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The Men Who United the States: America's Explorers, Inventors, Eccentrics and Mavericks, and the Creation of One Nation, Indivisible
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The Men Who United the States: America's Explorers, Inventors, Eccentrics and Mavericks, and the Creation of One Nation, Indivisible

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  3,226 ratings  ·  523 reviews
The acclaimed New York Times bestselling author of Atlantic delivers his first book about America: a fascinating look at the men whose efforts and achievements helped unify the States and create one cohesive nation

"History is rarely as charming and entertaining as when it's told by Simon Winchester."-New York Times Book Review

For more than two centuries, E pluribus
Hardcover, 496 pages
Published October 15th 2013 by Harper
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 ·  3,226 ratings  ·  523 reviews

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Start your review of The Men Who United the States: America's Explorers, Inventors, Eccentrics and Mavericks, and the Creation of One Nation, Indivisible
This sweeping history of largely unsung heroes of vision and creativity behind America’s exploration and infrastructure development was uplifting and informative. Starting with Lewis and Clarke, Winchester’s lively narrative brings to life the stories of key individuals for charting the young nation’s geography and geology, exploiting its waterways, building roads, canals, and railroads, linking its far reaches by telegraph and then by telephone, radio, and electricity. We take so much for ...more
Jason Koivu
Aug 06, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, non-fiction
This is the most boring Simon Winchester book I've ever read and yet I still really enjoyed it! The man just has a way with history that few other historians can replicate. He's the Dr. Frankenstein of history. He enlivens it. He even embiggens it!

Reading the title The Men Who United the States, I assumed I was in for the usual Revolutionary War book. I expected Washington, Adams and Jefferson, and yes it does begin with them (just Washington and Jefferson though...poor Adams). Then it slides
Well-written. Well-researched. I learned so much. Definitely a five-star book for me.
As a fan of Simon Winchester’s previous books (Krakatoa, A Crack in the Edge of the World, and The Professor and the Madman) I was intrigued by a book about the history of the United States from someone who usually tells fascinating and little known histories of the subjects he writes on. Winchester does not disappoint in this volume about the men who shaped this country (and for the feminists out there Sacagawea is thrown into the mix) through a variety of development eras. These eras which do ...more
Serinus Canaria
Jan 21, 2014 rated it liked it
The only explanation given for the striking lack of women in this book (no explanation at all is given for the lack of people of colour), which purports to tell of those "visionary figures" who played a part in the unification of the United States is that:

"Though we might nowadays wish it were otherwise, most - but not all - were men."

Right. So it's not that the author's research was so one-sided as to ignore the many contributions that women have made to the bringing together of the United
Jan 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
Winchester is engaging here as usual, but this is a somewhat uneven book. Unforgettable anecdotes and descriptions that effortlessly flow into one another mingle with the ones that are less interesting and choppier. For whatever reason the whole structure doesn't gel that well, and it may be due to a somewhat artificial imposition of the form of the five Japanese elements: wood, earth, metal, water, and fire on the themes of American unification. The division is meant as a tribute to Winchester’ ...more
Craig Fiebig
Oct 17, 2013 rated it it was ok
Oh boy, a generally interesting book filled with several reminders of that which made America exceptional. Unfortunately the author's understanding of the roles played by the several participants involved in each step of American progress seems overly influenced by the desperately poorly researched "work" of Howard Zinn. The author's pathological clinging to the wish that Roosevelt's policies mitigated the impact of the great depression is not supportable by any reasonable temporal analysis of ...more
Ted Hunt
Feb 09, 2014 rated it liked it
Despite outward appearances, this is not really a history book. It is the author's paean to his adopted nation (Winchester was born in England), and thus it is a very personal, idiosyncratic trip through certain episodes of American history. The author is interested in analyzing the various human achievements that knit this physically enormous nation together, and the book includes some interesting vignettes about some under appreciated individuals and achievements (explorer John Wesley Powell, ...more
Dan Ragsdale
Dec 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Compelling, albeit incomplete, history that is well-told by Winchester, a naturalized American. He does an excellent job of explaining how the American spirit was shaped those who helped establish the "tangible connections" that helped to unite our country. These tangible connections (aka infrastructure) includes roads, canals, railways, telephone lines, and power grids, and, more recently, digital networks. This explains, at least to some extent, the almost complete absence of women from ...more
Jan 11, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
I'm not sure why I went for another Winchester book when I was so distinctly underwhelmed by the last one I read, but I thought I'd give it a try. It is exactly what it says on the tin: a boy's own history of the United States, albeit a highly disorganized one since Winchester's choice to insert his own travels and to organize the book around five elements doesn't make for a very coherent read. I was put off almost right from the go by the curt dismissal of Sacagawea (really not important, just ...more
Nov 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: five-stars
Well researched, well written. If you like Winchester’s other works – “The Man Who Loved China,” “A Crack in the Edge of the World,” and a dozen others – you’ll enjoy this history of America, the way it should be taught in schools. Winchester describes America’s most crucial innovators, thinkers, and explorers, from Lewis and Clark to the civil engineer who oversaw the creation of the more than three million miles of highways, and everything in between. How easy it is to forget the inventions ...more
Aug 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
If American history was taught in the manner this was written, perhaps Americans would be more appreciative (and knowledgable) of their heritage. This book is entertaining and absorbing. I learned much about this country that I had not known, but the learning was painless. It's history at its best: human interest and intriguing events woven into a compelling narrative. Simon Winchester is a skilled writer at the top of his game with this volume.
Lori L (She Treads Softly)
Oct 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Simon Winchester's latest book, The Men Who United the States: America's Explorers, Inventors, Eccentrics and Mavericks, and the Creation of One Nation, Indivisible is definitely one of the best books (and not just nonfiction) I have read this year.

Think about it. As a country we (or our ancestors) were a hodge-podge of ethnic backgrounds, religions, and languages. America has had to make a union for itself and Winchester details beautifully some of the deliberate acts of Americans that have
Chris Bauer
Oct 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
I sometimes wonder if reading a book by Winchester is some kind of mental illusion. I've read a number of his works in the past and have always enjoyed them, recalling different chapters fondly. But when I'm actually 2/3 through any of his works, it sometimes feels like I'm slogging uphill a snowy peak. The view is totally worth it at the end, but it does require some work.

His latest book, "The Men Who United the States" is interesting on several levels. First is the content and focus of the
Aug 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It turned out not to be what I expected, mostly because of the way the information was organized. The author chose to organize the book into sections with each section recounting America's history in the sense that it reflects the 5 classical elements: wood, earth, water, fire, and metal. At first I was a little confused by this, but as I read on I saw how this was actually a brilliant way of organizing the historical information. In the "wood" section, he wrote ...more
Sep 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
In this book, Simon Winchester tells the story of how the American infrastructure was built. The expansive and sparsely inhabited United States became more and more accessible as technological inventions allowed Americans to move back and forth across our vast country at a faster and faster pace.

He features several different explorers and inventors who contributed their efforts and inventions to the "Uniting of the States". His first chapter, not surprisingly, is about the Lewis and Clark
Jun 02, 2016 added it
Shelves: abandoned
This is interpreted history through the eyes of the author. And it, IMHO, should not be classified in the non-fiction category as to progressions and causes /effects. At least not to a 70% accurate degree. And I've read enough by 120 pages to know that I'd rather read biography or individual subject matter that holds research to a first tier degree. This doesn't.

Indivisible with the Civil War a single bump through his eyes.

Someone's eccentric is another's normal. Definitions are also murky.
Charlie Newfell
Oct 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Outstanding account of the various scientists, explorers and inventors that united the nation into a cohesive entity. The telegraph, telephone, radio and the interstate highway system are all examples of how the various sub cultures in the USA became more homogenous. Informative and well written.
Oct 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
I always enjoy Simon Winchester's books as a scientific armchair travel genre, and this did not disappoint. I also listened to the audio version, read by Winchester, so it was neat to hear it in his voice.
Mar 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderful read; Winchester is one of my favorite authors and he always spins a fascinating non-fiction tale. Indeed, this is the ninth of his books I have reviewed. Here he surveys the men and their discoveries or inventions that helped weave America into one nation – at least to the extent that it is. He has an unusual framework, using the ancient Chinese elements of wood, earth, water, fire, and metal to arrange the narrative. Early America is dominated by wood and he focuses on ...more
Mar 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Winchester in this book tells the history of the various innovations and the eccentric people that brought them to the world, all of which served to unite the United States. The book is not without its oddities. Winchester aligns the various eras into a framework based on the ancient Chinese elements of wood, earth, water, fire and metal. The material does roughly align, but the framework is definitely forced. Additionally, interspersed throughout are stories of Winchester’s own travels. While ...more
This book covers a huge amount of time and a ton of change so of course it can only brush past some very important events and people. The contributions of women are hardly mentioned in this book. The author's personal thoughts and stories are woven throughout and add another dimension to the story. It's interesting how he uses the five Chinese classic elements as a framework, though everything understandably doesn't quite fit under the categories. Even so, I think it's an interesting overview of ...more
Oct 01, 2019 rated it liked it
By far, not my favorite of Winchester's books. I'm not sold on the idea that this book needed to be written in the first place, frankly, especially in the way that it was. In the end it's sort of a glorified how-the-West-was-won narrative, though it extends before and after the actual taking of the western lands into the hands of Europeans and their descendants. There are a few interesting insights, and any book like this will surprise with a few facts that contradict what you thought you knew. ...more
Nov 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The major theme of Simon Winchester's The Men Who United the States is, not surprisingly, unity--a word Winchester himself uses throughout with purpose and precision, if not careless school-boy abandon. And, on one level, his focus on cohesion makes perfect sense: over 500-plus pages and four centuries of history, Winchester traces the attempts--most successful, some not--to bring areas of our growing and changing nation together, one acre or mountain pass at a time. From the post-Revolutionary ...more
May 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A readable jaunt through American history packed with loads of interesting detail. Winchester never gets bogged down in deep historical analysis which helps keep the book entertaining but does mean it skips over the more difficult aspects of America's past that highlight a distributed states -- slavery and the treatment of Native Americans are two obvious examples -- but a good book nonetheless.
Joann Pittman
Jan 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic. So many interesting stories. Winchester is a great writer. I listened to the audio version, which the author did himself. He did an excellent job.
Fred Forbes
Apr 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Certain authors like Bill Bryson, Hampton Sides, Erik Lawson and Simon Winchester have the ability to take history and tell the tale like an absorbing novel. This story was a treat since I had the audiobook version read by Simon Winchester his own self and who better to know what to emphasize in the telling, how to pace the work, and how to get to get a point across than the author? So it was a treat that helped the miles fly by on a recent 2,400 mile road trip. While I think his organizational ...more
Tony and Leslee
Oct 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What I understood from 'The Men Who United the States' is that the two principal reasons to venture from the comforts of the known world are opportunity and opportunism.

Opportunity, mostly at the expense of indigenous populations, allows the opening of great swathes of land for mining, industry, agriculture, pastoral pursuits and many other economic purposes. As is seen in this book, great wealth came to those who took risks or who had foresight, but there were thousands of others who were
Sep 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
Simon Winchester set an ambitious goal for himself when he decided to write about the unification of the US. In trying to determine how to organize this book, he decided to structure the book around the five classical elements: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. Some of the sections make sense, for instance, Wood is the section for the Lewis & Clark’s Corps of Discovery because their travels from St. Charles, Missouri to the Pacific Ocean crossed mostly heavily wooded land (even though ...more
Feb 16, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: can-t-finish
I attempted to do the audiobook. I got it from the library (thank God) otherwise I'd be very mad I paid money for this longwinded book I couldn't get through 25 minutes of the first cd. Author is a long winded wind bag Brit. Not even American. That is ok, so this all came from research. Great! But the author must be a Liberal fool as in the preface there's an ode to Obama. What is the point of that except the author is a liberal BORE preaching his adoration for a Muslim president. I had to fast ...more
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Simon Winchester, OBE, is a British writer, journalist and broadcaster who resides in the United States. Through his career at The Guardian, Winchester covered numerous significant events including Bloody Sunday and the Watergate Scandal. As an author, Simon Winchester has written or contributed to over a dozen nonfiction books and authored one novel, and his articles appear in several travel ...more
“Railroads brought about lasting social effects, as well. The companies’ ruthless attention to keeping time impelled passengers to carry pocket watches,* and led to the eventual establishment of time zones.” 3 likes
“The cities of the eastern American fall line are well known today—Baltimore, Washington, Richmond, Fredericksburg, Philadelphia—even though the part that the very similar accidents of geology and river behavior played in their origins may have been long forgotten.” 2 likes
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