A compilation of mostly captivating thoughts on the American way, as expressed in articles, book reviews, etc., by Yale history professor Blum (Years of Discord, 1991, etc.). The material here focuses on people (FDR, Woodrow Wilson, Henry Wallace, Archibald MacLeish) as well as concepts (``Politics of the Warren Court,'' ``The Red Scare of 1919-1920''). Blum begins with observations on the old (political) and new (social) approaches to history, then goes on to write the kind of history that generally encompasses both, marked by an unwavering perspective that's both clear-minded and humane. The essay ``Burden of American Equality,'' for instance, pungent with the quality of Jacksonian America, contends that slavery bound southern whites together in a way that was totally different from the stratified competition of the North. In ``Virtuous Texts,'' the author approaches the development of Theodore Roosevelt's thought via the Bostonian children's literature of the time--literature that offered an apotheosis of the outdoors-oriented New England world of denial and hard work, with character as the key to success. ``Power and Order'' then looks at what this childhood reading--plus old money, father-worship, a weak mother, and the early death of a beloved wife--made of the man. By comparison, pieces on Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt are rushed and thin, depending too much on the reader's recall of the period, with assertion and conclusion outweighing evidence and development. A tasty historical potpourri, prepared with style.