This book - probably the best one-volume Civil War history - is more than a simple survey: it is a very strong literary work as well, beautifully written and balanced. For all 900 or so pages, I was completely absorbed. Never once did I glumly look at the last page and calculate the percentage of the book that remained. It is the ideal starting point for anyone wishing to investigate the most disturbing episode of American history, a stepping off point that is also a pleasure to read. Afterall, what other survey histories won the Pulitzer prize?
However, as a broad-brush history, I found myself quibbling with the author's choice of detail in the areas that I knew well. For example, I would have liked to see more coverage of the brutal race riots that occured in the Northern states, incidents that revealed extremely disturbing fault lines in race relations that persist to this day. By choosing to neglect this and other details, I felt that the author refrained from contemplating the deeper meaning of the war, even or providing the building blocks to do so. While interpretation is certainly not his primary task in a survey, it does get short shrift here.
Nonetheless, every American should read this book.