American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation by Jon Meacham
Jon Meacham tells the story of how the Founding Fathers viewed faith and politics and their delicate balancing act creating a nation where religion can shape public life without controlling it. Meacham uses historical context and the Founding Fathers own words to successfully argue that America is neither a Christian nation nor a completely secular one. Succinctly and well written, Meacham provides a balanced look at American history through the lens of religion. “It is, rather, a habit of mind and heart that enables Americans to be at once tolerant and reverent—two virtues of relevance to all, for the Founders’ public religion is consummately democratic. When a president says “God bless America” or when we sing “America! America! God shed his grace on thee,” each American is free to define God in whatever way he chooses. A Christian’s mind may summon God the Father; a Jew’s, Yahweh; a Muslim’s, Allah; an atheist’s, no one, or no thing. Such diversity is not a prescription for dissension. It is part of the reality of creation.” I recommend this reading this book, especially in such a time of divisiveness because it reminds us that the United States was founded on the unity we find through our Creator (whoever or whatever that might be) endowing all humans with the same inalienable rights.
The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1789 by Joseph J. Ellis
Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Joseph J. Ellis’ new book looks at what he terms “the second American Revolution,” bringing thirteen disparate states into one United States through the drafting and ratification of the Constitution. Ellis postulates that it was four men, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison, who were instrumental in bringing about the Constitutional Convention and subsequent ratification of American nationhood. Ellis paints a profound picture of the obstacles that “the quartet” faced in turning states very much focused on their own issues and just finished fighting a strong central government structure into accepting a national republic. Just as in his previous book, Revolutionary Summer, which detailed the incredible circumstances surrounding the beginning of the war for independence, Ellis uses straightforward prose to discuss a dramatic, complicated and precarious time in American history. By all accounts, the fact that the United States just celebrated its 240th birthday is astonishing and truly impressive.
The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel
Review: The women behind America’s first fifty astronauts were remarkable. They dealt with absent husbands, overwhelming fear and the expectations of an entire nation all while maintaining grace and poise. These amazing women forged deep bonds through shared experiences unlike any other. I’m glad that their stories were finally told since these brave women are just as worthy of being American heroes as their husbands.
Revolutionary Summer: The Birth of American Independence by Joseph J. Ellis
Review: This book covers both American political and military maneuvers from May through October 1776 using straightforward prose. Mr. Ellis tells a dramatic story of how political and military interconnectedness contributed to the birth of the United States. More than a little luck was involved in the first few months of the American war for independence. Everything seemed to be lined up just right to help the new republic survive. King George III prematurely dispatched thousands of troops leading the colonists to abandon any remaining hopes of a diplomatic solution creating a unanimous resolve for independence. The overconfident British military more than once allowed the Continental army to escape to fight another day rather than wiping it out for a swift decisive victory. This turned out to be a major blunder as General Washington’s forces were never as vulnerable as in that summer of 1776. Even in the face of series of defeats and retreats, the Continental Congress remained irrationally committed to their revolutionary cause. I recommend this book for anyone who likes American history or anyone looking for an appropriate read this Independence Day.