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Don't Know Much About History: Everything You Need to Know About American History but Never Learned Paperback – April 13, 2004

60 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Kenneth C. Davis is the New York Times bestselling author of A Nation Rising; America's Hidden History; and Don't Know Much About® History, which spent thirty-five consecutive weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, sold more than 1.6 million copies, and gave rise to his phenomenal Don't Know Much About® series for adults and children. A resident of New York City and Dorset, Vermont, Davis frequently appears on national television and radio and has been a commentator on NPR's All Things Considered. He blogs regularly at


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Product Details

  • Series: Don't Know Much About...
  • Paperback: 678 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (April 13, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060083824
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060083823
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #23,601 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Kenneth C. Davis is the author of Don't Know Much About® History, which spent 35 consecutive weeks on The New York Times bestseller list, and gave rise to the Don't Know Much About® series, which has a combined in-print total of 4.3-million copies. Davis has been dubbed the "King of Knowing" by because he becomes a subject expert in all of the areas he writes about: the Bible, Mythology, snd the Civil War, for example, and his latest Don't Know Much About® the American Presidents. Davis's success aptly makes the case that Americans don't hate history, just the dull version they slept through in class. But many of them want to know now because their kids are asking them questions they can't answer. Davis's approach is to refresh us on the subjects we should have learned in school. He does it by busting myths, setting the record straight and always remembering that fun is not a four-word letter word. Kenneth C. Davis is a frequent media guest and has appeared on hundreds of television and radio shows, including NPR, The Today Show, Fox and Friends, CNN, and The O'Reilly Factor. He has been a commentator for All Things Considered, and has written for the New York Times Op-Ed page, Smithsonian magazine and CNN,com and other national publications. In addition to his adult titles, he writes the Don't Know Much About Children's series published by HarperCollins. He lives in New York with his wife. They have two grown children.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Jayson Spade on June 29, 2004
Format: Paperback
Davis writes a good overview of American history, summarizing some of the key and decisive events of the past. While no substitute for a text book, Davis makes interesting subject areas which have put generations of high school history students to sleep. As augmentation to a prescribed course of study, or as a refresher for a HS/college graduate, this book is worth reading.
A word of caution. This is not a 'bare facts' history. Davis' writing style is heavily laced with very liberal editorialism. Davis also tends to insert his own opinions as fact. Overall he seems to view American history through liberal hindsight, rarely hesitating to impose his own value judgements on historical events and decisions made by political, military and business leaders.
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22 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Barron Laycock HALL OF FAME on August 9, 2004
Format: Paperback
What an unalloyed joy this book is, even for someone like me who does indeed know a bit about history. The author's clever trick here is to make the ordinarily dry stuff of American history that all of us were supposed to be learning in public schools (back in the days when they actually taught American history!) and make it much more approachable, digestible, and yes, even interesting and absorbing. And that has been the key to this book's success and durability over the last decade or so since its publication. It continues to sell well, and for good reason. The previous reviews abound with tales of people who have used it to cram for entrance exams, and for some in whom the book ignited a roaring curiosity regarding history that otherwise might never have been lighted.

He parses the true elements of history into small pieces, each of which becomes an amusing and understanding tale of real human beings caught up in the welter of circumstances they must then contend with in some fashion. And by so doing he makes the drama of history breathe and come alive for many who otherwise have long considered it the dry and arid stuff of ninth grade civics lessons. He also succeeds marvelously in making historical figures come alive and act like ordinary humans do, and lifts them down from those stuffy pedestals too many high school history teachers placed them on. This is a great book, and one well worth your time and money, whether you know anything about history or not. Enjoy!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Eva on July 10, 2007
Format: Paperback
This book somehow managed to present lots of dry material in an entertaining way. You almost have to read this yourself to see how the author managed that. What's more is that I am betting that I retained more material than reading a superlong dry American history book (Zinn?) If you are thinking of reading one American history book, this is the one.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Molly on September 3, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
First and foremost, I'll get this out of the way: it was an insightful read. I'm not saying that it's not. However, the book does have some problems.
First of all: The author writes too much like a politician and less like an engineer. For example, the book is broken up into sections, which are titles with questions. Instead of answering the questions with a nice little explanation, the author goes off into a tangent with a general theme surrounding the question, but more often than not he does not actually answer it. I feel as if the questions should be removed, and instead of putting "What was the Lost Colony?" putting "The Lost Colony" as a title to that section.
Secondly: Back on the "Too much like a politician less like an engineer" thing, even with the questions, the reading could have been condensed. All that information is useless, because honestly, how much of it are we going to remember?
Thirdly: The writing is very opinionated. That simply irritates me.
Fourthly: You could get much of this information from being a regular viewer of the History channel. When I picked up this book, I figured I'd learn a lot of new information, but I really didn't. Maybe I have just had good teachers, and all I really watch on TV are history shows, but the author talks about Christopher Columbus being not-well liked as if it's this big secret, but it's really not. I learned that in Jr. High.

Overall: good book, but a bit annoying to read.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By itsok2be on June 3, 2012
Format: Paperback
I enjoy a fresh presentation of the facts, when provided, but his left of center dogma gets tiresome. One reviewer stated that he backs up his positions with facts, but really he picks and chooses the "facts" presented and excluded. I suppose it's enough for those inclined to agree with him, and works if you don't take a second to think about the aspects of the topic that he chose to ignore or downplay, but for most, I believe it will be an irritant. He expends a good deal of time at the beginning telling us that he has been neutral, but even that "explanation" is loaded. If you take it for what it is worth, sifting the wheat from the chaff, it's ok.
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17 of 24 people found the following review helpful By S. Peek VINE VOICE on July 24, 2005
Format: Paperback
This is a fun book to read and has the ability to educate to a limited degree. It is also very biased. It should probably be called the 'Politically Correct Guide to American History'.

It covers a wide range of events in U.S. history from the earliest explorers to the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Potential readers should be aware that the writer has a very leftist slant to his presentation.

To be fair, history is one of those topics that is typically influenced heavily by the writer's perspective. Mr. Davis takes his liberal evangelistic crusade seriously and includes his biases in virtually every historical era covered.

A few examples of this are outlined below:

The author practically deifies Franklin Roosevelt. Anyone who has any grasp of history at all knows that Mr. Roosevelt sold out eastern Europe and much of Asia to the Soviets causing decades of tyranny and misery for the inhabitants of those nations. His 'New Deal' has also been a major cause of problems for countless Americans by making them dependent upon Big Brother. Probably no other administration deserves as much scorn as does that of Roosevelt for the creation of the welfare state.

One of the most blatant areas of bias and flat out dishonesty is found on page 584. In discussing America at the year 2000, Davis claims: "America's poorest children have a lower standard of living than those in the bottom 10 percent of any other nation except Britain." It is rare to see such a total falsehood in print. Even the most biased writers usually try to be a bit more subtle with their phony claims. Anyone who has ever traveled outside of the United States knows that Davis' statement is false.
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