America's Hidden History

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Today marks 9 months of working on the Book a Day project. I am entering the home stretch, and I'm feeling very excited about it - not only excited that I've made it this far (because there were several months when I didn't think that I would) but also excited to see what happens when the year is up. I am beginning to think a lot about what it's going to be like the first day that I wake up and don't have to read an entire book - and yet, despite all of the thought I have given it, I still can't even imagine what it will be like. There are days when reading a book every day feels so natural, so much a part of my daily routine, that it feels as if I have been doing this forever. And I'm looking forward to the day when I'm reading a book that I don't like and I get to just stop reading it. Isn't that twisted - I'm actually looking forward to reading a horrible book? If anyone would like to recommend a really horrible book for me to not read next year, please do. I would be more than happy to read the first ten pages of before slamming the book shut and saying, "I don't have to finish this book. And I'm not going to."

And, I would like to thank all of my dear readers for being a part of this project. I truly believe that I would have quit on day ten (the way I've done with every New Year's resolution I've ever had) if I didn't have my dear readers keeping me accountable.

Today's book, "Kenneth C. Davis, author of the phenomenal New York Times bestseller Don't Know Much About History, presents a collection of extraordinary stories, each detailing an overlooked episode that shaped the nation's destiny and character. Davis's dramatic narratives set the record straight, busting myths and bringing to light little-known but fascinating facts from a time when the nation's fate hung in the balance. Spanning a period from the Spanish arrival in America to George Washington's inauguration in 1789, America's Hidden History is an iconoclastic look at America's past, connecting some of the dots between history and today's headlines, and proving why Davis is truly America's teacher."

Historical thoughts:

  • Before getting to today's book about American history, let's take a quick trip through Wetzel family history. Wetzels are boring people. There I said it. We watch PBS documentaries, we stand in museums and read every single plaque while saying things like, "Fascinating," and we love history. When I was a child, I vowed that I would never become a history-loving Wetzel. I was going to fight it, and I was determined that I would succeed. But, the Wetzel-ness took over when I was in my late teens to early 20s and I began watching documentaries for fun (in between watching some of the most worthless TV ever made, such as, The Surreal Life, The Bachelor, Intervention, etc), and reading history books (in between reading crap like Danielle Steel and the awful self-help books I was obsessed with for a few years.) And in the process I discovered two things: 1. The Wetzel-ness cannot be overcome. It will always win. You can try to fight it, but it can't be done. 2. History can be fun - depending on how you approach it. In other words, it's all in the attitude.

  • I opened today's book and quickly discovered that the author agrees with me (at least on my second point, and if he knew any Wetzel's I'm sure he would agree with my first point as well), "I have always believed that history should be much more fun than most Americans believe it is." - So true. As much as I love history, there are quite a few books on the subject that are incredibly dull, and I often wonder how many people those books have driven away from the subject. I am happy to report that today's book was an exception. It was interesting, fun, and slightly gritty in places. And yes, I am including grittiness as a good thing. Why? Because it's real - it's honest - it's preferable to the whitewashed stories of American history that we are spoon fed in school.

  • My favorite story of the book was of George Washington's days as a young soldier. Although I had to do some serious mental gymnastics to remove the image of him as a white-haired old man from my mind, and replace it with the image of a man in his early 20s.

So in conclusion dear readers, I would definitely recommend today's book. I would also recommend that you remember two sage pieces of advice from this entry: 1. History is fun, so don't let a boring book scare you away. There are plenty of fun books out there just waiting to be explored. 2. You can't fight the Wetzel-ness, so if you happen to know a Wetzel you should give in to our every demands, because the Wetzel-ness will win out in the end anyway. Alright, so I might be kidding on that second part . . . sort of.