Sunday, February 14, 2010

Book Review - Waking Giant

Honestly, it's been quite a while since I actually finished a book. I've started many with good intentions and for one reason or another have not been able to follow through. I have finally broken that streak and finished reading David S. Reynolds' latest book, Waking Giant: America in the Age of Jackson. The book is quite good and I enjoyed reading it very much. Reynolds covers the years 1815-1848 and the chapters are organized thematically. There are chapters on politics, religion, culture, and even one on all the wild, weird, and wonderful "reform" movements of the time. The chapters themselves are generally well-organized, though some are exceedingly lengthy in my opinion (the chapter on literature and culture is 72 pages and a couple of others are 50+). The author's writing style flows easily and makes the book a fairly quick read. There are endnotes and in place of a true bibliography, a "Suggestions for Further Reading" which is quite impressive.

There really isn't any new, groundbreaking interpretation involved in this book, and in fact, the information contained within is rather basic and well-established. Still, I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a more basic understanding of the Jacksonian period, or for someone who is simply looking to brush up a bit on certain aspects of the time. If I were teaching a class on antebellum US History, this book would definitely be on the reading list. It would serve as an excellent starting point to acquaint students with the material before leading them towards more in-depth interpretations. If you get a chance to pick up this book and have an interest in the subject matter, I strongly suggest putting your hands on it!

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