Sunday, December 18, 2011

Reflections: The Thirteen American Arguments

Adam C. Zern shares his thoughts on Howard Fineman's The Thirteen American Arguments: Enduring Debates that Define and Inspire Our Country:

"I found Mr. Fineman's book at the Book Warehouse for pretty cheap.  The title and and subject matter intrigued me; although, I love just about anything that deals with American history.  Shortly after beginning to read the book I realized I wasn't getting exactly what I was looking for  So, what was I looking for?  I wanted a book similar to Thomas Sowell's masterful work A Conflict of Visions.  I wanted an in-depth compare and contrast, an objective, intellectual look at both sides of some of the debates and dilemmas that have shaped America.  Mr. Fineman's book came close at times, but never really measures up when compared to other more enriching books.

Mr. Fineman's book isn't bad.  But it's not all that great either.  At the beginning of each chapter, he begins by establishing the fundamentals of these so-called "American Arguments."  He discusses some of their origins and how they have transformed over the years to play an important role in contemporary politics.  It sounds like such a good idea, and it really is.  It just ends up being a little too shallow by the end of many of the chapters.  The focus on modern politics makes sense, but it leads Mr. Fineman down a subjective path more often than I would have liked.

The Thirteen American Arguments isn't without worth, but I wouldn't recommend it to others simply because I know there are much better books out there - A Conflict of Visions being just one.  If you have liked Howard Fineman's reporting or previous work he has done, give the book a read.  If not, there is not much reason to add this one to your Thousander list with so many other books, much better books, available."

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