Time and culture
“You’ve got to marinate your head, in that time and culture. You’ve got to become them.” ― David McCullough
I think one of the best and quickest ways to defeat despair is to read a bit of history and contemplate what life used to be like. I’ve found that nonfiction often seems best for this, since many historical novels can romanticize the past or skip over some of the more unpleasant realities that were inescapable for previous generations. Contrary to what a lot of people think, well-written historical accounts need not be boring, and in fact, some of the most absorbing books I’ve ever read were nonfiction biographies and histories.
If you’ve ever read anything by David McCullough, you know that he is a master at bringing the past to life for his readers. It’s easy to believe he immerses himself in the past just as he describes here, enabling him to open doors in our imagination that will bring us as close to time travel as anything can.
Winter is a great time to dig into a McCullough book. The first book I read by him was Truman, and the only reason I read it was that I found myself in a place where few other choices were available. I was amazed how McCullough’s writing captivated me, leaving me feeling almost as if I knew a man whose biography had never interested me before. 1776 was equally good, and gave me a new understanding of our country’s war for independence.
Of course, McCullough is not the only gifted historical writer awaiting lucky readers. Any public library or bookstore will have shelves full of histories and biographies that are every bit as absorbing as any novel, covering any period history that might interest you. If you’re a reader — or even if you’re not much of a reader — try a little time travel during these long winter months, via a book set in a past era. Or share with us here about some of your favorite journeys to the past, through the magic of reading.
One year ago today