Time for a good rant. I haven’t had one in a long while.
I was recently asked to write a review of this book for the next issue of Civil War Times magazine. I have lots of serious problems with this book–the author did virtually no research before writing it, and it is also horribly deficient in maps–but it also features my pet peeve about books.
When a new Civil War book is published, the first thing that I do is to look at the bibliography, as doing so tells me what sources were consulted by the author in writing the work. More importantly, a review of the bibliography shows me how deeply the author has delved into the primary sources, and in particular, into manuscript sources. If a review of the bibliography does not demonstrate a deep job of researching the primary sources by the author, I will not purchase the book, on the theory that it adds nothing. I simply cannot take a book that does include a bibliography seriously.
My pet peeve is when there is no bibliography at all. The book I just reviewed has no bibliography, and Carhart’s festering pile of turds does not have one either. The failure to include a bibliography permits a lazy, or worse, intellectually dishonest (see Carhart), author to hide his or her lack of research. The failure to include a bibliography permits the author to avoid being held accountable for his or her poor work and lack of substantive research. In the case of Carhart’s book, the failure to include a bibliography permits Carhart to hide the fact that he simply manufactured “facts” when there were none in the historical record to support his preposterous theory. With respect to the book that I just reviewed, the lack of a bibliography hides the incredibly shallow scope of the author’s research. The endnotes indicate that he used primarily secondary sources, a few commonly available published primary sources, and a handful of materials readily available on the World Wide Web. There is not a single reference to the Official Records, there is not a single reference to any manuscript sources not available on line, there is not a single reference to newspaper materials, and there are no references to any primary source research of any significance. That bibliography would, undoubtedly, have been embarrassingly short, which is probably the reason why it was not included.
I view the failure to include a bibliography in a book to be at best lazy and at worst the perpetration of intellectual fraud. And I categorically refuse to buy any book that does not include one because I don’t believe that any such book has anything whatsoever to add to the body of knowledge. If I buy the book, that sends a message that it’s okay to publish such works, and I never, ever want to do anything that could even remotely be construed as promoting the publication of such works.
Personally, I WANT the reader to see how much work went into researching and writing one of my books. I WANT the reader to see just how much effort goes into one of these projects before I ever set pen to paper. I am proud of it. Evidently, these other authors are not, which I cannot begin to comprehend.
I had included some discussion of this issue in my review, but there was not sufficient room for all of it, and most of my ranting about the lack of a bibliography had to be edited out. Instead, I figured I would share that rant with you here.
What do all of you think about books that lack bibliographies? Please share your thoughts with me here.Scridb filter