The Boomerang

Understand history. Understand the world.

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2022 is coming to a close, which means that it’s time to look back on the year that has been on The Boomerang. And what better way than to put together lists of the top 5 posts of the year. I say lists, because there are several ways to do a top 5.

Usually, a top 5 list is based on the most traffic that a particular post has attracted during a specific interval, in this case the year 2022. But as I compiled the most popular posts of the year, I noticed that most of them were from before 2022. I then decided to make two lists: one list with the most popular posts of 2022 regardless of publication date and one list with the most popular posts of 2022 published in 2022.

Just like with rock bands where the songs the audience wants to hear are not the same songs that the band wants to play, the posts that attract the most traffic and the posts that I am the most proud of are not necessarily the same. That’s why I decided to make another list, this time of my favorites among the posts published in 2022.

And then I thought, one of the purposes of The Boomerang is to review academic books that otherwise are not likely to come to the attention of the general public. So I added a fourth list: my top 5 favorite book reviews.

Without further ado. Please enjoy the four different Top 5 Posts of 2022 on The Boomerang.

Top 5 Posts of 2022 Regardless of Publication Date

  1. Historical Truth versus Historical Validity.
    I wrote and published this post on June 20, 2013, which makes it one of the first posts I wrote on The Boomerang. Every year since then, this post is in the top 5 of posts that attract the most traffic. The post is a discussion about the fact that in history there is no such thing as “truth,” only more or less valid conclusions, a given among historians but something that for each day is becoming more and more relevant in public discourse.
  2. Hanya Yanagihara’s A LITTLE LIFE and the Perpetual Present Day.
    This post is from April 21, 2015. For a long time, it languished in obscurity towards the bottom of The Boomerang’s traffic statistics. Until last year when it gained a lot of attention and continues to draw traffic to the site. I have no idea why. I wrote this post soon after I read A Little Life for the first time (yes, I did reread it). I still stand by the conclusion I drew then: Hanya Yanagihara does not write literary fiction. Instead, she is a formidable writer of speculative fiction.
  3. The Natural Sciences and the Definition of Truth.
    I wrote this post on November 9, 2014 after renowned American astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson tweeted something he probably should have spent another moment thinking about, this time about how the theories of relativity, evolution, and others are true. Which of course is wrong. A theory can’t be true. If a theory were true, it wouldn’t be a theory. So, I wrote this post about the definition of the word “truth” in science, social science, the humanities, and in general.
  4. THE BRIGHT AGES by Gabriel & Perry, or What It Means to Be New.
    This post is the only post published in 2022 in the top 5. It drew a lot of traffic in the month of April when a twitter feud erupted around a review of this book, and people were on the look out for book reviews that took this book down. My review is unfavorable for reasons too many to list here. If you are curious what those reasons are, you are welcome to click on the link.
  5. H.G. Wells THE TIME MACHINE and the Issue of Race.
    Here’s another very early post on The Boomerang, published on October 24, 2013. This post consistently draws a lot of traffic, probably because H.G. Wells is an evergreen author who continues to attract readers and define the field of science fiction. Here, I discuss how the relationship between the Eloi and the Morlocks in H.G. Well’s story The Time Machine is an expression of Victorian views on race, as much as it is about class.

Top 5 Posts of 2022 Published in 2022

  1. THE BRIGHT AGES by Gabriele & Perry, or What It Means to Be New.
    As I said above, this post attracted a lot of attention because of the controversy that surrounded the book earlier this year. However, I should also point out that the post has continued to attract traffic since then. There was a lot of hype surrounding this book when it came out. The authors are established in the field and have large followings on social media, so the book remains a conversation topic.
  2. How to Survive in Oz as an Academic. The 3 Kinds of Book Reviews and Why You Need to Know the Difference.
    I wrote this post because of the twitter feud that rocketed my review of The Bright Ages into the stratosphere. When I read the tweets generated by this feud, I noticed that tweeters expressed outrage without understanding the differences between book reviews. A book review is not always a book review. Just because you know how to write or evaluate an academic book review, it doesn’t mean you know how to approach a book review for a publication aimed at the general public. So, I wrote this post.
  3. The Age that Never Existed. How Museum Bureaucrats Created the Viking Age.
    Vikings are eternally popular. But when we take a closer look at the Vikings it becomes clear that little of what we think we know is actually verifiable. One of the things we think we know is that there was such a thing as the Viking Age. In this post, I explain who came up with the Viking Age and why.
  4. Sarah Maza, Thinking about History, or History as Slime Toy.
    Sarah Maza’s book Thinking about History provides a great, accessible overview of the history of history. As Maza so elegantly demonstrates, unlike other academic disciplines, history is difficult to define. Hence my reference to the slime toy.
  5. The Russian Mile Post, Or Finland, the Åland Islands, and the Russian Empire in the Baltic.
    I wrote this post on February 25, 2022, the day after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which is not a coincidence. I have written on The Boomerang about my family’s roots in the Åland Islands before. I have even written about this very mile post before. But on February 25, 2022, I viewed that mile post differently. Instead of viewing it as history that is now well in the past, it became an expression of something more sinister. It became the pinky finger of an empire that keeps sticking its hands into every cookie jar within its reach.

My Top 5 Favorite Posts Published in 2022

  1. 5 Financial Tips for Contingent Faculty Who Don’t Want to Die in Poverty (Especially if They Are Women).
    We don’t talk enough about money. In fact, we are told not to talk about money. Especially if we are women. Especially if we are contingent faculty in academia. And especially especially if we are women who are also contingent faculty in academia. Women live longer than men. Women make less money than men. This is why men die with money left to spend, while women die long after their money has run out. This post is my contribution to empowering women. In a capitalist society, empowerment = money.
  2. How Prognostication Will Save the Future of History.
    This post is a bit technical and probably doesn’t make a lot of sense to people who are not historians working in the United States witnessing the collapse of their own professional field in real time. But I needed to write this post to express what I believe can help history survive, but which every historian finds counterintuitive: extrapolate the data into the future instead of into the past.
  3. In Remembrance of Forests Past, Or How Aimless Wanderings Will Bring You Back Home.
    This post is a ruminating piece where my thoughts trace my footsteps. I walked to explore my old stomping grounds, and discovered that there is a lot you don’t know about something that is familiar. I allowed my curiosity lead the way and because of that I ended up where I started, which is where I needed to be.
  4. Living in Florida is Living with the Apocalypse.
    Florida is considered the appendix of the United States, figuratively and literally. Whenever Florida is in the news, it’s rarely good. “Florida Man” and “Florida weird” are established terms. I wrote this post soon after Hurricane Ian destroyed large sections of the state of Florida this fall, and based parts of it on a lecture I gave for the Honors College Freshman Seminar, which I teach every semester. The intention of the lecture and this post is to understand why Florida is the way it is. I think I came up with an answer.
  5. Pro-Wrestling is Art. Or, Aristotle, Socrates, and the F-Word.
    This post has gained almost no traction since its publication on February 11, 2022. It could be because of the title, which is not very good. Or, because outside of the pro-wrestling world no one really takes pro-wrestling seriously and considers it trash. I disagree, and I make that case here. I wrote this post for myself, more than anyone else.

My Top 5 Favorite Book Reviews of 2022

  1. The Sound of Historical Silence. A Review of Michel-Rolph Trouillot’s SILENCING THE PAST.
    There are books where you can divide your life into a before and an after. Michel-Rolph Trouillot’s Silencing the Past is one of those books. Read it, if you haven’t already. But first, read my review.
  2. When It’s in the Walls… A Review of Nell Irvin Painter’s THE HISTORY OF WHITE PEOPLE.
    Turning the tables on white historians who write Black history, Nell Irvin Painter traces the construction of whiteness as a race and as a concept. It is a harrowing read that has made my relationship to Viking studies in American academia a lot more fraught and complicated.
  3. The Diaspora and the Tyranny of the Primary Source. A Review of Judith Jesch’s THE VIKING DIASPORA.
    This book was very interesting to read because I ended up being less convinced of the argument after I finished reading than I was before I started. A point I make in this review is that as historians we trip ourselves up when we stare ourselves blind on the written primary sources, especially when the answer to our question lies in a syntheses of secondary sources.
  4. The Invention of the Clash of Civilizations. A Review of Nancy Bisaha’s CREATING EAST AND WEST.
    A very interesting book about how philosophers (in the broad historical meaning of the word) in fifteenth century Italy reacted to the Ottoman Turks conquering Constantinople in 1453 and how that spawned the unilateral idea of a clash of civilizations between Latin Christianity and Islam.
  5. A Possible Path Forward. A Review of Sarah F. Derbew’s UNTANGLING BLACKNESS IN GREEK ANTIQUITY.
    As I say in my review, Derbew states in her book what historians already know: skin color was not a category of classification in the Ancient world. Derbew’s contribution is how she forges a path forward for how to read Ancient Greek texts with dark-skinned characters in the 21st century, thus proving that studies of Antiquity have a place in the future. Derbew also proves that a longer book is not necessarily a better book. The length of this book is somewhere between a chapbook and a monograph, which is all it needs to be.

That wraps up The Boomerang for 2022. I wish you all a Happy New Year. See you on the flip side in 2023.

In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

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