The point I would make is that the novelist and the historian are seeking the same thing: the truth — not a different truth: the same truth — only they reach it, or try to reach it, by different routes. Whether the event took place in a world now gone to dust, preserved by documents and evaluated by scholarship, or in the imagination, preserved by memory and distilled by the creative process, they both want to tell us how it was: to re-create it, by their separate methods, and make it live again in the world around them.
I know quite a few of our readers have a keen interest in the Civil War, and I am curious as to what their favorite Civil War books are. There are so many magnificent studies of the Civil War that I have read over the years, that I find the question difficult to answer. However, I think pride of place for me is Shelby Foote’s magisterial three volume The Civil War: A Narrative. Written by a master novelist, Foote’s volumes are an epic recreation of the terrible conflict that made us, certainly more than any event since, what we are today. That is my choice, what is yours?