With a Pulitzer Prize and my admiration for McCullough's previous works (Path Between the Seas, Truman and John Adams) the expectations for 1776 were high. While the book is a work of substantial scholarship, it is difficult to read.
To start with, the maps are inadequate and good maps are quite necessary for the number of battles described. There are pages and pages of the familiar portraits, linotypes and engravings that have appeared in almost every history book written about that time period. However, they do not add anything to the narrative.
Other reviewers have suggested other books for a better treatment of this time period. I have read the historical fiction novel "The Glorious Cause" by Jeff Shaara and found that book, which essentially compares and contrasts Washington to Cornwallis, an excellent source of information while being eminently readable!
While reading and learning history is sometimes a chore, and impatient readers looking for instant gratification often lose interest in hard-to-read history books, the criticisms of 1776 appear valid to me. Perhaps McCullough is a victim of his stellar reputation and the high expectations that readers have of him?
If you are interested in this time period, 1776 is a good supplement to other works such as Washington’s Crossing by David Hackett Fisher, another Pulitzer Prize winner. Quite frankly, I’m not sure how this book got so many 5 STAR ratings from readers? What am I missing?