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on 9 February 2017
To be honest I found this book hard to read. I think I would have found it a lot easier had Schama worked through US History chronologically as the book tended to jump around. There was next to nothing on the Colonial period as it jumps to the Civil war, you then find out this was because Schama was meeting with a descendent of a general who fought in it at the polls, then its on to Civil rights and then back to Clinton, Obama and beyond. I would have found it far more coherent and a better read had it followed a structure through the ages, not interspersed with chapters on personal reflection, experiences, and then off to talking about religion in America, The Puritans, Charles I and then back to Civil Rights.
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on 12 August 2009
Having recently read David Reynold's excellent America: Empire of Liberty and Paul Johnson's comprehensive History of the American People - I did not think there was that much anyone could add. But Simon Schama's immense skill as a writer and historian suffuses the subject with freshness and originality. Weaving lived histories with significant events in American history - Schama breathes life into the characters and events, analysing momentus occasions and adding his own considerable insights into a subject he cleary has consummate knowledge of.
Familiar events such as the Civil War and the Civil Rights movement are viewed through the lived histories of characters that were there to witness history unfolding - and Schama brilliantly uses letters and diaries to create a real sense of immanence and urgency - rather than just rehashing other historical accounts.
The causes and effects of these epoch changing events, clearly illustrate how America has been shaped - and Schama frequently jumps to the present to address issues that have been ongoing problems in the country - such as immigration. A question he puts to George W Bush at a Downing Street dinner. That is the strength of this book and the main difference between Schama's work and the others. It is not a linear historical narrative - sometimes the writing has the kind of authority of a witness to the events, and at times reads like a novel.
I think Schama's book is written in a very immaginative way that few writers would have dared attempt - moving backwards and forwards through history and the present. But this style allows you to view the history from a different perspective. I highly recommend The American Future.America, Empire of Liberty: A New HistoryHistory of the American PeopleDivine Magnetic Lands: A Journey in AmericaMade in AmericaThe First Salute: View of the American Revolution
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on 26 September 2017
Might be easier to digest if the history was told in chronological fashion. Jumps around from period to period quite a bit. Probably make sense to have read other books on American history before you read this one, it assumes the reader already has some fairly decent knowledge of American history. More about ideas, themes, than about sequence of events. Very informative and interesting and worth the read.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 26 September 2011
I recently attended one of his lectures on the "Festival of Britain" and this lecturer and television personality is as enthusiastic in person as on the screen and it is this attitude in addition to his ability to approach subjects from a seemingly tangential but historically accurate perspective which captures attention. His broad brush approach linking a range of events to reach informative conclusions is fascinating. He breathes life into the historical personalities he chooses, a life which is essentially human as well as hisotrically important.

In this book, he covers America's birth to its current political, international and national identity in Barack Obama's presidency, trying to identify what the Americans themselves perceive - not always clearly - as the "American difference". Having lived in America for half of his life, he is in a good position to understand the differences they perceive.

Scholarly in approach, it is written in the first person, making it clear that it is it is a personal, subjective and, often, anecdotal, perspective.

Typical Schama - fascinating.
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on 22 May 2010
I share many of Sirin's reservations regarding this book; the TV series was incisive, well-structured and showed best Schama's eloquent and well-informed raconteur style; the book however does not support his skills in the same way and appears to be a victim of the necessity to have a book out as well as a DVD. The choice of material is interesting and provides some hitherto less well-known aspects of the American experience but the style of the language is dense/compressed, not all that easy to "read" and rather off-putting; I had to put it down a number of times, perhaps because I made the mistake of reading this at night! The DVD serves Schama's talents significantly better.
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on 11 October 2014
Too wordy and difficult to follow. Read better books on the history of American. Author seemed quiet snidy
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on 24 April 2010
A fascinating look at American history. Not an easy read - he is easier to listen to. But it opened windows to shed light on many facets of American life, which we have experienced first hand without understanding
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on 15 January 2017
A must read for anyone even vaguely interested in American History.
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on 7 December 2014
Excellent book
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on 18 May 2013
Many history books give you the narrative - this gives you the understanding behind the story. Gives you a much better grasp of how Americans think and act.
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