American History Bookclub thread

How about an American History virtual bookclub thread, where we choose a book to read and discuss it over the course of a month, then move on to another book?

Discussions could be about whether the book is accurate, whether it tells all sides of a story, and what we learn about American history from that book.

I’d like to start with the founding of the country itself and move on from there.

If anyone’s interested, how about we start with Washington’s Circle: the Creation of the President, by David and Jeanne Heidler.

I’m currently listening to it as an audiobook rather than reading a print book, and perhaps that’s why I find the chronology of it confusing. It jumps back and forth and hither and yon instead a chronological narrative.

But it does seem pretty in depth in many areas, for example in regard to Washington’s attitude toward slaves, changing after his experience with Billy/William Lee who served as his valet all through the Revolutionary War, why he could free his slaves but why neither he nor Martha could free her “dower” slaves.

So far I’m at the point where Jefferson has just become secretary of state but has delayed getting to New York for 6 months, so Alexander Hamilton has started sharing information with a British agent named Beckwith…

I read non-fiction, but just as I expect a lot of fiction writers - i.e., skilled writing, not just a good plot or an interesting character - I expect the same from non-fiction. Facts are to be had from a lot of sources; good writing is harder to find. I think of that line from the movie “Capote”, where the editor tells him that “In Cold Blood” is going to change the way people write; i.e., approach non-fiction writing.
I actually belong to a book club (we’re suspended because of Covid) where the reads came from group members’ suggestions, so it was an interesting mix of fiction, non-fiction, classics. One of our books was a history, and was one of the few history books I consider a must-read - it’s called “The Forsaken” by Tim Tzouliadis, and it tells the story of Depression era Americans who emigrated to Russia as the budding Soviet Union was promising jobs and prosperity. Not only an excellent portrait of the inevitable downward spiral of socialism, but it gives an unflattering portrait of many who are considered heroes of the left: FDR, Joseph Davies, Paul Robeson. The reaction of the book club (all college graduates including a retired history teacher) was “why did we never learn about this in history class?”

There are a lot of things we never learn in history class. ; )

Legends, Lies & Cherished Myths of American History debunks a lot of things, for example.

(Although of course you’ve got to read up on the debunkers to see if they’re telling the truth, too. )

Thanks for responding in my thread, but would you like to start discussing American history from the very beginning, via Washington’s Circle?

Currently reading “The Most Blessed of the Patriarchs”

Which is about Thomas Jefferson’s private life. Other than the chapter on his taste Music and all the visitors to Montecello I have found the book to highly enjoyable and it humanizes Jefferson and embodies the great contradiction in the man and I think our national myth in that we espouse our founding principles to include that all men are created equal but held humans in forced bondage for so long.

A good read if you are into that sort of thing.

Because of the book My new favorite Jefferson quote is “the earth belongs in usufruct to the living”