Book Review: The American Story

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This is a big book full of great information. It takes a long time to get through it, but that's part of the charm. It's The American Story, by Jennifer Armstrong. The subtitle, 100 True Tales from American History, says it all. It is fully 100 stories, and they are both familiar and unfamiliar. All are well-written, and all are entertaining.

Some of the usual suspects are here, such as the "Lost Colony" of Roanoke, Pocahontas, the Pilgrims, Benjamin Franklin, Paul Revere, George Armstrong Custer, the Shootout at the O.K. Corral, Harry Houdini, the 19th Amendment, Lindbergh, Rosa Parks, and Mt. St. Helens.

Other, lesser-known stories are here as well, including the founding of San Francisco, the story of Benjamin Banneker, the first shipments of bananas into the U.S., the "Moon Hoax," the "box escape" of Henry Brown, the invention of the Teddy Bear, and the Great Molasses Flood.

All stories are told with sparkling prose and straightforward attention to detail. The result is an entertaining tour through American history anecdotes and highlights, covering politics, geography, economics, inventions, and even sports. The accompanying illustrations, by Roger Roth, are well-placed and well-constructed, resulting in a comprehensive presentation that entertains as well as informs.

Yes, this is a rather large book, both in physical size and in number of pages. Any book containing 100 stories worth reading would have to be a little larger than your average paperback. But this book is definitely worth reading, again and again. Even reading the stories twice results in a particular delight, since they contain so many details that readers who "thought they knew all about it" will be pleasantly surprised to learn something new.

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