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Don't Know Much about History: Everything You Need to Know about American History But Never Learned
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Don't Know Much about History: Everything You Need to Know about American History But Never Learned (Don't Know Much About)

3.84  ·  Rating Details ·  6,580 Ratings  ·  410 Reviews
Who really discovered America? What was "the shot heard 'round the world"? Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: Did he or didn't he?

From the arrival of Columbus through the bizarre election of 2000 and beyond, Davis carries readers on a rollicking ride through more than 500 years of American history. In this updated edition of the classic anti-textbook, he debunks, recounts
Paperback, 678 pages
Published April 13th 2004 by Harper Perennial (first published 1990)
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Sabrina Moser
Aug 16, 2007 Sabrina Moser rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: no one
Shelves: justfinished
It is infinitely easier to critize a book like this one than it is to write one. Succint, interesting summaries of sweeping historical eras are almost always doomed to failure on some level, and I suppose, in the grand scheme of things, Davis does an Ok job. It's just that his writing is so bad. His prose is littered with pronouns lacking clear antecedents and most irklingly, he constantly repeats proper nouns making for some seriously bumpy, seriously irritating reading:

"Almost from the moment
Aug 16, 2011 Burt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Currently rereading, actually. I taught advanced US History I from this book, nearly twenty years ago. Davis has this new addition and my old one got "loaned out", so I bought new to find out what had been added.

OK, book read. Just as entertaining, witty, and iconoclastic as the original edition. I am very glad this book is back on my shelves.
I read this book as a refresher on American History with a view to sitting a specific exam. In that respect, I suppose the book was successful in achieving my objective. However, I would generally not recommend this book for anything other than as a springboard into further study and thankfully for this purpose Davis provides a very detailed list of further readings for each section.

It is a good succinct summary of American history. A distillation, if you will, of a large amount of research and
There was a TV documentary called, America the Story of Us on the history channel that only gave the good things about American History. This book was nothing like that. It gave everything, the good and the bad, and this author must have read a freakish amount of books to know that much. I learned so much and it proves that America wasn't just made up of perfect people who did perfect things. The only reason it isn't 5 stars is that it doesn't describe the weakness of the Articles of Confederati ...more
Christopher Carbone
The real problem with “Don’t Know Much About History” is that it prescribes to the Modern School of History, namely: anything white males did in the last 3,000 years is criminal, all of white men’s successes are on the backs of other people, and white men are very lucky.

This is not to say DKMAH is a bad book or even bad history; its not. The book is, though, pedestrian in the info contained and in the events covered. However, what it lacks in material, it makes up for in righteous indignation.
Nov 13, 2011 Jeremy rated it really liked it
Good overview of American history. The more I read about history, especially American history, the more appalled and the more hopeful I become. Appalled, because humanity keeps making the same mistakes fueled by greed, apathy, and ignorance. Hopeful, because eventually a movement starts that achieves real change for the better and because we as a species have proven our resilience over and over.

Every single one of our founding fathers and all the men and women we consider great in the history of
Mar 13, 2009 Alison rated it did not like it
Its always disconcerting when the first few lines of a book try to turn George Washington's prayer at Valley Forge into a farce made up by hyper religious people. Right then I knew I was reading a book written by a liberal. But I continued. He spent the first chapter cutting down Columbus and his greediness in order to explain that he wasn't the first person to discover American land (duh!) and then never answered who really did (Amerigo Vespucci). I thought his history way too basic at this poi ...more
Andrew Breslin
Jun 20, 2010 Andrew Breslin rated it really liked it
Every American should be lashed to a chair and forced to read this book. That's the sort of thought that pops into my head every now and then when I get in touch with my inner-despotic dictator. A benevolent despot, I hasten to add, because it truly would do all my fellow citizens a world of good. Americans are frighteningly ignorant about many things, especially their own history.

Eventually my inner-freedom-fighters overthrow my inner-despot, and re-establish the right of all Americans to be i
Aug 31, 2014 Barb rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A thoroughly readable history of the U.S., warts and all, excellent for the history-challenged like myself and those who need a quick brush-up. I'm clearing a spot on my reference shelf for Don't know Much About History, Every thing you need to Know About American history But Never Learned, by Kenneth C. Davis. This edition covers through the year 2010.
Donal Keady
Nov 22, 2009 Donal Keady rated it really liked it
History books, by their nature, are never "definitive" no matter what the title at the front or the blurb at the back may state. However, a good history book will give the reader some sort of springboard from which to launch into the lifetime's pursuit that is history. This book's accessible, often witty style will inform, but more importantly will stimulate the thirst for knowledge, which is as it should be. I don't think the author seeks to offend, but some formerly sacred and venerated histor ...more
Aug 26, 2013 Alicia rated it it was ok
Shelves: didn-t-finish
I've decided to rate conservatively and round down. On the whole, I found the claim "everything you need to know about American history but never learned" quite false. The book skims too much material instead of delving, and covers American history at a shallower level than my high school AP history class (and I would hope, most high school history classes). This book is neither a substitute (covers too little), nor a supplement (doesn't delve deeply enough) to any actual serious study of histor ...more
Feb 14, 2011 Dina rated it really liked it
Kenneth C. Davis has a really terrific knack for making history interesting, exciting and most importantly personable. I had first picked up his Don't Know Much About the Civil War book and was amazed that for the first time, I was enjoying learning about battles, generals and strategic movements - it was more like story-telling than fact reciting. I feel that this is what history should be; important events told with all the care that a well crafted work of fiction holds, so that places and ide ...more
Sep 28, 2012 Ryan rated it liked it
Shelves: history
This was a fairly good book and has been the perfect book for quite some time for my visits to our home library (bathroom). Events throughout history are simplified into a couple of pages making it perfect for your home library (ya, you know). I've really enjoyed this book.

The part about "never learned" in the title is awesome as it makes you want to read it but it is a very basic recount of historical events, all of which you would have learned in school.

I've realized that most history books ar
Oct 02, 2007 Jamie rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: EVERYONE!
Shelves: favorite
Seriously. Every American should be able to tell a foreigner what the original 13 colonies were. Or at least, what was the shot heard round the world. Or what the Quakers had to do with the Prohibition, or what the New Deal was or any number of pieces of our history. My American History knowledge is like swiss cheese. I have huge holes in my timeline of history. I don't know what I was doing when it was being taught to me, but i definitely wasn't listening. Our history is actually really intrigu ...more
Jan 18, 2017 Kathy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I think a better title for this book might have been, "Don't Know ANYTHING about History". I am fearful that those who don't know "anything" will think this is the complete text of American history. Although it is a major feat to write a book containing "all" of American history, this book just falls short. The book is written in a question and answer format, which makes the transition to the next topic flow. However, in some "answer" sections, I thought I was reading those comprehension paragra ...more
Jul 22, 2010 melydia rated it really liked it
A friendly question-and-answer format with entertaining answers about American history from Columbus to Clinton. The post-Watergate coverage is pretty slim, but at that point it could probably be assumed that most readers remembered those years clearly. (There is an updated version, but my copy was printed in 1995.) I learned quite a bit about those bits we skipped in school, like the Vietnam and Korean Wars. Though it could not replace a traditional history course, since there is an assumption ...more
May 22, 2012 Lisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've always enjoyed history, and I like to think that I have a good working knowledge of it. I was relieved to find that I still remembered much of the material covered in this book (then again, I did survive AP history with Mr. Player!). But this was a good review presented in an engaging, easy-to-follow format. I learned a lot and found that the time passed quickly as I listened. There were, of course, sections where I thought Davis spent too much time and others where he didn't spend enough. ...more
Apr 11, 2014 Tyler rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Synopsis: Yes, this is a history book. It essentially covers US history from Christopher Columbus and the modern discovery of America up to the first few years of Obama's Presidency. Originally published during Bush I's presidency, it was updated a couple of years ago to include the Clinton years, 9/11 and the Iraq & Afghanistan Wars.

My Review: For me, this was more of a refresher course on American history as I'm fairly familiar with our nation's storied past. However, just as the author cl
Sep 26, 2012 Graham rated it it was ok
If you enjoy history, then obviously this is a book you'll want to read. But don't expect surprisingly new discoveries that blow-your-mind. It's a good read and I always like learning about the past, in this case, learning a different account in many instances. At the close of the book, Davis provides a few quotes pertaining to the definition of history. One of my favorites has always been from Winston Churchill; "History is written by the victors". I also believe that to understand history, you ...more
Mar 09, 2014 Heather rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I recently decided I wanted to know more about History, but didn't know where to start. I found this book at a used book sale and it was exactly what I was looking for. It hits all the major bullet points in American History, with suggested further reading at the end of the chapters, just in case there is a subject that you wanted to know more about (which I used and promptly added several books to my Goodreads list.) It also lays out important dates in major wars. This book should be added to e ...more
very readable. Of course it can't begin to cover everything but many of the paragraphs regarding each decade were fascinating and little known. I learned a great deal and can now see parallels and repeating cycles and the errors and crimes of the greedy and cruel and misguided.
Mar 23, 2015 Yusra rated it liked it
Shelves: history
good primer and fast/easy read if you like history books. As with any history book, important to keep in mind that the information is never "neutral" and will be presented with the opinions/perspective of the person presenting it.
Feb 10, 2013 Carey rated it really liked it
Good for someone that really doesn't know much about history. Not a lot of detail or heavy reading.
Apr 09, 2016 Amy rated it it was amazing
Davis is a favorite !
Jul 03, 2007 diane rated it it was ok
the question-and-answer format is a little annoying to read straight through, but taken in small pieces it is entertaining and informative.
Brandy Bones
Nov 26, 2011 Brandy Bones rated it really liked it
we read this as part of our high school history curriculum. i appreciate it now as much as i appreciated it then.
Oct 08, 2016 Cyndi rated it really liked it
Good YA book that covers American history thoroughly but entertainingly.
Aug 31, 2011 Jamie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good read as a refresher or if you prefer to look up a topic for historical accuracy.
Aug 15, 2012 Brett rated it really liked it
Finished "Don't Know Much About History" by Kenneth C. Davis, which discusses the "messy ripples of history," from the discovery of America to the 9/11 attacks in 2001. Overall it was a very good treatment of history, though I thought the coverage of earlier history was better organized than the more recent events. Earlier history seemed to be in a more logical order, perhaps because it is so long ago and we've had time to sort through it more completely. One feature of the book that I will like ...more
May 04, 2017 Thom rated it really liked it
"Short and sweet." This was something I picked up at Half-Priced books and something I kept in the car in case I couldn't get to the library. Good summaries about famous topics of history which were mostly touched on long ago in school when I had no maturity to know what I was reading about. For example, the Boston Tea Party. It was about taxes and false flag events. Over my adolescent head.
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Kenneth C. Davis is the New York Times bestselling author of the Don't Know Much About® series of books and audios for adults and children. The first title in the series, Don't Know Much About® History became a New York Times bestseller in 1991 and remained on the paperback list for 35 consecutive weeks. It has since been revised several times and now has more than 1.6 million copies in print.

More about Kenneth C. Davis...

Other Books in the Series

Don't Know Much About (8 books)
  • Don't Know Much About the Bible: Everything You Need to Know About the Good Book but Never Learned
  • Don't Know Much About the Civil War: Everything You Need to Know About America's Greatest Conflict but Never Learned
  • Don't Know Much About Geography: Everything You Need to Know About the World but Never Learned
  • Don't Know Much About the Universe: Everything You Need to Know About Outer Space but Never Learned
  • Don't Know Much About Mythology: Everything You Need to Know About the Greatest Stories in Human History but Never Learned
  • Don't Know Much About Anything: Everything You Need to Know but Never Learned About People, Places, Events, and More! (Don't Know Much About Series)
  • Don't Know Much About Anything Else: Even More Things You Need to Know but Never Learned About People, Places, Events, and More!

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