THESE TRUTHS by Jill Lepore
Kirkus Star

THESE TRUTHS

A History of the United States
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

The celebrated New Yorker writer and Bancroft Prize winner tells the American story.

“A nation born in revolution will forever struggle against chaos,” writes Lepore (History/Harvard Univ.; Joe Gould’s Teeth, 2016, etc.). In this mammoth, wonderfully readable history of the United States from Columbus to Trump, the author relies on primary sources to “let the dead speak for themselves,” creating an enthralling, often dramatic narrative of the American political experiment based on Thomas Jefferson’s “truths” of political equality, natural rights, and the sovereignty of the people. The author recounts major events—the Revolution, Civil War, world wars, Vietnam, 9/11, and the war on terror—while emphasizing the importance of facts and evidence in the national story, as well as the roles of slavery (“America’s Achilles’ heel”) and women, both absent in the founding documents. Lepore offers crisp, vivid portraits of individuals from Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine to Liberator writer Maria W. Stewart and preacher David Walker to contemporaries like “rascal” Bill Clinton, sporting a “grin like a 1930s comic-strip scamp.” “To study the past is to unlock the prison of the present,” writes the author, noting recurrent debates about guns, abortion, and race. “Slavery wasn’t an aberration in an industrial economy; slavery was its engine,” she reminds. Throughout, Lepore provides sharp observations (“instead of Marx, America had Thoreau”) and exquisite summaries: In World War I, “machines slaughtered the masses. Europe fell to its knees. The United States rose to its feet.” She discusses the “aching want” of the Depression and the “frantic, desperate, and paranoid” politics of today. Always with style and intelligence, Lepore weaves stories of immigrants and minorities, creates moving scenes (Margaret Fuller’s death in a storm off New York City), and describes the importance of photography and printed newspapers in the lives of a divided people now “cast adrift on the ocean of the Internet.”

A splendid rendering—filled with triumph, tragedy, and hope—that will please Lepore’s readers immensely and win her many new ones.

Pub Date: Sept. 18th, 2018
ISBN: 978-0-393-63524-9
Page count: 960pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2018




BEST HISTORY BOOKS OF 2018:

NonfictionDENMARK VESEY'S GARDEN by Ethan Kytle
by Ethan Kytle
NonfictionBROKEN LIVES by Konrad H. Jarausch
by Konrad H. Jarausch
NonfictionTHE DEBATABLE LAND by Graham Robb
by Graham Robb
NonfictionCRASHED by Adam Tooze
by Adam Tooze

OUR CRITICS' TAKES ON MORE BESTSELLERS

See full list >
Cover art for LITTLE DREAMERS
VERDICT:
BORROW IT
Cover art for GIRLS OF PAPER AND FIRE
VERDICT:
BORROW IT
Cover art for PETE THE CAT'S 12 GROOVY DAYS OF CHRISTMAS
VERDICT:
SKIP IT
Cover art for TOM CLANCY OATH OF OFFICE
VERDICT:
BORROW IT

MORE BY JILL LEPORE

NonfictionJOE GOULD'S TEETH by Jill Lepore
by Jill Lepore
NonfictionTHE SECRET HISTORY OF WONDER WOMAN by Jill Lepore
by Jill Lepore
NonfictionBOOK OF AGES by Jill Lepore
by Jill Lepore

SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS:

NonfictionAMERICAN INSURGENTS, AMERICAN PATRIOTS by T.H. Breen
by Mark Billingham
NonfictionA FIERCE DISCONTENT by Michael McGerr
by Michael McGerr
NonfictionA HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE by Paul Johnson
by Paul Johnson
NonfictionAMERICA, EMPIRE OF LIBERTY by David Reynolds
by David Reynolds