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About the book:

Historian Douglas Brinkley freely admits that this huge new book is not a "comprehensive history of our nation's origins and developments," but is intended to be "an illustrated volume meant to pique the general reader's interest in U.S. history." Brinkley is perhaps being too modest: his text, though necessarily fast-paced, does provide a substantial overview history of the United States.

Brinkley's narrative begins in a Europe thrashing with political and religious turmoil, follows the tumult to the New World, and ends 600 pages later with a comparison of the Internet to Thomas Jefferson's ideal of a "truly open marketplace of ideas." The writing is clear and concise throughout, and major political and economic themes of American history are essentially divided into the book's 22 chapters. Obviously, much material had to be omitted, but Brinkley's editorial decisions on what deserved inclusion are sound. He has a genuine feel for both what is important and how to present it in a lively manner.

The hundreds of illustrations, including maps, paintings, and photographs, are central to the concept of the book, and caption writer Julie Fenster's contributions (some of which might be termed "mini-essays") can't be overlooked. A potential flaw in books of this sort is that overly flashy design can impede the narrative, but the American Heritage History of the United States succeeds admirably in being both attractive and functional in its execution. --Robert McNamara

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