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50 Great American Places: Essential Historic Sites Across the U.S.

3.57  ·  Rating details ·  241 ratings  ·  48 reviews
A one-of-a-kind guide to fifty of the most important cultural and historic sites in the United States guaranteed to fascinate, educate, and entertain—selected and described by the former director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

From Massachusetts to Florida to Washington to California, 50 Great American Places takes you on a journey through our
Paperback, 320 pages
Published March 15th 2016 by Simon Schuster (first published June 2nd 2015)
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Aug 25, 2018 rated it liked it
An interesting book only because when we travel we stop and see anything historical, museums and historical markers along the road. We have been to several of these places in the midwest to western parts of the US.
Pop Bop
Feb 14, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: reviewed
They Got the "One-of-a-Kind" Part Right

This is a wildly idiosyncratic and essentially random collection of some well known and some fairly obscure historic sites. We get Yellowstone National Park, but then we get the Cahokia Mounds and James Naismith's tenure as the only losing basketball coach at the University of Kansas. Each site gets two or three pages and a few small stock photos. The site information essays are just as random, so Gettysburg as the retirement location for Dwight and Mamie
Aug 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Interesting selections of places - just about everyone will learn something from this book.
Lori L (She Treads Softly)
Mar 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing

50 Great American Places by Brent D. Glass is a very highly recommended guide to 50 places that have cultural and historical significance in the USA.

Brent Glass is the director emeritus of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, so this is an expert guiding you to the sites included.
He writes "I envision 50 Great American Places as a contribution to historical literacy. Historical literacy is more than simply knowing the names of leaders or when famous battles were fought. It
I received this book free through Goodreads in exchange for a review.

50 Great American Places: Essential Historic Sites Across the U.S. is a quick interesting read about places of importance in the United States. There are 50 chapters in the book, all very short, one on each of the places.

The places in this book range from the well-known to the lesser known. There is something of interest for pretty much anyone: early-American history, western American history, industrial and/or technological
Jul 21, 2017 rated it did not like it
Apparently in Minnesota, which is home to
- the location of the headwaters of the Mississippi River,
- Minnehaha Falls which are the subject of Longfellow's "The Song of Hiawatha",
- St. Paul’s Cathedral, one of the best examples of Beaux-Arts architecture and a landmark on the National Register of Historic Buildings,
- the Stone Arch Bridge which is recognized as a National Civil Engineering Landmark
- Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness which has a dozen hiking trails and more than 2,000
I would recommend this book to visitors to the US or Americans who are planning a trip to an unfamiliar region. Otherwise, the book didn't seem very cohesive and I struggled to pick out any themes from Glass' histories about each place -- I understand that he is a public historian and probably more comfortable with place and present than narrative and past, but it read a bit like a list of interesting historic places; again, this is probably enough for the less-informed or less-traveled reader, ...more
Oct 21, 2015 rated it liked it
Disappointing for me because I expected beautiful pictures to accompany the well written factual descriptions. Literally one, sometime two, small pictures on the "cover" page for each of the 50.
Feb 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: travel
A historical travel guide of 50 places in the USA. The author provides a historical background on each site followed by a modern viewpoint. Each chapter focuses on a single location and they fly by quickly. The author provides references at the end of each chapter for further research into the historic site. The sites are not connected by any particular theme and the chapters vary in quality. This book is better for skimming instead of a straight through read. Overall, this is a decent travel ...more
Dec 18, 2018 rated it did not like it
This is the kind of book you skim, reading bits and pieces here and there, and barely glancing at the rest. It's not that the writing is terrible; it's just a little boring. Some of these "great American places" I'd never heard of, and I'm glad I got to read a little essay about rather than waste the time on anything more. Some I'd never heard of, and for good reason. My interests are varied but do not include communal living in Indiana. Nor do I intend to visit the forks of the Ohio River. You ...more
Bob Deangelo
Feb 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book, and if you have an interest in history, and/or in the historical sites in the United States, you will too. The book highlights 50 historical sites in the US, briefly (3-5 pages) telling the story behind each of them. Some of them are well known (such as the National Mall or the Brooklyn Bridge), and some were unfamiliar to me. The book is almost the story of the United States, as told through these historic sites. I enjoyed reading and learning about the various ...more
Jun 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is an interesting little book. Glass lists 50 Essential Historic Sites to visit. Some I have heard of, some not. I read through the book, but realistically this book would be better served as a reference book to consult if you are going to be near one of these places. Seeking them out to visit is more my style, but there is not a discernible organization to the book. Although, just now I am wondering if it is chronological? Which also doesn’t really help me.
Regardless, I love seeking out
Aug 05, 2017 rated it it was ok
Yep, this is one of *those* nonfiction books that you feared growing up that just spouts facts at you without successfully integrating them into some kind of actually engaging narrative. Sure, it's very informative and made me add some spots to my "road trip" Pinterest board, and there are some facts Glass pulls out that made me stop and think, but much of the time this book wasn't very engaging and let's be real-- it suited my purposes b/c I needed a book that was available and that I could ...more
Sep 02, 2019 rated it liked it
An interesting view of American History--through the lens of "Great" (not necessarily most historic) places. If you're the kind of road tripper who likes to stop at historical markers and take a slight detour to see area museums, then you will enjoy this. I was disappointed by the lack of photos and maps. After each essay, I actually went to Google Maps to see these places in their geographic area--plus Google will give you full color photos. Don't count on it as a travel guide--more like a ...more
Kiera Beddes
A fascinating inside look at 50 different historical places within the US. I appreciated the author's variety of people and places and his in-depth discussions on why he felt each place deserved recognition. Some places I recognized or had been to myself, which was always fun, like Temple Square, the National Mall, the World's Colombian Exposition of 1892 (holla at DEVIL AND THE WHITE CITY), Monticello, Jamestown, Colonial Willamsburg, and the Hoover Dam. Others I had never heard of, which was ...more
Aug 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-bingo
A fantastic book! I love how he lays it out (once the pattern emerges) and how he discusses so many aspects of history - social, economic, migratory - even though he starts with a place each time. Its fantastoc and I learned a lot. Much of what I learned was a seed from which I want to go discover more. A great read
Aug 10, 2017 rated it liked it
Had Some pretty interesting facts about various places. Definitely didn't have a storytelling approach tbh. It was more of the traditional, date/name/place type of history telling. Would still recommend for history travelers.
Oct 23, 2019 rated it liked it
Most of the 50 are pretty well known to people with an interest in history. A few little snippets of history here and there to make them interesting but nor much I didn't already know about. This would be a good companion for some road trippers from other countries perhaps
Elizabeth Fleury
Jun 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An fascinating intellectual history of our country! I read this book while I was on a cross-country plane ride. Chronologically organized, this curated and engaging selection of historical sites will inform your visits and inspire you to plan many more.
Justlesa Hall
Jun 05, 2017 rated it it was ok
Some interesting facts. Sometimes I was just really bored.
Connie B
Feb 19, 2019 rated it liked it
Nice that my (?) relative John Burton is listed in the review/description of the Presidio in California.
Emily Perrin
Aug 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Enjoyed this and learned a lot of new facts. Definitely added some sites to my travel list and am looking for books on these particular topics that piqued my interest.
Jul 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Surprised by some choices, but interesting. Each chapter is short, but not a fast read. Kept thinking I would skim some, but then the info would grab me and I'd keep reading. Learned a lot.
Jul 15, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: planning, ebook
Solid read and review of various points of interest in the US. I like that not every state for a site to visit. It feels more authentic in its overview this way.
Mar 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book gives a brief history of 50 great places to visit for historical value and I have been to 27 of the 50. I need to get on the move to visit all 50! Interesting to read and dream up new places to travel to and look forward to seeing. New Mexico's Palace of the Governor is included in this list as well as Mesa Verde and The Alamo.
Jul 12, 2016 rated it liked it
As far as collections of places go, this falls into the "potentially useful but not imaginatively inspired" category. I have the feeling, no matter which state you happen to select, its residents will feel much as I did when I saw Arkansas' entry: "Really? This is what you think is most historically vital about my area?" I've lived in Texas, California, Florida, Colorado, Arizona, Montana, and abroad--and I have to say, Arizona got the best listing (in my opinion). And while not every state has ...more
May 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Interesting book that's a neat history and travel resource. He covers historical places throughout the country and tells the stories behind the places he's recommending for visitation. He also offers website information at the end of each chapter. What I really like about this book is that he picks subjects of history, not just of famous American inventors or of famous structures, but also many stories about groups of people who have been disenfranchised or struggled against adversity, such as ...more
Jun 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
In the introduction to "50 Great American Places: Essential Historic Sites Across the U.S.", Brent D. Glass states: " Historical literacy is more than simply knowing the names of leaders or when famous battles were fought. It involves understanding the context of historical events and how events are connected." For the 50 great American places Glass has selected, he has achieved his purpose.

Each selection begins with a photo, then Glass shares the history relevant to the site/location. The
George Heidemark
Sep 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
If you love history, you want to visit historic sites that you have read about. Brent Glass an accomplished historian who was once affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution has picked 50 places that Americans must see in our nation. For each site he has included a brief description. This is a book that includes diverse places to visit, some sites are the related to technology ( Slaters Mill in Rhode Island and various places in Silicon Valley) Native American sites( the Cahokia Mounds and ...more
May 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
I very much enjoyed this collection of essays written by the Director Emeritus of the Smithsonian's Nation Museum of American History. I don't recall if this book is catalogued as a travel book or a history book. It's a bit of both. Considering the size of this country, there are way too many locations to choose from so to narrow it down to fifty means that his list is eclectic. Some of the places I hadn't a clue even existed.

Each essay includes the history of the place, the backstory so to
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