A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century
by Barbara W. Tuchman
Let me just begin with a naive statement: I believed that this was a newer book than it actually is. It was published in 1978, but it held such a prominent place in the bookstore I used to work at, I assumed it had to have been a more recent publication, since by and large, most older books in bookstores are found in the literary departments. There are certainly exceptions, and apparently A Distant Mirror is one of them. (Tuchman, by the way, is probably better known for The Guns of August, just so you know that I know.) Anyway, history has always been a fascinating subject to me, something school (even in college) never really seemed to vindicate for me, since most teachers are bent on drilling facts rather than allowing them to soak in. (Oh, to have been a history major at an institution that allowed me to immerse myself in the subject. That seems to be a privilege not available to me, except on my own time.) Tuchman examines what she considers to be a signal moment in time, one she believed mirrored (hence the title) the horrors of the 20th century, so that the reader will truly come to appreciate what life was like in the Middle Ages. Perhaps not surprisingly, I'm finding it to be fascinating.