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Historian Barbara Tuchman titled her most famous book A Distant Mirror, and part of her premise was that study of the 14th century reveals striking parallels to our own time, and all great historians know, as Shakespeare put it in The Tempest—a play about the New World, by the way—that the past is prologue. William J. Bennett artfully and subtly makes connections between our past and current events, reminding us not that what's old is new so much as that we are intimately and immediately connected to the extraordinary Americans who have bestowed upon us our great heritage—a heritage William J. Bennett is helping to preserve.
Publication of a new book from Dr. Bennett, author of The Book of Virtues, Ronald Reagan's Education Secretary, and the “Drug Czar” under Bush 41, is an important event. That said, the importance of America: The Last Best Hope probably exceeds anything Dr. Bennett has ever written, and it is more elegantly crafted and eminently readable than any comprehensive work of history I've read in a very long time. It's silly to compare great works of history to great novels, but this book truly is a page-turner, a work so absorbing that I read it straight through: on the train to and from work; in the evening after dinner; in bed before the lights went out.
I was a tad disappointed at first that Dr. Bennett didn't devote some early pages to the Pre-Columbian, tribal inhabitants of our continent, but his is a book about the United States of America—the nation—not a chronicle of the North American land mass, and it is the European discovery of and British colonization of America that really begins U.S. history. (The author does treat Native Americans with great respect, acknowledging the tragedy of Indian history.)
This is actually the first volume of two and takes us, as the subtitle says, “From the Age of Discovery to a World at War,” that war being WWI.
Prepare to have your faith in, hope for, and love of America renewed.—Brad Miner
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