Must Read Book

Ulrich, Laurel Thatcher, A Midwife's Tale (1990).

Yes, I know it won the Bancroft and the Pulitzer, as well as two AHA prizes. There's a great film and a terrific website, and it scarcely needs more publicity from me. But Laurel Thatcher Ulrich's A Midwife's Tale is the only history book I've ever read that I admired and enjoyed so much I wished I'd written it. Meticulously researched and beautifully written, this book interprets the daily diary that Maine healer Martha Ballard kept between 1785 and 1812. Ulrich's masterful study teaches us about much more than midwifery and takes us far beyond Ballard: it illuminates early national community life, gender relations, medical practices, and much else about her society. Like Ladurie's Montaillou or Ginzburg's The Cheese and the Worms, this book has something to say to historians in all fields about how to do, and how to think about, history.

Recommended by Susan Strasser, University of Delaware

Susan Strasser is Professor of History at the University of Delaware. Her books include Never Done: A History of American Housework (1982), Satisfaction Guaranteed: The Making of the American Mass Market (1989), and Waste and Want: A Social History of Trash (1999).