Americana

A 400-Year History of American Capitalism
Narrated by: Scott Brick, Bhu Srinivasan
Length: 21 hrs and 18 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (324 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

From the days of the Mayflower and the Virginia Company, America has been a place for people to dream, invent, build, tinker, and bet the farm in pursuit of a better life. Americana takes us on a 400-year journey of this spirit of innovation and ambition through a series of Next Big Things - the inventions, techniques, and industries that drove American history forward: from the telegraph, the railroad, guns, radio, and banking, to flight, suburbia, and sneakers, culminating with the Internet and mobile technology at the turn of the 21st century. The result is a thrilling alternative history of modern America that reframes events, trends, and people we thought we knew through the prism of the value that, for better or for worse, this nation holds dearest: capitalism.

In a winning, accessible style, Bhu Srinivasan boldly takes on four centuries of American enterprise, revealing the unexpected connections that link them. We learn how Andrew Carnegie's early job as a telegraph messenger boy paved the way for his leadership of the steel empire that would make him one of the nation's richest men; how the gunmaker Remington reinvented itself in the postwar years to sell typewriters; how the inner workings of the Mafia mirrored the trend of consolidation and regulation in more traditional business; and how a 1950s infrastructure bill triggered a series of events that produced one of America's most enduring brands: KFC. Reliving the heady early days of Silicon Valley, we are reminded that the start-up is an idea as old as America itself.

Entertaining, eye-opening, and sweeping in its reach, Americana is an exhilarating new work of narrative history.

©2017 Bhu Srinivasan (P)2017 Penguin Audio

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent history!

I recommend this. I am 73, so I have lived through many economic and social changes associated with our capitalist democracy. But my knowledge of the older economic history of our country is woefully lacking and I learned a lot from this book. I also missed some of the links, such as how Steve Jobs’ history at Pixar affected his later success at Apple. I think much more of this should be included in history classes!
Now for the downside. I had a terrible time getting through the first 1/3 to 1/2 of the book because of the narration. The narrator was easy to understand, but his presentation was like that of a teacher talking down to the class that he considers really stupid. I got interested in this book because of an interview given by the author. I wish he had narrated it himself! But by the end I was so caught up in the story that I wasn’t really conscious of the narration.

11 people found this helpful

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Overly broad and basic

This book is a major disappointment, both from the stated purpose of the title and Srinivasan's promising introductory comments. It reads like a high school textbook that tells the story of America through widely known historical anecdotes and simplistic summaries. Thoughtful considerations of capitalism are infrequent and underdeveloped. I'm genuinely curious to know who Srinivasan conceives to be the target reader for this book. Anyone with a passing knowledge of U.S. history will be bored or possibly insulted by each chapter's basic overview and Srinivasan's glee in passing off well-worn stories as his own unique discoveries. His arguments about the contradictions between the myths of free market economy and the reality of government intervention are so fleeting and simplistic that they are of no use to the reader who shares his perspective. More importantly, his ideas can be easily dismissed by anyone he is trying to convince.

8 people found this helpful

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Inspired Story-Telling of US History

This "history" book is inspirational and riveting. Clearly the immigrant/entrepreneur author loves America. He describes its history through the eyes of the entrepreneurial spirit that propelled its growth to the position it now holds globally. The book is logically and chronologically organized by chapter and industry, and weaves in the major players of each period with a story-telling expertise that made it hard for me to "put down". I would love to see it introduced to school curriculums where few students know much about history, with the intention of igniting an excitement for and love of the study of history, which many feel is very dry. Srinivasan's history is anything but "dry." I found the narrator to take some getting used to and would have preferred had Srinivasan read the book himself.

2 people found this helpful

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superficial

just a rote enumeration of various enterprises of us capitalism in chronological order without much in the way of analysis

1 person found this helpful

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Balanced

Excellently nuanced. Also a good mixture of facts and figures with storytelling. Narrator also did excellent.

1 person found this helpful

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  • 10-06-17

great overview of capitalism from my beginning ...

The author stayed on topic ... while covering so much history. I actually learned quite a bit and have some new things to learn about in more depth after listening to this book. Highly recommend.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

As much a history of American business as capitali

The two concepts overlap but are not identical. It does cover four centuries of the rich exploiting workers in this land and finds gradual benefit in much of it. The sanguine view of American economic expansion in the 20th Century is punctuated by the cruelties and disasters of intense economic self-interest. Toward the end, the view becomes darker as the impact of advanced technology on ordinary people becomes evident. It's a sweeping view with lots of surprising gems (like how Prohibition gave rise to the California wine industry). I learned a lot and recommend it.

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American Capitalism

“Americana” is homage to the muscular success of capitalism in the United States. It appears it takes someone born outside America to unapologetic-ally endorse the gift of capitalism to the world. It seems Bhu Srinvasan lives the American dream in the 21st century.

Srinvasan “leans in” by arguing libertarian-ism’s strengths outweigh its weaknesses. “Americana” speeds through the history of great men (because women’s contribution is largely ignored) who settle America in the 17th century. With the help of English entrepreneurs willing to risk investment in the voyage of the Mayflower, the egg of American capitalism is hatched.

The investors expect a return on their investment. They finance the expedition based on an expectation of success from a settlement in Virginia. The first years of the Pilgrims’ progress is nearly a bust. The author explains the initial investment is nearly lost but recovered by an agreement among the settlers to buy out their Mayflower investors. The buyout is a success because the settlers find a ready market for American goods in England; particularly beaver furs which were provided to settlers by native inhabitants.

This, as in many more stories told by Srinvasan, reminds on of the boon and bane of capitalism. That is not Srinvasan’s intent, but the effect of competition from acquired knowledge, new technology, and entrepreneurship is repeated many times. There are winners and losers in the growth of capitalism.

Srinvasan is an excellent primer on capitalism but that is history; not a prediction of a future where homelessness, a deteriorating environment, a failing education system, inadequate health care, and racial injustice are ignored.

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Great!

...seeking to understand America? This is a good introduction to the decades of American history...

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would recommend

nice story telling for all interested listeners. while lacking quantitative contents to be considered as a serious academic economic history work, still informative regardless.