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4.4 out of 5 stars19
4.4 out of 5 stars
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 11 January 2014
I have to admit to usually reserving my kindle for fiction as I prefer my non-fiction in book form, especially those with maps. Having seen a copy of this book in a bookshop I was put off buying it because the maps and plates are on the whole poorly reproduced copies and you need a magnifying glass to glean any information from them. Well hurrah then for the kindle, or more pertinently the Kindle app on the iPad, as you can use the zoom function to get a bit more from the illustrations. Having said that they are still not perfect but this is offset by the author's usual casual grace, eye for the telling detail and ability to pick a relevant quote or two from and about the protagonists. Talking of whom, there are quite a few individuals whose stories are told here so if you require more in depth detail about anyone who takes your fancy there is an extensive bibliography that will assist with this. Yes this is of necessity no more than an introduction to those who explored and subsequently "opened up" the country, and these are of course predominantly of European extraction. Native Americans are given due consideration and race relations and slavery are not ignored but the reality is that this is the story of how the Europeans fared and should be read as such. It is not a commentary on what was "right" or "wrong" about such exploits, more a tale of what happened given the social mores of the day. Other books, many mentioned in the bibliography, provide that sort of information. i enjoyed this book though and perhaps the best thing about it is that I am now encouraged to read about some of the more contentious issues that are only touched upon here.
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on 30 July 2015
I love all of Simon Winchester's books. It amazes me how much this man knows! "The Men who United the States" is no exception. Although it started out slow and somewhat rambling, Winchester's book eventually picks up and is just full of fascinating tidbits of American history. The book is based around the five elements, and with each element (wood, earth, water, fire, metal) he connects it to some physical aspect of how the states of America were united. So, for example, the section on water discusses how the building of canals allowed the states to feel more connected once people and goods could travel more easily and quickly from one part of the country to the next. The sense of nation and union began to develop. I particularly found the chapter on roads and highways to be especially interesting. The quirky story of how Route 66 got its name was just one of the little gems Winchester has throughout his book. I would highly recommend it. It is just an enjoyable read and quite relaxing. I don't like fiction, but a book like Winchester's is far better than fiction. It is amusing, and fascinating, and the perfect book to go to sleep with.
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on 28 May 2015
Another superb book from Simon Winchester. Simon cleverly and uniquely draws together the development of the USA through the lives and achievements of explorers, thinkers, and innovators. He charts and deals with fascinating pioneers who developed communications together with the spread of industry, in particular water, metal and electricity. It is a vast coverage of every aspect of the development of the USA as we know it today and an extremely clever concept as well. Few books become "unputdownable" but this is certainly one of them and the reader is drawn into the unique world of how the USA and the states in particular became integrated almost as one as modern development spread across state boundaries. Characters like the explorers Lewis and Clark and other familiar names are included as well as many now forgotten who had the original involvement with the development of this huge and powerful nation. Very well written and easy to read, highly recommended.
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on 20 January 2014
A really well told series of accounts showing how the United States
grew out of its historical past, and using major themes such as metal, water
to tell the story. Full of details linking inventors, politicians and frontiersmen
to provide some coherence to the way the west was won, but well away from the conventional cowboys and Indians.

This is a must for anyone who wants to know what made the world's most powerful country-
and gives a fresh perspective on the spanning of the giant continent.
This is not a text book in any way, and yet it provides serious scholarship alongside
some enjoyable anecdotal insights into early America.
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on 6 April 2014
Like the curate's egg "Good in parts". Winchester follows the footsteps of Raban and Bryson but the former's prose is better and the latter writes with more charm and humour.

That said this book should be read. I found certain sections quite moving not least bringing electricity to farmers for the first time under the New Deal.
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on 21 February 2016
Not read it yet - I'm saving it for a wet, cold camping holiday - but I always love Simon Winchester's books as he manages to cover his subject in such an interesting way.
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on 21 July 2014
reveals some little-known contributors to the rise of the USA.
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on 15 February 2016
Great book in good condition, prompt service, many thanks.
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on 28 August 2014
Typical Simon Winchester - well researched ad written
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on 2 April 2015
Excellent book. On time, good condition.
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