San Francisco Chronicle, March 8, 2009

By Jesse Berrett.

One of the first principles novice academic historians learn is that books that cater to the market are, at best, suspicious. Anything not published by a university press is by definition under-theorized, simplistic, too appealing. Certainly, when Erik LarsonĀ gins up suspense through exaggeration or artful juxtaposition, he’s concocting something that’s not exactly “history.” But by the same token, the effort to entice readers should not be disdained, and minimal advances in knowledge won via hair-splitting interpretive battles do no one a favor.

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