A book mark has been sitting on my desk for over two years now because I like the poem printed on it. Recently I looked up the poet and found that Barbara Tuchman (1903-1984) was not a poet, but a journalist and historian. Wikipedia says that she was criticized because she didn’t have a university degree and wrote history in a way that ordinary people could understand it. Seems she was ahead of her time. Nowadays easy-to-understand histories make the New York Times bestseller list (e.g. The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown or The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel with Bret Witter.)
Surfing the web I found a site with Barbara Tuchman quotes (quotetab.com). Here’s my favorites: Human behavior is timeless.—Above all, discard the irrelevant.—One must stop conducting research before one has finished. Otherwise, one will never- stop and never finish.—Words are seductive and dangerous material, to be used with caution. An essential element for good writing is a good ear. One must listen to the sound of one’s own prose. I have always been in a condition in which I cannot not write. No writing comes alive unless the writer sees across his desk a reader, and searches constantly for the word or phrase which will carry the image he wants the reader to see, and arouse the emotion he wants him to feel. Without conscientiousness of a live reader, what a man writes will die on the page. To be a bestseller is not necessarily a measure of quality, but it is a measure of communication. Nothing is more satisfying then to write a good sentence. It is no fun to write lumpishly, dully, in prose the reader must plod through like wet sand. But it is a pleasure to achieve, if one can, a clear running prose that is simple yet full of surprises. This does not just happen. It requires skill, hard work, a good ear, and continual practice. Nothing sickens me more than the closed door of a library. My bookmark says: Without books, history is silent, literature dumb,science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill. Without books, the development of civilization would have been impossible. Books are engines of change, windows on the world, “lighthouses” (as a poet said” “erected in the sea of time.” Books are companions, teachers, magicians, bankers of the treasures of the mind. They are humanity in print.