- Hardcover: 608 pages
- Publisher: Thomas Nelson; First Edition edition (April 17, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1595550577
- ISBN-13: 978-1595550576
- Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 2 x 9.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #677,097 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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America: The Last Best Hope (Volume II): From a World at War to the Triumph of Freedom First Edition Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
The second volume of Bennett's overview of U.S. history begins with the events leading up to WWI, tracing the progress of the U.S. through the end of Reagan's presidency. Bennett (The Book of Virtues) has a long history of government service-he was Secretary of Education under Ronald Reagan and Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under George H.W. Bush-and the overall tone of the book reflects the deep respect he holds for America's leaders, history and institutions. Bennett is a leading figure in the neoconservative movement, so his interpretation of America's last 90 years is informed by that perspective. But while he wears both his patriotism and politics on his sleeve, Bennett avoids flag-waving or talk-radio-style generalizations. This is a breezy, heartfelt survey, written with the average reader in mind, that will appeal broadly to those looking for an America-friendly introduction to 20th century U.S. history.
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About the Author
Dr. William J. Bennett is one of America’s most influential and respected voices on cultural, political, and educational issues. Host of the top-ten nationally syndicated radio showBill Bennett’s Morning in America, he is also the Washington Fellow of the Claremont Institute. He is the author and editor of more than twenty-five books.
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Top Customer Reviews
Bennett picks up the narrative from the first volume with World War I and takes us through the end of Ronald Reagan's presidency and the end of the Soviet Union and the Cold War. He offers an epilogue explaining why he ended the volume there and talks briefly about his view of America and our current situation in the world, including the current war.
As one can tell from the title of these works, Bennett does believe in American Exceptionalism and that, despite its failings, we are a moral country that is seeking to do right and to improve. For this reason, this can be a refreshing read for anyone who believes in traditional morality, admires American, and yet desires a readable and honest history that doesn't shy away from our mistakes and failings. The focus is always on history being made and lived by real people rather than some abstract forces. Bennett is also clear about the various political perspectives of the various historical actors and commentators. This helps the reader keep straight how various schools of political thought have affected the course of history in our country and around the world.
I can imagine that any number of students who are home schooled would use both volumes of these texts to study American history. While this isn't the only such option available, it is easy to read and tells stories about our history that one doesn't find in many other places. He doesn't shy away from the role of religion in our nation's public life, which I enjoyed a great deal. This current obsession of sanitizing the public square of religious expression is a recent innovation and a mistake. It also distorts our history so greatly as to be dishonest about the contributions of religion and its huge role in the fabric of our nation's history.
Another very refreshing inclusion is the role of conservative thought and not treating it as the source of all malevolence or as an aberration that must be gotten rid of as soon as possible. One can even read about Ronald Reagan, William Buckley, Milton Friedman, and others without all kinds of qualifiers, personal attacks, and scare quotes.
Is the book perfect? Of course not. No history can be. I do wish there were more pictures and that those supplied were printed in better quality. However, in the age of the Internet, a student can go find any number of images on any topic he or she chooses. So, this is not a big problem.
My favorite topics of this book are Chapters 1 (America and the Great War (1914-1921)), Chapter 2 (The Boom and the Bust (1921-1933)), Chapter 4 (America's Rendezvous with Destiny (1939-1941)), and those sections dealing with the Reagan years. Bennett is not embarrassed over his devotion to Ronald Reagan and this is clear in the book.
I highly recommend Volume 2.
While the first volume covers over four centuries, this second volume covers about three quarters of a century. With 533 pages of reading material and 41 pages of bibliography, it is still necessary to drastically limit scope. This is perhaps the most difficult task for a history writer. It necessarily means that some issues are touched upon only lightly.
Bennett's sense of what to include lends to the book's readability as much as does his writing style. He cleverly weaves in human interest stories that help draw the reader in. These vignettes demonstrate America's strengths and weaknesses, but overall they provide an optimistic view of the U.S.
Another device Bennett uses for limiting scope is to largely frame the book around national politics, and particularly around presidential administrations. This is highly useful in providing insight into the kind of people Americans have elected to govern them, which provides a glimpse into the thinking and experiences of Americans at regular historical intervals. But this device also tends to lightly treat some important issues that are not well addressed in national politics.
Bennett's personal feelings regarding historical figures was evident in the first volume, but it seems to me that this shines through much more clearly in the second volume. Perhaps this is because Bennett personally experienced many of the later events and has even had dealings with some of the people he discusses.
For example, Bennett's respect for Eisenhower and Kennedy are apparent, as is his undisguised disgust with Johnson and Nixon. Nowhere is Bennett's loathing more apparent than in his treatment of the withdrawal of American support from Southeast Asia in the mid 70s that resulted in the deaths of over two million human beings.
One of the highlights of the book is Bennett's handling of World War II. I felt a palpable sense of what average Americans in the pre-war years were experiencing as the free world hurtled toward a showdown with fascism and militarism. Not only did I feel a sense of how average Americans experienced the war, but I gained fresh insights into the personalities and interconnections of the movers and shakers in the war.
More than anything else, this book helps explain the whys behind historical events. And it does so in a pleasantly readable way. I assume that some history professionals would dismiss Bennett's book as lacking some of the elements they have come to expect in scholarly offerings. Bennett, himself a professor of history, says that most such history tomes are dry and deplorable. He argues that few Americans understand history because few good and readable history texts are available. With this book and its predecessor volume, Bennett does a good job of making sure that at least some factual, readable, and optimistic American history books are available.