I suppose most people buy “coffee-table books” simply to look good as props around the house. They may get paged through for the picture value too, buI suppose most people buy “coffee-table books” simply to look good as props around the house. They may get paged through for the picture value too, but how many times are they actually read?
I have to say I didn’t expect too much from this book. I feel I am pretty well versed in the history of the American West so what could a coffee-table book offer? Happily, the answer is: quite a lot. No, there are no newly found facts or insights never before presented, but as a nice summary of the forces that interacted and impacted the region over time, you could do far worse.
This book covers far more than the westward wagon trains and the plight of the Native Americans. Quoting from the book’s conclusion, “From Spanish conquistadores to gold-rush prospectors, from French coureurs de bois to American mountain men, from Presbyterian missionaries to Mormon pilgrims, from wagon-train sojourners to railroad barons, from free-spirited cowboys to steadfast sodbusters, from cattle-rustling women to wheat-farming ex-slaves, from Native American warriors to soldiers of the US Army, all kinds of people participated in the invention of the American West. Each blazed a different trail, making a unique contribution to that unique time and place. Together, they left a legacy of brash optimism and fierce individualism that still defines the consciousness of the United States.”
The pictures that accompany the text are of high quality and almost exclusively historical photographs, paintings and maps. Their richness brings the entire book to life. In addition, there are many quotes attributed to the participants, both from famous leaders and pathfinders as well as from the more common people who experienced life from the ground up. For anybody seeking a well written and informative summary of this subject, I highly recommend this book. ...more
Blood and Thunder, subtitled, "The Epic Story of Kit Carson and the Conquest of the American West", was written by Hampton Sides and was an importantBlood and Thunder, subtitled, "The Epic Story of Kit Carson and the Conquest of the American West", was written by Hampton Sides and was an important book for me. You see, I grew up in the Southwestern US, namely New Mexico, and have since lived all over the western US including California, Utah, and Colorado, also spending lots of time in Nevada, Arizona, and Texas. And yet, I have long felt my historical education of the region has been aquired in bits and pieces only with no real handle on how it all fit together. I was first attracted to this book by the great cover art and the subject of Kit Carson since I had always wanted to read about his life. But this book turned out to be about quite a bit more than just Kit Carson's life.
Don't get me wrong, Kit Carson's life and deeds are incredible. He seems to have been everywhere in the West, at most of the important events, often effecting them in astounding ways. We read of John Charles Fremont and his Pathfinder expeditions, with Kit Carson as his guide. We follow the Civil War events in New Mexico (a good followup to the set of four novels I read last year by P.G. Nagle), as well as learn about General Stephen Watts Kearny, the conquerer of the West. And through it all is the plight of the Navajo Indians, and their leaders. These events and characters just scratch the surface of what this book covers. I highly recommend this book to anybody interested in a good all-around discussion of the history of the American South West....more