Thursday, October 29, 2009

Too much of a good thing?

Well, I wrapped up the epic From Colony to Superpower, George Herring's epic one volume history of American Foreign Policy. It is a the only thematic book in the Oxford History of the United States. I, for one, loved it. The depth of treatment on the 18th and 19th century was wonderful. As we got to the post-war era, my extensive reading in the subject made it less useful, but still good. Good God, though, is this book long. Thanks to the length, this book is for a select group of people. If two of the following make sense to you, then get the book.

  • Want value for your money. $35 for 1000 pages, a rare deal, this day and age?!
  • Are a Oxford University History of the United States completist (guilty!)
  • Want a single volume treatment of American foreign policy that doesn't ignore the 19th century.
  • Have lots of free time and can ignore the beckoning call of books from your reading pile.
  • Like large colorful volumes for the bookshelf.

Having made it through, and if you find you want something that is more analytical than historical, seek out H.W. Brands What America Owes the World and Walter Russell Mead's Special Providence. The Herring book, while filled with useful ways of thinking, is really about what happened. The Brands and Mead books will give more analytical frameworks for thinking about it.

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