Written by Ellis Ian Fields
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Tuesday, 14 December 2010

image for History Review: Books Of The Year Ken at work for you.

It has been a bumper year for history publishing and there's a lot to choose from if you want to give history for Christmas.

We asked Ken Lucid to remember some of the volumes he's read for us during 2010...

Strewth! They don't ask bloody much do they?

It's not enough I have to read all these bloody books, but come Christmas I have to remember them!

And are you sure you want to go buying someone one of these ruddy great tomes anyway?

It can be a dodgy business, buying books.

When I was a kid my mum and dad were pally with this other couple. Now, every Saturday I went and played football for the school team. On Sundays I played for a local club.

I always avoided playing "rugger" if I possibly could. I talked non-stop about football, played it in the streets and always stayed up to watch Match of the Day.

One Christmas this couple gave me a Rugby Union annual! Call me an ungrateful bastard ("you're an ungrateful bastard, Lucid!") but I never opened it. They weren't turning me into an egg-chaser.

They were a Scottish couple. That must be it.

And there's the mean-well dolts who snip out the price. What do you want to do that for? Think we don't know how much books cost? And you can't exchange it because it's been defaced! Idiots!

You'd also better be damned sure it's a must-have before you write some sentimental guff on the flysheet.

No. I always reckon if it has to be a book, make sure you know the recipient wants it or send a token. (Do they still do them?)

So, you're still determined to buy a history book for someone?

OK.

Moral Combat, by Michael Burleigh was a very interesting new take on the Second World War by an excellent historian. Other good war books were The Last Crusade, (Crimean) by Orlando Figes and A World On Fire (American Civil) by Amanda Foreman.

The reclamation of German culture, Peter Watson's The German Genius was a good - if huge - read and the survey of English Queens before Elizabeth I, She Wolves by Helen Castor, was enlightening and enjoyable.

But for something very different, it would have to be Francis Spufford's leftfield survey of the Soviet economic experiment, Red Plenty - fascinating and brilliantly realised.

Ken Lucid is Chair of History at the University of Thames Valley East.

The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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