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The Americans, Vol. 3: The Democratic Experience

(The Americans #3)

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  714 ratings  ·  20 reviews
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize. A study of the last 100 years of American history.
Paperback, 717 pages
Published July 12th 1974 by Vintage (first published January 1973)
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Frank Stein
Nov 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
There are plenty of simple errors in this book, of date and place, and plenty of vacuous speculation, but overall, this book gives the reader a majestic overview of Americans inventing and creating over a hundred years of history. The themes that tie the book together are thin, but the brief individual biographies of creativity are great. There's the abolitionist "father of life insurance" Elizur Wright, who saw desperate people trading their life insurance policies as a shadow of the slave ...more
Aug 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned
If I had to pick one author to pick for my 'desert island' library it would be my history-hero - Daniel J. Boorstin who was literally the Librarian of Congress. I cannot remember when I first read this book - high school, college - maybe even just after college, but this book drove in me the desire to be master of 'why things happened the way they did'.

To summarize the book, from the overleaf: "Daniel J. Boorstin's long-awaited full-scale portrait of modern America chronicles the Great
Nov 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Read the entire trilogy. Cultural history at its best.
R.K. Goff
Mar 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
A little hard to stick with, but a wonderful book. It's full of interesting stories and information, and shows a great picture of time passing and a country evolving.
Jan 15, 2018 rated it liked it
Listened to via Books-on-Tape

Daniel Boorstin is the most oft cited consensus historian of the post-war period. As critics observe, he is persistently oblivious to conflict and contest in American history. Worse than being reviled, he is ignored by the profession as irrelevant.

Main current of Boorstin's thought is that Americans are a "practical" people. Free from abstract doctrine or theological speculation, the Puritans built a "city on a hill." Celia Kenyon pointed to "the themes of
Aug 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Boorstin calls Christmas America's "national Festival of Consumption". My sentiments exactly. The entire book is well-written and interesting though tedious at times, but the last chapter is outstanding. Boorstin compares the American enterprises of splitting the atom with the space program. He shows amazing insight, especially considering he wrote it so soon after the moon landing. I couldn't stop reading the last chapter. Loved it!
Aug 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
More a collection of runnning observations and short essays, but all of it interesting and illuminating. Interestingly, the chapters on the 20th century's evolution of mass communications brought some of the same hopes and fears -- by contemporaries and the author -- that we've seen with the internet, social and smartphones.
Christina Gagliano
Jul 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Very informative, as all of his books are, but the style is definitely showing its age.
Mar 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Aug 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Like many of Boorstin's other books this one does not follow a central narrative. Rather it consists of a series of seemingly random vignettes like the development of cattle branding irons, Chicago gangsters, and marriage laws in Nevada. While odd, the anecdotes are nonetheless fascinating and they're all held together by a common theme. For example the previously mentioned anecdotes fall under a section named "The Go-Getters" which is about America as a "developing" country. There weren't yet ...more
Aug 30, 2010 rated it really liked it
Another re-read of one of my key undergraduate texts. The book is an example of intellectual history - as opposed to social history of political history. As such, it is a treasure store of information on those aspects of American colonial life that are often given little attention elsewhere - the development of American schools and universities, the practice of law and medicine in the colonies, the history of books and newspapers before the revolution, as well as a host of other areas of ...more
Chelsea Lawson
Jun 21, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Sometimes I really loved this book (particularly because I'm a data person and he spends a lot of time talking about Statistical communities, i.e. the development of IQ tests to measure intelligence, GDP to measure economies, etc), but it bothered me that he didn't stick to the theme of "the democratic experience". He was all over the place and would just throw in the word "democratic" every now and then. Not Boorstin's best work, in my opinion.
Beth Allen
Aug 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is a re-read. This whole series is really eye-opening. It was written a while back, and I've read criticism that its view of history is far too centered on dead white males (which if I do a count of people mentioned is true). But still I think the way Boorstin categorizes and investigates the forces of what made the US what it is, holds truth.
May 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
By nature episodic, the book is still engaging and thought provoking. The focus is on inventions and attitudes that that really emphasized the values of the New compared to the Old world. Stimulating and insightful; not to be missed.
First Second Books
Reading this book in the past week, I have learned more miscellaneous facts about American history than I have in the past four years! And it was also fascinating and thought-provoking about the development of our American culture.
Aug 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
Another wonderful installment of the three-volume history of the U.S. I've learned so much from these books, and, although this last one was written in the late 1960s, it is still very relevant. Highly recommended.
Feb 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is a beautifully written in-depth look at how the cultural idea of democratization has affected our society from politics to commerce.
Dec 19, 2016 added it
Highly readable mostly non-political history of US. Full of surprising explanations of how and why business and social customs came about.
Dec 28, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
In my top 10 history.
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Daniel Joseph Boorstin was a historian, professor, attorney, and writer. He was appointed twelfth Librarian of the United States Congress from 1975 until 1987.

He graduated from Tulsa's Central High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma, at the age of 15. He graduated with highest honors from Harvard, studied at Balliol College, Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar and earned his PhD at Yale University. He was a lawyer

Other books in the series

The Americans (3 books)
  • The Americans, Vol. 1: The Colonial Experience
  • The Americans, Vol. 2: The National Experience