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Repeating History

Books literally have a limited shelf-life. If a title doesn’t sell quickly, it’s pulled off the shelves and either goes on the bargain table or is pulped. This is particularly true of military books. Titles and subject matter seem to go in a cycle. Someone writes a book, say about Arnhem or the Crimean War. It hits the book stores. Even if it sells reasonably well, it is unlikely to be reprinted. At best, it’s on the shelves for a year, maybe 18 months. Then it disappears. So, then there are no books about Arnhem or a Crimea available. Or, maybe there’s one classic account that has been reprinted to be found on the shelves of the better bookshops. But if that piques a reader’s interest, there’s nothing else. Publishers know this. And so new titles tackling tired old battles and campaigns are issued every four or five years. The only thing that is new about them is the title. The rest is a rehash of what’s already known.  Previous analysis is often recycled and passed off as a fresh look – the truth “finally revealed”. It’s not clear whether the authors actually believe this claim because their research has been so sloppy. Most of these books are about as satisfying as yesterday’s boiled potatoes and other left-overs reheated in the microwave for today’s lunch.

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