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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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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.

5 of 5 people found this review 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 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • TR
  • 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 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Must read

An amazing economic view into the history of almost everything for the everyday reader. Accessible for everyone.

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Interesting Stories of America of 1600's onward

This is a not an exhaustive review of the details of the evolution of capitalism. Instead it is a collection of actual historical stories that affected how capitalism began with settlers and evolved, as well as, our government's efforts to balance the outcomes. What made this book so interesting to me was the details of the stories and how they affected either capitalism and/or legislation. I would not have connected the sinking of the Titanic with the government's regulation of the airways - which paved the way for radio. The government had a lot to do with initiating this industry. I did not know how very monetarily valuable slaves were and that they were listed as collateral for farm loans and that this was a huge factor why more were not freed on a humanitarian basis.

My only "con" with this book is that it is not longer with even more details. This would be a great book for a book club - so many things to discuss.

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Enjoyed every step along the way

This book gives a great perspective on why we have the US - and in part the world - we have today.

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One of the best books I've ever read

seriously, this book should be a must read in high school and then again in college.

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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 that runs through all facets of American economic history 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.

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Connecting the Dots

This book connects the dots. An accurate portrayal of American Capitalism. Yes, American Capitalism. Details are provided on why America is the financial powerhouse it is today. From slavery to railroads to venture capital, the book hits the bullseye in telling the remarkable story of the United States of America.

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My new favorite US history book

If you could sum up Americana in three words, what would they be?

different US history

Any additional comments?

Most of the topics covered are not new if you love (US) history books. But the author's decision to tell US history as chronological tales of inventions and capitalists resulted in a unique recounting of US history. If you love history, then this is a must read.