, historian Nancy F. Cott follows four young college graduates who booked passage in the early 1920s to distant shores, carrying with them literary ambitions that were more or less vague, and wound up in the vanguard of interwar journalism.

Unearthing London’s history from a muddy riverbank

A mudlark — a person who scavenges for treasure in the muck and rubbish of a riverbank — sounds like a character from a Shakespearean comedy, flitting between the extremes of filth and magic. In her quirky memoir of modern mudlarking, Lara Maik­lem travels from west to east along the Thames, from Teddington to Tilbury, reflecting on London’s long and layered history as revealed in the detritus thrown up by the water.

Wheel of Fortune

Dan Carlin, host of the popular podcast Hardcore History, stresses at the outset of his latest book that he is not a historian but rather “a student of history”: an amateur status that grants him the freedom “to roam intellectual spaces” that are off-limits to academics cowed by the rigors of peer review. A different student of history might wonder if restricting himself to a smaller field of inquiry could yield more graspable and thus more profound answers, but not Carlin, who roams from ancient Assyria to nuclear-powered America with the wowed air of a college freshman who’s just discovered cultural relativism.
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