Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Some Books About the American Revolution

Recently I had the chance to do something which you would also enjoy. Clutching a percentage-off coupon (the backbone of my economy) I was in a large bookstore, balancing on one of their rickety circular stools, and scanned the shelves on the American Revolution.

Scanning isn’t really reading. It’s looking, front to back, and vice versa. The cover, typeface, index, how does the book feel to you? Happily, biographical titles were filed at the same location, otherwise I feel I’m missing something. Can you curl up with this book? With all respect, you can’t do this with a computer!

Is the book easy to read physically? I take my glasses off to make this test. Hardcovers will always excel over the paper version, but the latter are so portable, can be stuffed into so many places, it’s a bit of a toss-up.

It’s true, though, for any subject: I don’t want to see the word “dummies” in the title. If you don’t know much about quantum mechanics, does that make you a dummy? I don’t think so.

Whatever your interest, having some volumes on a shelf, half a shelf, table, gives you a nice connection to your subject. The problem with library books is that at some point they have to be returned!

The 1776 period has generated a great deal of published material, and continues to do so. For books about Founding Fathers, John Adams and George Washington seem to be in a virtual tie. Ben Franklin and Tom Jefferson are also up there.

I thought it would be interesting to look at my small collection and see how these volumes duplicate at all what you might possess. Also, an ever increasing collection of other media products, such as TV series, cannot be ignored. For example HBO’s multiple-episodic John Adams is an outstanding example.

There are many gaps in my small collection. I became more and more aware of this.

Here are some titles from my shelf. Critically they are considered good treatments of the period under consideration.

Ron Chernow: Alexander Hamilton
David McCullough: 1776
David McCullough: John Adams
Joseph J. Ellis: American Creation
Joseph J. Ellis: Founding Brothers
Joyce Appleby: Thomas Jefferson
Gordon S. Wood: The American Revolution
Fred Anderson: The War That Made America: A Short History of the French and Indian War
Edmund S. Morgan: The Birth of the Republic 1763-1789
Robert Middlekauff: The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution 1763-1789
Thomas Paine: Common Cause
A single volume containing the Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, Bill of Rights and the Constitution, and your state constitution

Some of the books are hard to read (and finish); the longer books are probably easier because the shorter ones are so crammed full of facts that one almost needs a companion volume to go with it.

A parting thought. Never, ever, lend out a book you love. You will regret it. I learned the hard way. Rather, donate it, buy it as a gift.

From an experienced Friend of 1776 – Renata Breisacher Mulry

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