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Popular literary history is not written by, nor is it historically characterized by, the "classics" that come down to us. More often than not, the classics of 19th century American writers (except Mark Twain) were not best-sellers in their time, indeed they were hardly read by the contemporaries of the authors. That is why getting an understanding of what the masses read at the time of the Civil War -- what they read in terms of books and more so in terms of magazines & weekly newspapers -- provides such a great window on how the "average" literate person, north or south, thought on an everyday basis. This book by Alice Fahs tries to do that.
The book has lots of interesting material about the time and popular thought, it will open your eyes. It is, however, a bit dense at times ... especially to someone like me who was neither an English nor a Comparative Literature major. I can read or listen to academic History material with little trouble, but I had trouble with this work. It sounded like a PhD dissertation at times, or a paper for an academic journal, and not like a breezy discussion of the subject matter.
So I give it 5 stars for the unique and revealing content, and just a couple of stars for its academic density. Which averages out at 3 stars. It is certainly not the worst audiobook I've listened to over 5+ years on Audible, but neither was it the best. If you were a lit major or feel you can wade through such material without too much trouble, I say get it.