sydney's Reviews > Don't Know Much about History: Everything You Need to Know about American History But Never Learned

Don't Know Much about History by Kenneth C. Davis
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Jul 02, 2007

really liked it
Recommended for: americans
Read in June, 2007

This is a quick overview of American history told in a straightforward, lively tone. The book is arranged chronologically by eras, and Davis uses a question-and-answer format to frame each chapter, opening with a list of questions like, "Why was Kansas 'bloody'?" and "What happened at the Bay of Pigs?" He answers one question at a time, often circling back to previous answers to tie events together. Davis also uses my favorite historical tool, the mighty timeline, to set down major incidents during wars and movements. And, as a bonus, his appendices are great: a list of all the Constitutional amendments and what they mean; an explanation of the electoral college system (which I honestly don't ever know if I'll understand); and a list of all the U.S. presidents, who they ran against, and any notable events during their administrations.

Davis doesn't assume that his readers already know a lot about history (which was my only problem with Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States). He's smart and funny and doesn't gloss over the ugly parts of the past. Like Zinn, he's unapologetically left-leaning, which means some people won't like him. But I do!

Davis's format doesn't always lend itself to great detail. However, he includes "must read" books in each section, pointing out his own sources very transparently. This is good for people who want to learn more and want a starting place to pick up his trail.

This book would be great to help you brush up on certain time periods if you needed to, or just a good resource to have on hand to be able to quickly find the answer to a historical question or understand some weird reference someone makes. Recommended.
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