May is the month that we collectively look back at where we’ve been and how far we’ve come. In other words, it’s high time to introduce you to our History buyers.
Meet Barry (and his assistant Koki), History buyer at ABC The Hague, and Jeroen, History buyer in Amsterdam:
How long have you been the buyer?
Barry: (…looooong pause…) For more than 20 years.
Jeroen: Oh my… For 22 years.
What are the boundaries of your History section?
Barry: From the 20th century onward. There is a slight overlap with the Current Affairs section. Anything earlier goes in our Early History section. We also have a separate Military History section.
Jeroen: From the Middle Ages until the modern age. The books are grouped by country or region, so it goes right into current affairs. Anything earlier can be found in the Ancient History section, and the Political Science section has the more theoretical books.
Which titles or authors do you always stock?
Barry: Henry Kissinger, Robert Caro, Thomas Friedman, Francis Fukuyama, Martin Meredith, Orlando Figes, Dee Brown.
Jeroen: Jared Diamond, Antony Beevor, Robert Caro, Norman Davies, The Lost by Daniel Mendelsohn, Orlando Figes, Robert Massie, Anne Applebaum, James McPherson, David Glantz.
What historical ages or subjects are underrepresented in your section?
Barry: Nothing really comes to mind.
Jeroen: Dutch history in English, besides those concerning the Dutch Golden Age, of which there are quite a few already. We are asked quite often about these books, especially on World War II. A new book about Dutch history is Eye of the Beholder by Laura Snyder, but it’s, again, about the Golden Age.
Nowadays you can check every historical subject on Google and Wikipedia, with maps and audio fragments and videos. What is the added value of a book?
Barry: Insight, depth and perspective. I use a computer if I need information quickly, but I always go to a book afterwards. I don’t mistrust the internet, but everything is in small bits.
Jeroen: A book can add the depth of research, and an interpretation of facts. If, on top of that, it’s so well-written that you can’t stop reading it, then there’s nothing better. A good example is The Lost by Daniel Mendelsohn. What a phenomenal book.
Please name some eagerly-anticipated upcoming titles.
Barry: Part 2 of Simon Schama’s The Story of the Jews, the paperback edition of World Order by Henry Kissinger and the paperback edition of My Promised Land by Ari Shavit.
Jeroen: Ardennes 1944 by Antony Beevor. I’m a big fan of his, and I’ve been fascinated by the Ardennes offensive since my youth. I also wonder how Robert Caro will continue his Lyndon Johnson biography.
You can meet more section buyers here.
Of the books linked to above, there are ebooks available for: World Order by Henry Kissinger, Revolutionary Russia by Orlando Figes, Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond, Stalingrad by Antony Beevor, Vanished Kingdoms by Norman Davies, The Lost by Daniel Mendelsohn, Iron Curtain by Anne Applebaum, Battle Cry Freedom by James McPherson, Operation Barbarossa by David Glantz and Story of the Jews (part 1) by Simon Schama.