Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Palmer's reply:
One of the most interesting things I read last year was The Library of America's four-volume set The Civil War Told by Those Who Lived It. It's a recounting of Civil War history assembled from contemporary documents, each one introduced with a paragraph or two of neutral commentary, enough to provide the necessary context for the reader who's not a Civil War historian.Visit Dexter Palmer's website.
There is a singular pleasure in reading a history comprised of mostly unmediated primary sources (even if you can sense the editors' presence in the selection of the pieces and the order in which they are placed). History seems different when recorded from the point of view of someone who didn't know how things would turn out--encountering the Civil War from the perspective of someone in the midst of the events in 1863 is oddly suspenseful, even if the end result of the conflict is widely known. One wonders how so many people could think that slavery was not that bad; one wants to warn Abraham Lincoln not to go to Ford's Theater.
Recommended, if you are an interested layman, and if you have the time. (I read it on and off over seven or eight months: it's easy to pick up again after leaving it alone for a while, or to read in tandem with something else.)
Writers Read: Dexter Palmer (March 2010).