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Alistair Cooke's America

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  370 ratings  ·  24 reviews
First published in 1973, this follow-up to Alistair Cooke's acclaimed 1972 television documentary series America: A Personal History of the United States has sold almost two million copies. From the nation's discovery to modern times; from the American revolutionaries to the pioneers who forged westward; from the slaves who fled north to the immigrants that sought a new li ...more
Paperback, 344 pages
Published August 25th 2009 by Basic Books (first published September 12th 1973)
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Roy Lotz
Oct 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
... a sign proclaiming in three words that a Roman emperor's orgy is now a democratic institution. It says: 'Topless Pizza Lunch.'

(As in my reviews of Kenneth Clarke’s Civilisation and Jacob Bronowski’s The Ascent of Man, this review focuses on the documentary, not the tie-in book.)

This documentary is a window into another time, when the public intellectual was a far more respected institution. Nowadays it is hard to imagine a popular program that contained long stretches of a man simply talki
Chris Brimmer
May 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
A little dated and by nature not as deep as it could be, but it is a sympathetic third party look at American history by an Englishman who knew us well. The writing style is very user-friendly especially for those who are not history wonks. I think it could be the basis of a good high school American history course. I've re-read this book countless times since I rescued a copy from the recycling bin while in high school.
Aug 19, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Whether speaking or writing; listening or reading, his was a clear and mellifluous voice. The tone and emphasis always just right. although his Radio 'Letters from America' are, today, described as having been 'informal' I don't think that would be said if heard again in current times.
The inflection, tone and timing were always just so and crystal clear. His pronunciation never grating. He conveyed a gest, a joke, humour, sadness or severity without needing to announce that to be his intention.
John Sutherland
Jun 20, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved to listen to Alistair Cooke when he broadcast 'letter from America' on the BBC in England in the 1950's, when I was a boy. Elvis was also a popular entertainer. Cooke was a most entertaining speaker. He wrote, as he spoke, concisely, pungently, informatively, wittily, in superb English as befitted his journalistic training, and always entertainingly. This book as well as his 'The Americans' and 'Six men' are all in the same genre; very clever. Well worth reading.
Jan 23, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the big cultural communicators of his time, so I expected more quirky insight, that everyday experience would inform this magnum opus more. But it was mainstream and conventional. In some areas (nuclear power and computers) he's drunk the kool-aid but had no insight. To be fair this was written in the 70s when the Cold War was a major pre-occupation. So respect to AC but no worship.
Steven Naude
Jul 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is for the audiobook to be found on

Cooke has gained worldwide fame for his splendid weekly "Letter from America" which lasted for many decades. In this book he provides a succinct yet masterfully insightful panorama of America history from pre-Columbus to about 1970. It was based on a TV series he made for the BBC. He has the gift of vision and discrimination - he can cut through the glory a folk hero and an assassinated president while shining a worthy spotlight on neglected c
Apr 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an old book but very well written with great photographs and illustrations. It was originally aired as a BBC TV series.

It covers the narrative history in a nice documentary sort of way and its highly readable, enjoyable and informative.

It is a good introductory work about America. Recommended for anyone not familiar with American history or anyone interested in brushing up his knowledge about America.
Jul 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks
Nicely read by Mr. Cooke. A very interesting retelling of our history. I like his perspective on the origins of our various episodes in history and the way he made the story of America blend into a complete whole rather than merely a series of chapters. I didn't agree so much with all of his conclusions - this story was written prior to 2001. Found this book to be interesting and thought-provoking.
Steve Haywood
Jan 08, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, popular, america, usa
This is a great book, a fascinating all in one guide to American History. I've only read half of it. This may seem not much of a recommendation, but reading the book drew me in to the subject so much that I start deviating off, reading other sources covering the same period of history. It was a library book, I'd renewed it once, and thought I should give someone else a chance and get on with reading a novel or two. But I will go back to it, but I'll probably buy it next time.
Feb 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Superb read. A man with a true grasp of the massive history of America and its development. His perspective of historical events come with an excellent slant and he has managed to note the many hidden aspects of American history that you would rarely find in such detail in a single place. One of the best non-fiction novels I have read.
James Haliburton
Excellent overview of the last 400 years of the US's history told in Cooke's inimitable style - witty, deeply thought out and above all informative. Although written in the 70s, his comments are just as relevant today and give an interesting insight in the historical causes and effects of American society as we know it.
Aakash Kumar
Jan 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's really a fascinating book with some very interesting collection of incidents that have taken place in American hisory. I loved it and got to know about many facts regarding american history which i never knew.
Jul 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A bit dated as to his conclusions, probably because it was written before the turn of the century. But up to the final chapter, the story of our development flows fascinatingly from Mr. Cooke's pen, from the continent's earliest days until the 70' or 90s. I would strongly recommend this book.
Feb 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: anthropology
autographed by the author
sixth printing 1974
Emily Van Doozer
Nov 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
A excellent and simple history book. It is a perfect start for any young adults historical reading.
Dec 03, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I remember hearing Cooke called a "modern Toqueville" in a review of this book. The description seems apt. Cooke views the people in American history with a clear but sympathetic eye.
Jan C
Jun 20, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People interested in american history and/or literature
Shelves: non-fiction
This came out around the time he did the series on PBS.

It has great pictures which were taken by Cooke. It is a fairly interesting overview of America and its history.
Mar 05, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

A good book to dip in and out of, providing insight into key events in US history.
Jim Stephens
May 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thought it was written well. Factually solid. Liked.
Jan 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dunno how this measures up to today's research standards but found myself reading it in one sitting.
Feb 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book and all I got was a lousy super brain.
Dec 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book. I found it to be an easy read and a welcome change from the usual tomes of American history now being written by eminent historians. Cooke was essentially a journalist and radio broadcaster. As such, he could tell a good story with a conciseness which avoided boring the reader into a lull. His tale of what we call America ranges from several hundred years ago to the present day, and is one that should perhaps be seen more as a condensed version of the history of the USA. In ...more
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Alistair Cooke, KBE (1908-2004), was a legendary British American journalist, television host, and radio broadcaster. He was born in Lancashire, England, and after graduating from the University of Cambridge, was hired as a journalist for the BBC. He rose to prominence for his London Letter reports, broadcast on NBC Radio in America during the 1930s. Cooke immigrated to the United States in 1937. ...more