August 22, 2019

Why You Should Forgo the New David McCullough Book

“All across the country next weekend, thousands of men will open their Father’s Day gifts to find David McCullough’s new book, The Pioneers. McCullough, the author of more than a dozen books and the winner of two Pulitzer Prizes, may be America’s most famous popular historian. Like most of his books, The Pioneers has staked its claim near the top of bestseller lists since its publication in early May.

The Pioneers tells the story of the nation’s westward expansion in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, focusing on the settlement of Marietta, Ohio and the larger Northwest Territory. The book’s subtitle, “The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West,” gives you a sense of the book’s thesis. And also its appeal.

McCullough appears to have written the perfect dad book. A sweeping narrative of decent, hardworking men who built this nation that also reminds us of our better selves — and the moral bearings to which the United States must rededicate itself. Given the state of the nation — and, especially, the health (or not) of the American ideal in 2019 — The Pioneers might seem the needed balm for our ravaged age. If ever there were a time for heroes, surely it is now.”

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