Back in 2005, this reviewer noted, "If you have two books in your personal library, they should be Jared Diamond's Collapse” and “Guns, Germs, and Steel." Well, here's the third book to put on your shelves. I know, at about 800 pages, this volume will make your shelves sag a bit. But it's worth it. Much of facts between the book's covers trip over details that have been written about many times before. Yet, if this volume has a virtue, it is truly a contribution to the understanding of how we got to where we are today.
The thing about Lepore (who teaches American History at Harvard), she is a sly little sleuth able to vacuum up nimble little nuggets and apply them to her text. Here's one: Lore has it that Washington had wooden teeth. Actually, Lepore relates that his dentures were "made from ivory and from nine teeth pulled from the mouths of his slaves". Insignificant? Well, maybe. But boy, these little tidbits sure make American history lively. Here's another: The G.I. Bill, which was taken advantage of by over 8 million Americans and which was viewed as wildly excessively expensive, actually returned in increased personal taxes "as much as ten times as much as it cost to run the program in the first place".
All in all, I suspect this single volume will probably replace staple texts used by history classes in schools today -- casting aside volumes woefully out of date. And good news! You can enroll in a course simply by buying and reading this book.
The challenge of retelling five hundred years of American history in a single volume has been so daunting that hardly any historian has attempted it in decades.
When Jill Lepore's New York Times best-selling These Truths appeared in 2018, critics quickly hailed it as a classic--appealing not only to academics, but to thousands of astonished general readers. Picking up the book out of a feeling of civic duty, they opened its pages to discover a different kind of writing, and what the Washington Post called "an honest reckoning with America's past"--a story filled with women and men and people of every color and religion, one that wrestles with the state of American politics, the legacy of slavery, the persistence of inequality, and the nature of technological change.
With These Truths, Harvard historian and New Yorker writer Jill Lepore has produced a book that will shape our view of American history for decades to come.