Tuesday, August 24, 2010


It bothers me that the Revolutionary War doesn’t interest me; for heaven’s sake, without it, I certainly wouldn’t be here. So, when I picked up Jack Rakove’s book, Revolutionaries: A New History of the Invention of America, I was determined to put extra effort into appreciating what I read Unfortunately, this massive book wasn’t really about the Revolutionary War at all. Instead, it gave countless details about the founding fathers’ lives and the forming of America while hardly touching on the war itself. It was terribly boring.

One of the things that I struggled with most while reading Revolutionaries was that other than chronology, there was no through-line; Rakove would spend much of a chapter talking all about someone like John Dickinson and then never come back to him. I wasn’t able to connect with anyone he talked about.

Rakove won a Pulitzer Prize in 1997, which caused me to expect meaningful writing. As a whole, I was disappointed, but in two brief sections, Rakove drew me in. The first was a discussion about Americans’ difficulty reconciling the good things Thomas Jefferson did with the fact that he owned slaves (and the terrible way he treated them); the other was on the 3/5s compromise.

Those two moments, and the fact that a Revolutionary War buff would probably like the book, cause me to give Revolutionaries a 2/5. But, read at your own risk. I am not a fan.

Watch Jon Stewart’s interview with Jack Rakove

Buy the book.

It's DEAR Day. So Drop Everything and Read.

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