Customer Review

147 of 159 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative and enjoyable biography of the American Economy, October 15, 2004
This review is from: An Empire of Wealth: The Epic History of American Economic Power (Hardcover)
Forests have been cleared for all the books that have been written on American History. While a few stand out from the pack, it is harder to find one that is fresh, interesting, and informative. "An Empire of Wealth" is all of those things and I strongly recommend it to you. Instead of being a military, political, or diplomatic history, John Steel Gordon has written an economic biography of our country. Do not mistake this approach for a dry treatise on economics. Far from it, this book is full of struggle, wild success, bitter failure, dislocation from wrenching changes in the economy due to the rise of new technologies, and marshalling resources for war.

He begins with the resource rich, but hostile wilderness that the early explorers found. The British made the first permanent settlement at Jamestown in what is now Virginia. The settlers had come for gold, found mica that they mistook for gold ore, and only 38 of the 105 survived the first winter. They kept coming from England and they kept struggling until they began to grow and export tobacco. Mr. Gordon then takes us on a fast paced, and amazing journey through the nation's founding, the movement west, our major wars, depressions, and the rise (and fall) of technologies such as steam, the railroads, machine supported agriculture, banking, and international trade. He ends the book with the horrible events we experienced on September 11, 2001.

Not only is this a fun read for anyone interested in American History, it would be a fine addition to the history readings for high school or college students. I especially like the author's honesty about the good and the bad in our history without making us the bad guys or the source of all pain and suffering on the planet. The reader comes away with a richer understanding of our history and feels good about our place in the world.

The book has a particularly nice bibliography in addition to the chapter notes. The readings offered in the bibliography would enrich anyone and I also urge you to look at them and read as many as you can. There is also an index to help you find certain topics. (I am a big fan of indexes and cannot understand any modern book without one - given how easily computers can create them and allow the editor to work them into something useful. Yet, we still get books without indexes because people think they will be more popular. What I want is useful!)
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 13, 2008 10:41:48 PM PST
SandyBeach says:
Nine people (so far) read this excellent review, and opined that it was not helpful to their understanding of the book. There sure are a lot of weird people in our society.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 9, 2012 7:01:57 AM PDT
Craig says:
Reading other reviews, I found things missing in this one, such as the author's uncritical love for the robber barons of the gilded age, and his uncritical praise for Reagan - things that are very important in evaluating this book, and in my opinion, ones that cost the author a lot of credibility.

Some people like to be stroked, reading history of their country that leaves out a lot of the stuff that isn't so nice - this review's author has a giveaway phrase that he's one of those people with his straw man description of history that includes both as 'claiming the US is to blame for all the bad in the world'. No one says that, by any means, and the people who use that phrase are generally the ones who want a whitewash.

Googling the author further finds him associated with Reason Magazine and Wall Street Journal commentary - right-wing ideological sources - and consistently attacking President Obama and 'liberals'.

All of this is relevant to evaluating the book and not a whiff of it is in the review.

So, evaluting the review as not that helpful, mainly just pointing out what may be legitimate qualities, summarized by 'it's fun and makes you feel good and has lots of good information', is not that helpful in evaluating the book.

After reading this review, the book sounded of interest; after reading others and seeing more, not so much. So this review wasn't very helpful.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 9, 2012 4:36:32 PM PDT
Craig, thanks for your comments about my review. Obviously, our world views are quite different. For example, you believe there were Robber Barons such as Carnegie, Mellon, Rockefeller, and whomever. I disagree. Have you ever read Chernow's "Titan"? If you had it would change your view of Rockefeller and his career. This is a WONDERFUL book. To reject it because it doesn't agree with your obviously closed and Leftist views is unfortunate because you are cheating yourself of a delightful read and some very fine information and insight.

As for attacking Obama, I plead guilty. He is an awful President and a worse thinker and the sooner we are rid of him the better.

You also say that I like to be stroked and only read books that agree with me. Apparently, you fall into under that heading as well. And you reject my review without having read the book yourself because it doesn't agree with your Progresive preferences.

So, basically you are condemning my review because it doesn't share and uphold your own preferred views and condemning me for liking a book whose views I share. Now that's funny!

Good luck, my friend.
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Craig Matteson

Location: Saline, MI

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