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Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History

by Kurt Andersen, pub. 2017, pp. 440

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What I learned from this book

I learned that no matter what your political affiliation, your viewpoint on whether we, as Americans in 2018, are in a good place or a bad one, safe or dangerous – there is in fact a 500-year documented history that we can break down that may assist in explaining it all.  Once we can divide it into smaller, more digestible pieces – perhaps we can then figure out the best way forward.  Only time will tell.

What I liked about this book

I thought the author, Kurt Andersen, was exceptionally honest about his views.  These are volatile topics that Americans have passion about.  They can’t be taken casually “playing it” from both sides.  The good news is Andersen doesn’t try that trick.  He delivers in a forthright, self-deprecating, thorough style while wading through historical explanations of many of America’s “powder keg” topics: religion, race, and, of course, politics.

What I disliked about this book

I pretty much liked everything about this book.  I even found it amazing that the author could discuss 500-year old topics in less than five hundred pages!  This could easily have become a convoluted, wordy “1,000-plusser!”  Fortunately, it did not!

Whom would I recommend to read this book

I would recommend this book to any American citizen who feels befuddled by the current environment in which we are living.  I talk to a lot of people in my daily interactions and I’m amazed at how confused many seem as to “How in the hell did we arrive here?”  I suppose one of the brilliant angles of this book is how the author takes us back to the very beginning of the European-American settlement in the U.S.A. Then, he methodically lays out how and why it took that long to get us to where we are today.  It took a variety of religious beliefs, plenty of economic and political maneuvering, and, yes, of course, heaping amounts of…well, fantasy.

Any thoughts?

-A.N.

 

 

The Invisibles

 

By Jesse J. Holland (published, 2016)

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This book focused on a topic that most of us have never come across in our many years of American History book reading and study.  It delves into the contributions made by African slaves living and serving their masters in the U.S. White House.  At first, it may seem to many of us that this couldn’t have been possible (mostly because it was omitted from our education lessons), but given the era in which it took place and the financial constraints the U.S.A. was under in its infancy, it is obvious that this was one of the ways which our founders used to build up a nation “on a financial shoestring.”

What I found most amazing about this book

I learned that 12 of our first 18 U.S. presidents had slaves actively serving them and their families in the White House.  It is a stunning statistic, but also a sobering exposé on a topic that needs to be discussed much more often than it has been in our time.  We must remember that these slaves were in no better or privileged position than slaves serving in any other area of the country.  They simply served their masters in what is considered the single most treasured landmark in America – the White House.

What I did NOT like about this book

In my opinion, there was nothing to dislike about this book.

Whom do I recommend should read this book?

This is a great book for almost all ages.  I would have liked to have known many of the facts and seen the gallery of photos exhibited in the pages of this book when I was a young man.  As painful as some of the events could be to some readers, it is still very important to be aware of and acknowledge.  The author, Jesse Holland, does a wonderful job in taking us methodically (to the extent possible) through the era.

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