RaveThe Open Letters ReviewBrands’ sweeping new overview tackles familiar shibboleths but wears its revisionism lightly and never becomes pedantic. Despite the book’s ambitious subtitle, it is not a textbook-style synthetic history...Instead, it is a tapestry of many stories, some familiar and some representative ... In telling familiar tales in new ways, Brands succeeds at something that is hard to do – he provides a broad overview of a complex subject that doesn’t disintegrate into a mélange of disconnected anecdotes. Brands has a writer’s nose for good stories and a historian’s eye for connecting stories together. Along the way, he leads readers through mountain snowstorms, across endless grasslands, and down the rapids of the Colorado River. Dreams of El Dorado is a fantastic place to begin for readers who crave a picture of Western development peopled with famous characters and events, and it’s a fun overview for those familiar with the subject who want to watch a master historian sort fact from fancy.
PositiveOpen Letters ReviewTrump plays only a minor role in Jeffrey A. Engel, Jon Meacham, Timothy Naftali, and Peter Baker\'s examination of presidential removal, Impeachment: An American History. Yet his presence looms over every sentence. The book breaks no new ground – that\'s not its purpose – but it reminds readers, from the perspective of 2018, what the nation\'s three prior flirtations with mid-term forced retirement entailed ... Impeachment reminds us that the most important question when that happens will not be whether Donald Trump\'s administration falls apart. It will be whether the rest of us hold our republic together.
Jeffry D. Wert
PositiveOpen Letters ReviewCivil War Barons builds its case with punchy profiles of nineteen men, combining household names like Andrew Carnegie and Cornelius Vanderbilt with others of dimmer memory like iron maker Edward Cooper and gun manufacturer Thomas Parrot. Much of the book\'s appeal lies in the variety of its subjects ... Wert clearly admires the men about which he writes, partly for their acumen and partly for their military importance, but he documents their foibles and failures, as well. Or at least he mentions them. As a result, a darker subtext familiar to twenty-first-century readers emerges in the crevices between the triumphs, though Wert leaves it largely unexamined ... Despite holding the cronyism at arm’s length, Civil War Barons offers a brisk gallivant through nineteen biographies in two hundred pages, and Wert\'s eye for the telling detail makes it an entertaining romp. Though most likely to engage those new to the story of Civil War business, it’s a solid paean to Northern innovation that is at least willing to peek at a darker narrative.
Bradley W. Hart
PositiveOpen Letters ReviewHart cogently makes the case that the rightist underbelly of American politics—more visible now than at any point since then—was more dangerous in the 1930s and 1940s than historians often assume ... In addition to saboteurs, secret agents, and opportunists in high places, Hart also reveals a distressingly large number of ordinary Americans who admired Hitler ... And that is what makes Hitler\'s American Friends more than what it could have been—a thinly veiled historical warning about the present. Writing in the age of Charlottesville and MAGA, Hart acknowledges the proverbial 800-pound orange-haired gorilla in the room, but for all the ugliness in his tale, he summons an engaging subtext of hope.
PositiveOpen Letters ReviewHorn deftly navigates the toxic brew of war and intrigue ... Though 1619 may not technically live up to its subtitle, that does not matter. Lessons for an age in which winning is everything and the \'common good\' is nothing are clear enough. Horn reminds modern readers that their forebears\' long path toward democracy was crisscrossed by paths not taken, including paths in which prosperity and mutuality were not regarded as mutually exclusive. He invokes a time, however fleeting, when the \'common good\' did not connote wishful thinking for misty memories but a means toward a better life.