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April 2019: History > The Soul of America: The Battle for our Better Angels by Jon Meacham / 4 Stars

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message 1: by Kimber (new)

Kimber (kimberwolf) | 823 comments The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels by Jon Meacham

4 Stars

In The Soul of America, the author shares historical episodes of dark days in America's history and the valiant struggles to overcome, including the forced relocation of indigenous peoples away from their ancestral lands, the Civil War, women's suffrage, McCarthyism and the Red Scare, the Jim Crow laws, and the Civil Rights Movement. Meacham provides a detailed look at the historical record with stories about multiple presidents, their thinking, influences, and actions, including George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Jackson, Teddy Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, Herbert Hoover, and Franklin Roosevelt. There are excerpts of many inspirational speeches and demonstrations of multiple low points for the nation and how Americans have worked together to overcome them.

My first takeaway from this book is that it was meant as a reassurance that better days will come. It provides comfort through historical evidence that America has had some discouraging and difficult times, during which the American people were deeply divided, and the country has eventually broken away from the bad times into new enlightenment and forward progress. Upon further deliberation, it seems one of the messages of Soul of America is to remind readers that no individual is all good or all bad – there were presidents who did some things that were very good for the country and did other things that were horrible. It also reminds readers to remember nuance and not throw the baby out with the bathwater. The other message that came through clearly is that compromise is essential to democracy.

I appreciated this book and felt like I learned a lot about past presidents I hadn't really focused on before. There was a large section about Teddy Roosevelt that was really interesting. I respect Jon Meacham as a presidential historian and writer.


message 2: by NancyJ (last edited Apr 21, 2019 10:24PM) (new)

NancyJ (nancyjjj) | 4887 comments This is an excellent review Kimber. I could use a little of that hope that we can overcome the current divisions. I think I would find it interesting to see how the country worked through times of cultural upheaval and change.

We had a major cultural shift in what seemed like only 20 years, with changing attitudes toward gay marriage and greater acceptance of LGBTQ people. I think there may be some lessons there for anyone interested in effecting social change.

It sounds like this book covers many topics that weren't in The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined.


message 3: by Amy (new)

Amy | 8153 comments This has been on my TBR. I love knowing that it’s there, but you make me want to pick it up again. Your reviews are out of the park today!


message 4: by Joanne (new)

Joanne (joabroda1) | 7112 comments I had this one my TBR, actually checked it out of my library a few months ago, then never got around to it-and somehow it ended off my TBR-going back on-wonderful review. I love Jon Meacham's commentaries on MSNBC


message 5: by Amy (new)

Amy | 8153 comments This is a great nonfiction pick for me if forced, but I doubt it!


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