Just finished reading Jeff Shaara’s latest, The Rising Tide. I’ve read all of Shaara’s novels, and his latest is every bit as good as his previous works. Shaara’s historical fiction should be used in place of textbooks in high school history classes. While it may seem counterintuitive to use fiction to teach factual history, Shaara’s novels are so closely tied to reality that they may even be “closer to the truth” than what’s written in your standard history textbook. And what’s more important is the way Shaara gets into the minds of those he’s writing about, as well as into the mind of the reader. History suddenly becomes something you feel and experience, rather than a bunch of dates and places. You understand the terror and camraderie of those soldiers doing the frontline fighting. You come to appreciate the awesome responsibility of the generals and commanders in whose hands lie thousands of lives, and who must coordinate attacks and defenses and supply on a scale so massive as to seem impossible. You learn that the enemy soldier is often just another kid pulled into a war he doesn’t understand, and who’d much rather be home planning his next date with the girl next door. And in the end you come away with a much clearer understanding of the history than you could ever get from a textbook. And understanding, not rote memorization, is what learning is all about.