Tuesday, June 10, 2008

America's Hidden History

I recently received a copy of America's Hidden History, by Kenneth C Davis. The publisher sent it to me in exchange for sharing my thoughts with you, my lovely readers.

While I have reviewed books before (here and here), this is the first time I've reviewed a history book. However, I love reading biographies and thought this would be an interesting and exciting book to add to my reading list.

I'll start off by telling you that I REALLY wanted to like this book. I mean, isn't it reasonable to want to like something you get for free? Unfortunately, I found it very difficult to read. Before I jump into examples, let me just give you an idea of what the book is about.

Davis is attempting to tell the little known stories of some of the men and women who founded the United States of America. He tells the story of famous and not so famous individuals who were present at the birth of this nation.

He writes that Queen Isabella of Spain is the one who suggested Columbus take pigs to the New World. And of a young George Washington sinking a hatchet into an enemies head. Interesting tidbits to be sure.

Each chapter begins with a time line of the major events of the descriptions to follow. I did find these time lines helpful as I tried to read the chapters. They provided an anchor point when the author began to obfuscate.

For example, in telling the story of how Anne Hutchinson's house burned down, Davis stops to explain how New Amsterdam was renamed and then how the Bronx got its name. These details are completely irrelevant to the story at hand.

Then, in a later chapter, while Davis tries to describe George Washington's older brother, he interrupts his own story with details about the "three-water rum" of the British navy.

These are just 2 examples of the many times Davis goes off-topic in order to add more historical detail to his book. In the end, they just made this a very difficult book for the average person to read. This makes it hard to get into the biography of the "first pilgrims, fighting women, and forgotten founders." I, and many other casual readers of biography, don't have time to wade through all of the unnecessary details Davis includes.

Even though this is a Smithsonian book, published by Collins, I don't think you need to rush right out and buy it. However, if you want a copy, I'll be happy to give mine away. Just leave a comment below telling me that you are interested. I'll draw a winner after this giveaway ends on Sunday, June 15th.

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