Monday, May 25, 2009

Book learning # 52

America, Empire of liberty by David Reynolds

I have a favourite brand of chocolate bar. Well known within my family, I receive one twice a year, at Christmas and on my birthday. On each occasion I unwrap the chocolate bar, place it in the fridge and nibble on it for months (not being a huge fan of chocolate) a chunk here, a week or two later, another chunk. It's treating chocolate the way some people can smoke twice a year when they enjoy a little too much red wine. It's a testament to the non addictive side of my personality, a feat of restraint.

I was given this book for my birthday at the end of March, on the same day that I opened my
 biannual choccy treat. Like the chocolate I was able to dip into this book every now and then, swill the flavour around in my mouth and delight in the taste.

In 645 pages Reynolds attempts to provide an overview of American history from prehistoric times to November 2008. Of course there are gaps and the weight is clearly post 17th century liberal. But it's still a lovely thing to hold and behold. It was originally a BBC radio 4 series broadcast last year, 15 minute shows focussing on a different element of the American story. As a result of this format it's an ideal read for the moderately informed (or, like me, well informed in parts but clueless in others) This book has proved to be a real comfort of late, chapters and sections manageable enough to sit with for half an hour here or there, in the garden, on the loo, late at night in bed. Not only has the content been interesting and enjoyable but the style has made it a pleasure to engage in the art of reading.

If all book could be such.

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