I had a phone call the other day from a historian I’ve never met who had assigned my book to a graduate seminar this quarter and who wanted to tell me how much he and his students liked my book. (This was in a seminar in which they apparently scorched nearly every other book–unfairly, of course, but he passed this along to me because their appreciation for my book was so striking by comparison.*) In the course of conveying these extravagant compliments, he said something very thoughtful and very wise:
It’s been a bad past few years here [at my university]. Since we’re not going to get recognition or support from our institutions for our work, I’ve decided to e-mail or call everyone whose book my students and I really like to thank them and let them know.
Isn’t that a great idea? Let’s all do this! I think the historian above is exactly right: we need to share the love and support each other. He said that he’s had some surprising reactions–overwhelmingly positive, of course, but he’s even had a fulsome and grateful response from someone who’s not a historian but rather is a pretty famous non-fiction writer, someone from whom he never expected a reply.
So, think: did you read an especially interesting, well-researched, well-written, or otherwise thought-provoking book in the past year? Let the author know, and be sure to let them know what your students’ reactions were to the book if you assigned it in a class. (I always enjoy hearing what students liked or disliked about my book–sometimes they pick up on things that my peers don’t see.)
Earlier in my career, I made a lot of new friends by complimenting them on their books, but I’ve fallen off the wagon lately. In part, this is because my field is so small that I *already know* pretty much everyone whose books I assign. (Also, I’ve been called on pretty frequently in the past few years as a manuscript reader for presses and journals, so although I always sign my reviews, my relationship to those authors is different.) Maybe this is a sign that I need to read a little more broadly. . . or that I just need to be more generous with the love.
So tell me about the book you liked and the author you’re going to write to in the comments below.
*They appreciated the fact that I read and used more than just English-language sources, and thought that “this woman is doing something new!” I couldn’t be happier to hear that my book survived the graduate seminar shred-O-matic!
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