Who knew there would be such drama over a book review?
It all started positively enough. I was chatting with the Editor-in-Chief of Civil War Times, the preeminent magazine on the American Civil War. We were at the annual Lincoln Forum and I showed him my recently released book, Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America. He immediately noticed the preponderance of graphics in the book and exclaimed (yes, exclaimed) his desire to have it reviewed for the magazine. With a circulation of over 100,000 subscribers, plus most public libraries, having my book reviewed was a great opportunity.
One of his favorite book reviewers just happened to pass by us at that moment and the editor assigned my book review to him on the spot. This was fortuitous, given that that same person has bought a copy of my book earlier in the conference. We were good to go.
Months passed and after two issues of the magazine had appeared without any sign of the review I queried the editor. Long story short – some miscommunication left each of them expecting to hear from the other and a review had not yet been written. The editor decided to re-assign the review to another Lincoln scholar, whom I had just seen at a recent event.
Finally the next issue arrives (the magazine is published every other month). Before reading anything else or even looking at the table of contents I go straight to the back and look for the review. Nothing. I see four other books reviewed, all full pages with big headlines and photos of their book covers. I don’t see mine. Alas, I think, it must be scheduled for the next issue.
Then I get an email from the reviewer. Did I see his review of my book in the latest CWT, he asks. Well, no, I respond. I didn’t. So I look again. This time I find it. It’s a short review, merely a narrow column long, squeezed onto a page dominated by ads and facing a full page review of another book with its big headline and cover photo. With a small headline and no cover photo, the review of my book is easily overlooked. Heck, I was looking for it and missed it. I suspect everyone else will think, as I did, that the column is merely the extension of the facing page’s book. Since most people will scan the reviews they may not notice that the “extra column” is actually a review of a different book.
So I finally got the book review that I had been waiting for in the most-read Civil War magazine in the world. I’m grateful for that, though it may be missed by many of its readers.
The review itself is wonderful. Jonathan White is a world-class Lincoln scholar with several well-respected and award-winning Lincoln and Civil War books to his name. His review of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America is hugely positive:
“He succeeds admirably,”
is one of his lines. He says that the book:
“tells the story of our 16th president through a wonderful blending of lively prose and attractive imagery.”
He has other nice things to say, which can be read in the magazine (page 69). My goal was to create a book experience that draws in members of the general public that might not ever pick up a scholarly book on Abraham Lincoln. The graphics (photos, cartoons, drawings, paintings) both grab the attention and enhance the text. Based on feedback, I’ve succeeded in teaching a broader range of people without them feeling like they are back in school being forced to study a textbook. Many of my readers will be stimulated to learn more about Lincoln, and I’ve provided ample book suggestions in the back to give them a head start.
Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America is already into its second printing, with more printings hopefully down the road. Likely it will join my previous books on Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison in being translated into several foreign languages. Prefer German, Dutch, Spanish, Czech? We have you covered.
The CWT placement may not get as big a splash as I was hoping for, but I’m honored to have such enthusiasm by the editors, the reviewers, and the public for my book. I hope CWT readers will find it a refreshing change from the more academic books they read and present it as gifts their family, friends, and neighbors.
Now, I’m on to the next Lincoln book. Stay tuned.
David J. Kent is a science traveler and the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, in Barnes and Noble stores now. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.