Renowned historian Jim Rasenberger turns his keen eye on America at the dawn of the 20th century - a time when innovation seemed to know no bounds.
©2007 Jim Rasenberger; (P)2008 Recorded Books
"Rasenberger renders 1908 as a series of snapshots, and his camera never blinks." (Publishers Weekly)
For both history buffs & history dabblers, America 1908 should be a satisfying listen. It is well written and well read. It is not an in-depth analysis of the time of 1908, nor of any single event showcased. Rather, the author takes you on a slice-of-history ride which uses the year 1908 as the fulcrum of his story. It is a slice of history piece that is more of a kaleidoscope, with perhaps 10 stories inside, perhaps a few more. Teddy Roosevelt, the Wright Brothers, the race for the North Pole, Henry Ford, several more. For each of these stories there are, of course, more in-depth treatments. Which you can turn to without fear of redundancy if you want to dig deeper. This book provides just a taste. But that is a good thing.
Bostonian at heart
My advice to anyone planning to listen to "America 1908" is this: Listen to it for the information and the entertainment, but draw your own conclusions. The author tends to consider everything that happened in 1908 of the earth-shattering variety, and the narrator follows suit.
I'm glad I heard the book because, historically, it's valuable. Rasenberger contends that 1908 was an unusually significantly year in U.S. history, and he proves it. During that year, the country boasted major developments in automobile availability and flight; it showed naval supremacy with the unprecedented Great White Fleet; there was a race riot in the home of Lincoln; one of the most popular presidents of all-time was in office; baseball made a leap toward becoming the national pastime. There was a whole lot going on.
Rasenberger may have exaggerated the significance of some events, which told me he felt the need to convince readers that 1908 was worth a full book. He also used some literary license, such as when he wrote that during his December 31 flight in France, Wilbur Wright undoubtedly thought about the year gone by. Why make an assumption like that?
The book is a fast listen, it effectively brings the reader back to a different era, and the content is interesting. Despite some shortcomings, it's worth listening to.
I found this brief history to be pedantic and fundamentally unsatisfactory. I was looking for an American history which could relate the flights of Wilbur and Orville Wright; the journey of the Great White Fleet, the life of J.P. Morgan and the development of the Progressive movement to issues of America in the 21st Century. Unfortunately, I did not find this in this history.
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