What We Are Reading Today: The War for Gaul by Julius Caesar

Updated 30 January 2019

What We Are Reading Today: The War for Gaul by Julius Caesar

Imagine a book about an unnecessary war written by the ruthless general of an occupying army — a vivid and dramatic propaganda piece that forces the reader to identify with the conquerors and that is designed, like the war itself, to fuel the limitless political ambitions of the author. Could such a campaign autobiography ever be a great work of literature — perhaps even one of the greatest? It would be easy to think not, but such a book exists — and it helped transform Julius Caesar from a politician on the make into the Caesar of legend. This remarkable new translation of Caesar’s famous but underappreciated War for Gaul captures, like never before in English, the gripping and powerfully concise style of the future emperor’s dispatches from the front lines in what are today France, Belgium, Germany, and Switzerland.

While letting Caesar tell his battle stories in his own way, distinguished classicist James O’Donnell also fills in the rest of the story in a substantial introduction and notes that together explain why Gaul is the “best bad man’s book ever written.”


What We Are Reading Today: Escalante’s Dream

Updated 46 min 40 sec ago

What We Are Reading Today: Escalante’s Dream

Author: David Roberts

Famed adventure writer David Roberts re-creates the extraordinary 1,700-mile journey of the 18th-century Domínguez-Escalante scouting expedition.
In this adventure-history, Roberts travels the Spaniards’ forgotten route, using Escalante’s first-person report as his guide. Blending personal and historical narrative, he relives the glories, catastrophes, and courage of this desperate journey.
“The places that the Spaniards went were sometimes incredibly inaccessible. Some still are to this day, which is as it should be. There should be places left where people don’t go, that keep their secrets,” said a review in goodreads.com.
In a review for The New York Times, critic Philip Connors said Roberts “knows his Southwestern history, and he knows how to craft an artful sentence. The one thing he doesn’t appear to know is just how cranky he sounds when people he meets along the way don’t share his Escalante enthusiasm, including the woman running a visitor center in Jensen.”
Roberts is the award-winning author of 29 books about mountaineering, exploration, and anthropology.
His most recent publication, Alone on the Wall, was written with world-class rock climber Alex Honnold.