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The American Story: Conversations with Master Historians

4.39  ·  Rating details ·  1,702 ratings  ·  275 reviews
Co-founder of The Carlyle Group and patriotic philanthropist David M. Rubenstein takes readers on a sweeping journey across the grand arc of the American story through revealing conversations with our greatest historians.

In these lively dialogues, the biggest names in American history explore the subjects they’ve come to so intimately know and understand.

David McCullou
Hardcover, 396 pages
Published October 29th 2019 by Simon Schuster
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Phillip Baxter To be fair, the section on MLK Jr is with a Pulitzer and Martin Luther King Memorial Prize winning historian and author of a multiple-thousand page tr…moreTo be fair, the section on MLK Jr is with a Pulitzer and Martin Luther King Memorial Prize winning historian and author of a multiple-thousand page trilogy of books about King, which he spent the better part of three decades researching and writing.

Surely you can agree the content and quality of this man's work matters more than the color of his skin.

Elsewhere, yes, this particular book is focused almost entirely on historical Presidents. This necessarily focuses on white males. Interviews are with prize-winning authors who are well-researched on the people being discussed. Some of them are women. Most are men.

There doesn't appear to be representation from authors or historians who are:
- African
- Native American
- Asian
- Middle Eastern
- Pacific Islander
- Latinx
- Disabled (though that's hard to judge by voice, and I didn't look all of them up)
- Millenial (they all seemed to be older, which is arguably age-ist)
- Sikhs
- Zoroastrians (again, these last two I can't tell by voice, and I didn't look all of them up)

If the spectrum of authors is your primary concern, this book will certainly not be for you.

If the content of the history is what you find interesting, and you want to see a particular view of it (which, regardless of race, religion, sex, etc, a single author is only ever going to be able to present their only ever present the view), this book is a good survey of several key figures in America's political history.

I learned several interesting things I never knew, and feel I have a better grasp on certain moments in history that I previously lacked. Of course other authors with different backgrounds will provide me with greater knowledge and depth on these same moments in history. But that doesn't take away from what this book has to offer.(less)

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John McManus
Oct 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Co-founder of The Carlyle Group and patriotic philanthropist David M. Rubenstein is the editor of The American Story: Conversations with Master Historians. These conversations were originally discussions with members of Congress in the Congressional Dialogues series, sponsored by the Library of Congress. Throughout the book, Rubenstein demonstrates himself to be a skillful interviewer. Interviewees include David McCullough, Jon Meacham, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Walter Isaacson, Robert Caro, and amo ...more
Clay Davis
Jan 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
The interview with Chief Justice Roberts seems out of place, the book needs a more interesting cover.
Jan 24, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, non-fiction
This is a collection of interviews with various historians recorded in front of a live audience. It therefore made it a perfect choice to listen to in audio format. Historical figures discussed include John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, Alexander Hamilton, MLK, Charles Lindbergh and others. Recommended to anyone interested in American history.
Apr 18, 2022 rated it really liked it
As a big fan of author interviews, The American Story is a book written after my own heart. I must have watched and listened to over a hundred hours of Robert Caro interviews alone and find that author interviews are often a great complement to their written work. Themes elaborated on over hundreds of pages can be summarised in sentences and you can get a greater sense of an author's enthusiasm for their subjects than you might from their weighty, fact-driven tomes.

David M. Rubenstein's book is
Jan 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Captivating book that shows a glimpse into American experience through some of our best patriots and the historians who tell their stories. The book is written as a series of interviews conducted at the Library of Congress so it’s very quick to read with interesting insights on every page. Each chapter is a different person from Washington to MLK to Chief Justice Roberts.

I am proud to be an American and it is stories about these patriots from the past that give me hope for the future.

I hope th
Donald Powell
Dec 03, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Very interesting discussions. I obtained the Audible version and found that ideal for this type of book. Of course there was far less substance than if it had been a book but it was nonetheless quite interesting on the topics discussed by the authors interviewed (and Chief Justice Roberts). Good history but really nothing new if anyone has a basic knowledge of the figures discussed. The best part was hearing the perspectives of the historians and how they approached their work.
LAPL Reads
Mar 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
These conversations with master historians were the result of a “spur of the moment” idea that came to philanthropist David M. Rubenstein, who is a major supporter of The Library of Congress and The National Book Festival, as well as supporting other projects which preserve our national heritage. This would be, “ A series of interviews with accomplished American historians about their books, in front of an audience principally comprising members of Congress." The event became known as The Congre ...more
Dec 07, 2019 rated it liked it
If you haven't read many biographies of our founding fathers and presidents, think of these interviews as appetizers for sampling bits of interesting historical facts combined with a sense of their personalities.

The interviews are accessible and interesting vignettes that may inspire you to dig into America's story as told through the hopes, dreams and flaws of our Chief Executives.

I liked the format because I could preview biographies I haven't read yet for reading later.
Nov 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“In early 2013, I had a thought that it might be a worthwhile exercise to do a series of interviews with accomplished American historians about their books, in front of an audience principally comprising members of Congress . . . The idea was simply to provide the members with more information about the great leaders and events in our country’s past, with the hope that, in exercising their various responsibilities, our senators and representatives would be more knowledgeable about history and wh ...more
Mar 17, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: audio
Rubenstein is easily the worst interviewer I have ever encountered outside of an elementary school. He constantly interrupts his subjects, usually right when they are wrapping up a complex or nuanced story. And not to ask a hard hitting question or push back on evasiveness. Nope. Rubenstein interrupts to advertise his knowledge of the most basic aspects of history, oftentimes not even bothering to phrase it as a question. He's like a belligerent version of the Chris Farley sketch. Some of the hi ...more
Launette Shaw
Jul 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! It is especially applicable now with Americans confused about the integrity of our founding fathers. The author interviews other famous authors that have written books about famous people in America, so you hear this inside story. I would listen to this book so you can hear the actually interview in front of an audience.
William Bahr
Aug 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I found this to be a highly enjoyable, very informative book. I particularly liked the format of the author interviewing a number of highly renowned authors covering the American Story. In some cases, the interviews seem quite casual, with Rubenstein leading his interviewees with quite specific questions. In other cases, the questions are broad, with the authors waxing poetic with innumerable interesting commentaries about how the character of key people plays a leading role in shaping our count ...more
Dec 31, 2021 rated it did not like it
Shelves: nonfiction, law, history, 2021
The only interviews that I enjoyed were Chief Justice Roberts’ and Cokie Roberts’.

This is the Reader’s Digest version of American history, and it leaves the impression that few women and fewer people of color contributed American history. We all know that to be untrue.

At one point, Rubenstein asked Taylor Branch, “Did you ever think maybe you were giving too much time to this project [on the Civil Rights movement]?” (p. 253) Branch spent 24 years researching the Civil Rights movement. Rubenste
Travis Standley
Nov 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio-reads
I found these interviews very engaging and informative. I’m impressed with the thought that good historians like those interviewed are a national treasure to help us remember our story, to maintain hope, and to have more clear thought about the present heading into the future. I’m not sure the final interview with a Supreme Court justice for the pattern for the rest of the book but it was interesting nonetheless.
Feb 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is an entertaining book - really a pleasure to read - filled with informative stories from leading chroniclers of prominent figures in America's past, with a nice interview of the Chief Justice at the end. Rubenstein obviously did his homework in preparing these interviews, and I think he facilitates the interviews very nicely.

A few things I kept in mind while reading, though:

There are some factual errors, so don't take everything at face value. (John Adams wasn't elected in 1800, being the
Apr 10, 2020 rated it it was ok
I think this book would most appeal to those who have some interest in the master historians or David Rubinstein, rather than the history itself. Most of the history related in the conversations is fairly well-known, particularly if one has read the master historians' books on the subjects, and too much time is spent on extraneous information about the historians and Rubinstein. I did learn some interesting things from the sections on Lindbergh, Roosevelt and Eisenhower, but beyond that there w ...more
Bill Gartner
Jun 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I LOVED this book. David Rubenstein is a "patriotic philanthropist" who, in addition to being one of the original signers of the "Giving Pledge", has quietly made amazing personal contributions to the preservation of US history. Beneficiaries of his generosity include the National Archives (where the last privately owned copy of the Magna Carta is stored, thanks to his purchase), the National Zoo, the Washington Monument, just to name a few. He was a founder of the Carlyle Group, but always had ...more
May 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing
One of the things I really enjoy about Goodreads is the opportunity to see what my friends are reading and recommend. This was the case with this book - one I didn’t know about until my friend Mary read and reviewed it last year. I thought a book where celebrated authors were interviewed about their novels of famous Americans would be interesting and it really was. I learned so much about the history of our country and how our founding fathers, past presidents and other famous individuals helped ...more
Joseph Scaduto
Jul 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
This was a terrific book. I really enjoyed the interviews with famous historians and biographers, along with Chief Justice John Roberts, which was a nice bonus at the end. Hearing from the authors of many of the books I have read was refreshing and enlightening and entertaining. I highly recommend reading this after you've had the opportunity to read some of the original works, but even if that is not the case, it was great to get to know the authors and how they felt about the people they spent ...more
Robert Melnyk
Jul 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
A very interesting book in which David Rubenstein interviews authors about the book or books they have written about historical figures including Washington Adams, FDR, JFK, Nixon, and more. With each author you get insight into the content of the book itself, how the author came to writing about that particular person, and how they felt about the subject of the book both before and after doing the research and writing of the book. I have read a number of the book discussed, and after reading th ...more
Jan 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
A really enjoyable read about a number of Library of Congress interviews with famous historians. Each author revealed something likely to be of popular interest about their subjects. For example, speculation that the Grants' dislike of Mary Lincoln kept them from Ford Theater the night of Abraham's assassination, or Eisenhower's ignorance about his ability to pick a running mate (he never was particularly fond of Nixon). Similarly, Washington's disagreement with John Adams about the proper title ...more
June Jacobs
Aug 28, 2021 rated it really liked it
I've been watching David Rubenstein's interviews with historians on PBS for the past few years. When I found this book in our library catalog I knew I wanted to read it!

I learned a lot of new information about Alexander Hamilton, John F. Kennedy, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Lyndon B. Johnson, in particular.

There is some humor in the book when the interviewees spoke extemporaneously about their subject matter and other aspects of their own work. Bob Woodward's interview was especially enjoyable to
May 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing
David Rubenstein’s interviews on Bloomberg is my favorite television show, so I knew that I would love this book. This is a collection of his interviews with historians about some of our country’s leaders. I really enjoyed the interviews with Ron Chernow about Alexander Hamilton (I HATE the musical, though), and with A. Scott Berg on Charles Lindbergh. It was interesting to hear that all of the historians spent at least ten years on research before writing their respective books on American lead ...more
Mar 29, 2021 rated it really liked it
4.33 stars. This is an interesting collection of interviews with some of the most decorated American historians, conducted at the Library of Congress in the presence of the Congress. The dialogue is swift and pointed. Some of the answers are surprising and some new information on famous Americans and is revealed. The historians' craft is explored and very helpful for aspiring historians. ...more
May 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't give many 5 star ratings but felt this audiobook deserves it. The audio format is perfect for this Q&A set-up where famous historians (mostly - also features a writer and Chief Justice) speak with animation and authority about subjects they have written about and fascinating times in US History. You feel like you got all of the "best parts" of a history seminar. Highly recommended! ...more
Brett Van Gaasbeek
Mar 15, 2022 rated it really liked it
This is like watching a season of "Inside the Actor's Studio" but with really impressive academics. This is a solid read that will be interesting to the history nerd and the average reader alike. Rubenstein's questions run hot and cold on quality, but the answers and dialogue are solid from the included academics. A solid read from a solid series of programming. ...more
Mar 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
A very accessible introduction to some of America's most important figures and the historians who chronicled their lives. ...more
Bob Wilson
Aug 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Great read! This is really the transcripts of interviews the author did with 16 leading historians about their subjects, ranging from founding fathers (and mothers) to modern day heroes and leaders The interviews reveal insights into some of the most important characters in American history. I’d love to see a “volume 2” edition with some biographers of others who’ve influenced our history - and perhaps a greater diversity of characters- but those suggestions take nothing from this volume. A grea ...more
Cozy Reviews
Sep 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
As a 'Daughter Of The American Revolution" and coming from a long history of American patriots who served our great country I was honored to receive this for review. Thank you with gratitude to the publisher and to Net Galley My review opinions are my own.

I am so honored to receive this exceptional history of our great country.
This book is quite captivating as our most accomplished patriots are here through the historians that tell their stories vividly through a series of interviews. This cap
Marissa Stumpf
Mar 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Awesome book that gives you a look into important Americans through history. The interviews of each historian are fascinating and give basic information on each historical figure.
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