Sunday, March 1, 2009

Five best books on American history

Gordon Wood, a professor of history emeritus at Brown University and the author, most recently, of The Purpose of the Past: Reflections on the Uses of History, named a five best list of books on American history for the Wall Street Journal.

Number One on his list:
The American Political Tradition and the Men Who Made It
by Richard Hofstadter
Knopf, 1948

Although Richard Hofstadter's "The American Political Tradition and the Men Who Made It" is more than 60 years old, it still has special significance for me. I was in high school when it came out, and I read it with mounting wonder and excitement. For the first time, I became aware that a history book could be more than nostalgic story-telling. Each of Hofstadter's essays on the great men of our past -- from the Founding Fathers to FDR -- challenged the conventional wisdom of the time and offered what were to me fresh and stimulating interpretations of these major figures. That the essays were often ironic and even cynical in places was especially appealing to an ornery teenager. Although some of the essays are dated now, most are so well-written and so well-argued that they continue to make compelling reading.
Read about the other four books on Wood's list.

--Marshal Zeringue