An Interview with Amity Shlaes.

Abstract from Interview

1:30 - How did your book come to be on Booknotes? – Shlaes thinks that her publisher contacted C-SPAN, or that Brian Lamb knew about her book and requested she appear because the two had worked together on a previous book.

1:48 - How did you prepare for your appearance on Booknotes? – Because her book was very technical, she looked up tax rates. She also reread her own book.

2:10 - What do you remember most from your appearance on the program? – The difficulty of being honest and accurate when asked precise questions. Brian Lamb has a very high standard of accuracy and she did not want to be sloppy.

2:50 - What do you think are the benefits and/or drawbacks of this longer format for the author and for the viewer? – There are few drawbacks to this longer format interview, but there are many benefits. People frequently come up to her and ask questions about this interview. Many of the interested parties who invite her to speak came to her work through Booknotes because they get a feel for the work and the author on that program.

3:59 - Do you find this to be normal for interviewers? How does it change the interview experience? – Authors want to live up to Brian Lamb’s standards. It is not normal for interviewers to be so prepared, especially for the fast paced world of television. The preparation level of other interviewers is a very uneven experience.

4:44 - Do you believe the reading public finds these details about the practice of writing interesting? – The technique of writing books interests everyone since it affects content. When her book was written in 1999, she had to have statistics and information from the IRS faxed to her. Had she had access to the internet she believes that her work would have been better. 

5:37 - Did that surprise you? Is this generally different from most author interviews you have experienced? – She was surprised to be asked biographical questions. The combination of his intense preparation and biographical questions puts pressure on the author because they want to be accurate but they do not want to betray information that they do not want known nationally.

6:24 - Were you surprised by any of Brian Lamb’s questions? – Not really. They were just good, high quality questions. He did ask questions about employment, which also gave Shlaes pause for the same reasons she hesitated over some of the biographical questions. 

6:50 - Did you watch Booknotes before or after you own interview? Did your experience on the show change your impressions of it? – Her experience on the show did not change her perception of it. She watched the program before her own interview. It is always a pleasure to be at C-SPAN over some other networks because of the caliber of the audience.

7:20 - What do you think the benefits and uses of such a collection might be? – Brian Lamb interviews people who would not always be chosen by others. His choices give a snap-shot of American popular culture and what intelligent readers were reading at that time. Shlaes would be very interested in reading Brian Lamb’s notes to see what information did and did not make it into the interviews so that she can see and understand his process. 

8:35 - If asked, would you have returned for another interview? – Shlaes did appear on other C-SPAN programs and would have returned if asked back. 

9:13 - Was there a difference in sales or national attention for your book after you discussed it with Brian Lamb on Booknotes? How about it’s critical reception? – Yes there was some difference in sales, but more importantly there were more invitations to speak at important venues.

9:50 - Did your experience with Brian Lamb and Booknotes cause you to rethink any of your own approaches or assumptions regarding your research or writing? – Not really, just that one should not be sloppy. Lamb likes precision, and that is right. She then talks briefly about tax rates. When writing she keeps Lamb in mind as an audience for her work.

10:37 - What have you been working on after this book, and which work(s) are you most pleased with? – She is both pleased and displeased with all of her work. The Forgotten Man was a historical work that has been the most well-received. This book was somewhat inspired by the questions of Lamb and others who were very interested in the few historical anecdotes from her previous works. This book also came out in graphic novel format, which was very labor intensive. She also wrote a biography of President Coolidge.

12:10 - In your estimation, what has been the lasting impact of Booknotes in the then-contemporary American society and, perhaps, in subsequent times? – The Booknotes viewer shows the better part of America. It’s audience is the “thinking brain of the American public.” They are not sheep who vote for someone only because they wear red or blue. Appearing on the program gives authors a spring in their step because they are reminded that these people do still exist.

12:54 - Is there anything that you would like to add regarding the Booknotes program, C-SPAN or Brian Lamb? – Her interview actually had to be recorded twice because the original interview was not properly recorded. Lamb was very apologetic and embarrassed about this but she wants to assert that she was not angry about the incident.

13:49 - Were any of the questions or answers different? – She does not think so.


Lindsey Bestebreurtje (Oral Historian), “An Interview with Amity Shlaes.,” One Book. One Author. One Hour., accessed October 7, 2022,



Output Formats

Dublin Core


An Interview with Amity Shlaes.


Lindsey Bestebreurtje (Oral Historian)


6 March 2015


Amity Shlaes is interviewed as part of the Booknotes Oral History Project on 6 March 2015. Ms. Shlaes discusses her appearance on C-SPAN's Booknotes program on 11 April 1999, where she discussed her book "The Greedy Hand".


Booknotes (Television program)
Lamb, Brian, 1941-
C-SPAN (Television network)


Booknotes Oral History Series. R0143 Box 02 File 14.


George Mason University Libraries


Copyright held by George Mason University Libraries. Restricted to personal, non-commercial use only. For permission to publish, contact Special Collections & Archives, George Mason University Libraries.


Video recording