From the author of The Literary Underground and the Old Regime, The Business of Enlightenment, and the much-praised The Great Cat Massacre, another engagingly idiosyncratic collection of essays offering illuminating glimpses into both the alien past and the often alien methods used by contemporary historians to explore it. Much of the territory covered here will be familiar to readers of Damton's previous works. A specialist in 18th-century France and cultural history, Darnton returns to multidisciplinary considerations of the diffusion of Enlightenment culture through the various stages of that period's publishing industry. While looking into the workings of various disciplines in establishing histories of reading and the book, he reveals waxing and waning prominence in styles of history. In an essay on modern Poland, Darnton demonstrates the immediacy and importance of history to people: Where the Party controls official history, the date attributed to the infamous Katya massacre is of immense significance. In ""Media,"" a section of lighter but no less enlightening essays, Darnton draws upon his experiences as a reporter for The New York Times to demonstrate the many unspoken influences that determine what becomes news and how it is reported, and offers some tongue-in-cheek lips to academic authors. Darnton expects his readers to work, but he makes it well worth the effort. While ideas and insights fly from his pages like sparks, he offers the layperson confronting the edifice of modern historic inquiry a lever long enough to break into its treasures, and a place to stand.