Having trouble pinning down my views on book 53. Some of the claims included in book 53 seem much less substantiated by evidence than others. This is due to the fact that the widely-read author includes both highly respected scholarly sources and sources that are out of the left field including claims that are not widely accepted in the academic world. In a way, I admire the author’s reaching to find less conventional sources but since the young readers will not have the knowledge of knowing which sources are more established than the others, the responsibility lies on the biographer’s shoulder to make it clear which source might not be reliable… which the author did in the detailed back matter notes… but not in the body of the text. Are we demanding the young readers to examine the back matter in such details these days that we can leave things less clear in the main body of the text?
I have also found it a bit burdensome as a reader to never know which source (title) by which scholar (author/editor) is cited to support the claims on each page. I can see the benefit of not interrupting the flow of the narrative with parenthetical citations or footnotes, but too many of the (paraphrasing here) “according to one highly respected scholar” or “based on two famous researchers’ data” do become intrusive and mentally exhausting for someone who wonders about how an author obtained his/her facts or made the inferences.
Granted, almost everything is cited and discussed in details in the back matter… but it’s a lot of detective work to figure out anything I had a question for. (I enjoyed it… but don’t know about its effectiveness when used by young folks.) Also — there is at least one incident where the author makes an affirmative claim in the body of the text based on a particular source while in the source notes, the validity of that source is questioned and the young researchers are urged to seek out other sources to further validate (or discount) this source. So, for me, the verdict is still out.
Will keep looking for reviews and seek others’ opinions before really settle on a final verdict — which might never happen. I’m grateful for an intriguing read that made me think really hard on nonfiction/biography writing and the matter of the back matters…