Category: BOOK REVIEW

Book Review: The American Spirit

The American Spirit

David McCullough, The American Spirit: Who We Are and What We Stand For. (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2017).

Defining “The” American Spirit is a challenging proposition given America’s current division. History has been weaponized in support of political positions. Many in the academy have fostered social division to further a political philosophy. With little remnant of a common history remaining we stand at a critical juncture. Is there a common history in which we can rediscover “the” American spirit? If so, can that history heal our present fracture and nurture a promising future? A definition that brings us together, that drives us to our better nature. Few historians have the necessary cache to take on such a challenge. David McCullough is one of only a few historians with enough courage to take on that challenge. He is also one of a few with enough respect for his definition to garner serious consideration.

Book Review: Iron Curtain

Iron Curtain

Anne Applebaum, Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe 1944-1956. (New York, NY: Doubleday, 2012).

Better works of history are crafted. They begin with a question. They are created through exhaustive research, editing, and organization. A better work of history answers the original question, creates new questions considers alternative interpretations, and provides overwhelming evidence in support of their answers. Doing so by creating a readable narrative. Anne Applebaum’s Iron Curtain is a better work of history. Applebaum’s original question: How did the Soviets and their allies transform well-meaning Eastern European social/ aid organizations created, or reconstituted, in the immediate aftermath of World War II into tools of oppression?1 In a chilling but necessary read Iron Curtain provides an answer.

Book Review: Journey to a Revolution

Journey to a Rev

 

Michael Korda, Journey to a Revolution: A Personal Memoir and History of The Hungarian Revolution of 1956. (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2006).

In this instance Korda’s subtitle accurately captures the appeal of this work. Journey to a Revolution is both a memoir and a history, blended in a way that makes the narrative live. In a mere two hundred and five pages Korda retells an adventure in which four young Brits (author included) ran headlong into the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. Squeezed into a VW, the four friends traveled from England to Budapest to deliver medical supplies to a Budapest hospital and to bear witness to a great event.

Book Review: History

History A Very

John H Arnold, History: A Very Short Introduction. (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2000).

As one of the “A Very Short Introduction” series of books, John H Arnold’s installment on History is very short indeed, just 123 pages. It is also, very informative. History does more than define history as those things belonging to the past. It describes the act of creating history, a work of history. Much attention is given to the importance of research. Searching for, collecting, and organizing small bits of evidence. Allowing the evidence to prove both insights to, and questions about, a given topic. History also discusses sources, primary and secondary. Most of all, History explores historiography, the way in which each of us view history.

Book Review: 1453

1453 Cover

Roger Crowley, 1453: The Holy War for Constantinople and The Clash of Islam and The West. (New York, NY: Hyperion, 2005).

There are events, history’s thunderclaps, that peal across time. Christian Europe’s resistance to Islam’s long campaign of expansion is punctuated by many significant events. Beginning with the Battle of Yarmouk in 636 to the Siege of Vienna in 1683, the forces of Islam proved nearly unstoppable as they wrested ever more territory, and people, from Christian realms. Perhaps the most significant event in this thousand-year drama, the Fall of Constantinople, occurred on May 29, 1453.

Book Review: The Heart of Everything That Is

Red Cloud

Bob Drury and Tom Clavin, The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, An American Legend. (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2013).

On Christmas night 1866, a man rode into Fort Laramie. Near death from riding 236 miles in four days, through a blizzard, Portugee Phillips completed his mission. Phillips delivered dispatches from Colonel Henry Carrington, the commander of Ft Phil Kearny. The news was shocking. Days earlier, on December 21st, warriors from several Indian tribes staged a coordinated assault that annihilated a unit from the US Army. “Fetterman’s Massacre” marked the first time the United States military lost to a Native force.

In their book, The Heart of Everything That Is, authors Bob Drury and Tom Clavin provide an excellent work of history. Red Cloud, the Sioux Chief who orchestrated Captain Fetterman’s stunning defeat, is the book’s subject. Opening a window to humanity in the old west, Red Cloud’s story is told in vivid narrative.

Book Review: Founding Rivals

founding-rivals

Chris DeRose, Founding Rivals: Madison vs. Monroe, The Bill of Rights, and the Election That Saved a Nation (Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2011).

Before serving the young United States as President, or as Secretary of State, James Madison and James Monroe each eventually served the new republic in Congress. In the nation’s first election under the newly adopted Constitution, these two men faced each other in a contest to represent Virginia’s 5th Congressional District. Madison, author of the Constitution versus Monroe, a soldier hero of the Revolution. Madison, the Federalist versus Monroe, the Anti-Federalist. The Constitution’s survival as a governing document was at stake.

Review: Presidential Wit and Wisdom

I was recently gifted this brilliant little book, a great quick read, containing selected quotes of various U.S. presidents. This book would be the perfect gift for any person interested in U.S. history.

Here are two selections from James Madison and a bonus track from William Henry Harrison.

Book Review: The Last Battle

Although cliché, it is certainly true that history is the story of intersecting paths. History’s best stories are those whose various character paths originate at points most divergent from each other. One such story occurred in Austria during the final days of World War II. In his book The Last Battle, Stephen Harding successfully informs not only to the historical significance of the point of intersect (the battle); he also relates the backstories (the paths), of the participating characters.