Wars are made on enemies, not on ideas; wars have defined goals — usually forcing the enemy to capitulate — but a war on terror has no clearly defined end.
Margaret MacMillan
Professor of History, Oxford University, Toronto
author, Dangerous Games: The Uses and Abuses of History

Jonathan Yardley reviewed MacMillan’s recent book, Dangerous Games, in today’s Washington Post. MacMillan is also the author of Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World. An excerpt from Dangers Games is posted on the author’s website.

The first two paragraphs of Yardley’s review are worth quoting in this post:

In this provocative examination of the ways in which we use and abuse history, Margaret MacMillan passes along a story originally told by the writer Susan Jacoby. She was in a New York bar on the evening of Sept. 11, 2001, and eavesdropped on a conversation between two “bewildered” men. First man: “This is just like Pearl Harbor.” Second man: “What is Pearl Harbor?” First man: “That was when the Vietnamese dropped bombs in a harbor, and it started the Vietnam War.” To which MacMillan responds:

“Does it matter that they got it so wrong? I would argue that it does, that a citizenry that cannot begin to put the present into context, that has so little knowledge of the past, can too easily be fed stories by those who claim to speak with the knowledge of history and its lessons. History is called in . . . to strengthen group solidarity, often at the expense of the individual, to justify treating others badly, and to bolster arguments for particular policies and courses of action. Knowledge of the past helps us to challenge dogmatic statements and sweeping generalizations. It helps us all think more clearly.”

In other book news, the Libary of Congress’s 2009 National Book Festival site is up. Here’s a list of authors appearing (to date) on the national mall on September 26 . The event is free and open to the general public.

Sabiha Al Khemir
Julia Alvarez
David Baldacci
Dan Balz
Mary Brigid Barrett
Holly Black
Judy Blume
Douglas Brinkley
Ken Burns
Patrick Carman
Lee Child
Mary Jane Clark
Margaret Coel
Michael Connelly
Sharon Creech
Carmen Agra Deedy
Paula Deen
Junot Díaz
Kate DiCamillo
Tony DiTerlizzi
Kirstin Downey
Dayton Duncan
W. Ralph Eubanks
Annette Gordon-Reed
Nikki Grimes
John Grisham
Shannon Hale
Craig Hatkoff
Edward Hirsch
Jane Hirshfield
Gwen Ifill
John Irving
Craig Johnson
Haynes Johnson
Liz Kessler
Sue Monk Kidd
Jeff Kinney
Mark Kurlansky
Lois Lowry
Megan McDonald
Jon Meacham
Ana Menendez
Rickey Minor
Walter Mosley
Azar Nafisi
Kadir Nelson
Katherine Neville
James Patterson
Jodi Picoult
Jerry Pinkney
Rick Riordan
Marilynne Robinson
Sharon Robinson
S.J. Rozan
Kay Ryan
Charles Santore
Simon Schama
Jon Scieszka
Lisa Scottoline
David Shannon
Nicholas Sparks
Patricia Sullivan
James L. Swanson
Ann Kidd Taylor
Jeannette Walls
Colson Whitehead
Mo Willems
Jacqueline Woodson
David Wroblewski

For more information, call (888) 714-4696, or email bookfest[at]loc[dot]gov.