These Truths (Lepore) - Book Reviews

Book Reviews

[Lepore's] one-volume history is elegant, readable, sobering…The size of the project is liberating and constraining at once. A book like this is both very long and very short…Keeping everything contained between two covers risks compressing the historical sprawl into one of those dense slabs more suitable for gift-giving than reading—the print equivalent of a holiday fruitcake. But in Lepore's hands, the history gets some room to breathe. She begins in 1492, with Columbus's arrival, wending her way through the next five centuries…leavening some of the essential textbook material with stories that are lesser known…Which isn't to say These Truths is an update of A People's History of the United States, Howard Zinn's radically revisionist book from 1980. Yes, Lepore pays heed to Frederick Douglass and Cesar Chavez and the African-American lawyer and civil rights activist Pauli Murray, among others. But her book is less about a struggle between heroes and villains than it is about the country's often tortured approach to political equality and natural rights—truths that were supposed to be self-evident but have been treated as if they were anything but.
Jennifer Szalai - New York Times


It isn't until you start reading it that you realize how much we need a book like this one at this particular moment. These Truths…tries to take in almost everything, an impossible task, but I'd be hard-pressed to think [Lepore] could have crammed more into these 932 highly readable pages. It covers the history of political thought, the fabric of American social life over the centuries, classic "great man" accounts of contingencies, surprises, decisions, ironies and character, and the vivid experiences of those previously marginalized: women, African-Americans, Native Americans, homosexuals. It encompasses interesting takes on democracy and technology, shifts in demographics, revolutions in economics and the very nature of modernity. It's a big sweeping book, a way for us to take stock at this point in the journey, to look back, to remind us who we are and to point to where we're headed…There wasn't a moment when I struggled to keep reading…We need this book. Its reach is long, its narrative fresh and the arc of its account sobering to say the least.
Andrew Sullivan - New York Times Book Review


Gutsy, lyrical, and expressive…[These Truths] is a perceptive and necessary contribution to understanding the American condition of late.…It captures the fullness of the past, where hope rises out of despair, renewal out of destruction, and forward momentum out of setbacks.
Jack E. Davis - Chicago Tribune


ill Lepore is an extraordinarily gifted writer, and These Truths is nothing short of a masterpiece of American history. By engaging with our country's painful past (and present) in an intellectually honest way, she has created a book that truly does encapsulate the American story in all its pain and all its triumph.
Michael Schaub - NPR


In her epic new work, Jill Lepore helps us learn from whence we came.
Oprah Magazine


"An old-fashioned civics book," Harvard historian and New Yorker contributor Jill Lepore calls it, a glint in her eye. This fat, ludicrously ambitious one-volume history is a lot more than that. In its spirit of inquiry, in its eager iconoclasms, These Truths enacts the founding ideals of the country it describes.
Huffington Post


The principles of the Declaration of Independence get betrayed, fought over, and sometimes fulfilled in this probing political history.… [Lepore] unifies a complex and conflicted history into [an]…engrossing narrative with insights that resonate for modern readers.
Publishers Weekly


[As] Harvard historian …Lepore notes, "A nation born in contradiction, liberty in a land of slavery, sovereignty in a land of conquest, will fight, forever, over the meaning of its history." [Lepore] finds meaning in the contradictions.
Library Journal


(Starred Review) An ambitious and provocative attempt to interpret American history as an effort to fulfill and maintain certain fundamental principles…. Lepore is a historian with wide popular appeal, [who poses] questions about who we are as a nation.
Booklist


(Starred Review) [A] mammoth, wonderfully readable history of the United States from Columbus to Trump…. A splendid rendering—filled with triumph, tragedy, and hope—that will please Lepore's readers immensely and win her many new ones.
Kirkus Reviews

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