The assignment—to select 10 books suitable for a lay reader that cover American history between the Constitution and the 1850s—sounds easier than it is. There are tens of thousands of books on the period, which saw massive economic, social, and political change, an extension of the United States from the Mississippi to the Pacific, and a series of crises leading to the Civil War. Clearly my list will have to be idiosyncratic, favoring titles that I have read and loved, that seemed to work well with my students, or that my friends and colleagues praise.Read more »
America is not a nation of readers, yet books have had a deep and lasting effect on its national life. By comparison with the Russians, whose thirst for books—especially contraband books—is legendary, we pay them scant attention; Walker Percy once dolefully estimated that the hard-core audience for serious literature in this country of two hundred and thirty million is perhaps one or two million, and he probably was not far off.Read more »
Mr. Richard Reeves alleges that Tocqueville “thought American women were docile” (“If Tocqueville Could See Us Now,” June/July issue). Tocqueville never used the word docile about American women, and he actually wrote the exact opposite about them. Read more »
In a new book, the political journalist and columnist Richard Reeves retraces Alexis de Tocqueville’s remarkable 1831-32 journey through America. Reeves s conclusion: Tocqueville not only deserves his reputation as the greatest observer of our democracy—he is an incomparable guide to what is happening in our country now.
When AMERICAN HERITAGE heard that Richard Reeves had undertaken to follow the route, one hundred and fifty years later, of a classic exploration of America’s people, places, and institutions, we assigned his friend and colleague Ken Auletta to ask the kinds of questions our readers might if they had the luck to find themselves sitting next to Reeves on a flight to, say, Buffalo or Memphis.Read more »
When the American republic was still young, and seemed in the European view to be a daring experiment that might or might not come to anything, Alexis de Tocqueville visited these shores and wrote a book, Democracy in America , which was accepted then and afterward as a brilliant examination of this strange new society. It remains a classic in its field; and now, a full century after its author’s death, a re-examination of what its author really had to say is very much in order.