Gary Gerstle

Gary Gerstle is a professor of American History at Vanderbilt University. He is the author of six books, including American Crucible: Race and Nation in the Twentieth Century. Read more about him below.

Q. What is your favorite word?

A. Peregrination.

Q. What inspires you?

A. People who care passionately about ideas.

Q. What is your favorite way to procrastinate?

A. Taking a shower.

Q. If you could live in any other time, past or future, when would it be and why?

A. I would love to be alive in early 19th century America, when Louisiana was becoming a territory. I think that was the moment the U.S. should have fragmented, so I’d like to go back and find out exactly how it held together.

Q. What is your greatest extravagance?

A. Cycling in Italy.

Q. What profession would you like to practice in your next life?

A. Professional baseball player.

Q. What is your most prized material possession?

A. My bicycle.

Q. What teacher or professor if any changed your life?

A. Mark Kishlansky, my graduate student teacher when I was an undergrad at Brown. He was one of the most brilliant and subversive intellectuals that I have ever met, and he’s the person most responsible for my choosing my profession in this life.

Q. Who is the one person living or dead you would most like to meet for dinner?

A. Barack Obama.

*Photo by Allison Glenn.