by Larry Shapiro; Charles Scribner’s Sons; 240 pages; $13.95.
There is now a birthday greeting on sale in gift shops tailored for everyone you know: a separate card for each day of the year that lists the famous people born on that day. The cards are oddly appealing. So, too, is the small volume A Book of Days in American History . It carries the reader, day by day, through the months of the year, providing varied and eclectic coverage of hundreds of events that have only their day in common. For instance, the entries for February 11 reveal that Thomas Jefferson’s secretary has obtained as requested a macaroni mold in 1789, marking the “debut of pasta in the United States”; that in 1808 experiments with open-grate burning of anthracite were initiated; and in 1812 the governor of Massachusetts began a practice that will forever bear his name: Gerrymandering. And so it goes, through the 365 days of the year.
Attractively bound and cleanly designed with illustrations on every page, many in color, the slightly more-than-pocket-size Book of Days makes a nice little package. Unlike a calendar, it is not tied to any one year, so its usefulness as a gift does not end in December. And the inclusion of a detailed index raises it to the status of a good reference work.