David M. Rubenstein The American Story: Conversations With Master Historians

Last updated date: August 5, 2020

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David M. Rubenstein The American Story: Conversations With Master Historians

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We looked at the top American History Books and dug through the reviews from some of the most popular review sites. Through this analysis, we've determined the best American History Book you should buy.

Update as October 17, 2022:
Checkout The Best American History Book for a detailed review of all the top american history books.

Overall Take

In our analysis of 34 expert reviews, the David M. Rubenstein The American Story: Conversations With Master Historians placed 6th when we looked at the top 7 products in the category. For the full ranking, see below.

From The Manufacturer

Co-founder of The Carlyle Group and patriotic philanthropist David M. Rubenstein takes readers on a sweeping journey across the grand arc of the American story through revealing conversations with our greatest historians. Through his popular program The David Rubenstein Show, David Rubenstein has established himself as one of our most thoughtful interviewers. Now, in The American Story, David captures the brilliance of our most esteemed historians, as well as the souls of their subjects. The book features introductions by Rubenstein as well a foreword by Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, the first woman and the first African American to lead our national library. Richly illustrated with archival images from the Library of Congress, the book is destined to become a classic for serious readers of American history. Through these captivating exchanges, these bestselling and Pulitzer Prize–winning authors offer fresh insight on pivotal moments from the Founding Era to the late 20th century.

Expert Reviews

Expert Summarized Score

6 expert reviews

User Summarized Score

440 user reviews

What experts liked

Captivating book that shows a glimpse into American experience through some of our best patriots and the historians who tell their stories. The book is written as a series of interviews conducted at the Library of Congress so it’s very quick to read with interesting insights on every page. Each chapter is a different person from Washington to MLK to Chief Justice Roberts.
- Good Reads
For those who love history and enjoy biography, David M. Rubenstein has delivered a masterstroke with The American Story, in which he presents his interviews with authors of notable biographies. The Q&A format of this book is ingenious. Rubenstein, who’s mastered his subject matter, asks informed questions that stimulate impressive responses, and the “patriotic philanthropist” is not above probing into the personal and provocative.
- Washington Independent Review of Books
The best discussions are fascinating and surprisingly funny, as when A. Scott Berg relates the moment that he discovered how Charles Lindbergh relieved himself during his transatlantic flight: in a paper cup. Rubinstein elicits unexpected biographical nuggets.
- Publishers Weekly
The text, accompanied by a generous selection of archival images from the LOC, provides a smooth education in American history, with an emphasis on presidents.
- Kirkus Reviews
His new book, “The American Story: Conversations With Master Historians,” is another important gift helping to preserve our shared history. The book is born out of Rubenstein’s idea that elected men and women serving in Congress would benefit from a deeper understanding of the past. Perhaps one of the most memorable conversations included Doris Goodwin, one of only two female scholars in the book. Her storytelling prowess and sense of humor are clear.
- The Post and Courier
Mr. Rubenstein recorded interviews with master historians as they closely examined some of the most important historical figures of the United States, the founders, great Presidents and figures like Charles Lindbergh. Each chapter is devoted to its own author and historical figure, and each chapter is easily worthy of it’s own review of 2,000 words.
- Daily Kos

What experts didn't like

Rubenstein is easily the worst interviewer I have ever encountered outside of an elementary school. He constantly interrupts his subjects, usually right when they are wrapping up a complex or nuanced story. Rubenstein interrupts to advertise his knowledge of the most basic aspects of history, oftentimes not even bothering to phrase it as a question. He's like a belligerent version of the Chris Farley sketch.
- Good Reads
Broader ranging conversations, however, such as Jay Winik on FDR, can feel a bit disjointed and in need of tighter editing. The homogenous roster of interviewees and historical subjects, however, underrepresents women (only Goodwin, Cokie Roberts, and the “Founding Mothers” are featured) and people of color. Suffers for its lack of inclusivity.
- Publishers Weekly
Eschewing controversy and avoiding penetrating insights. Breaks no new ground.
- Kirkus Reviews

An Overview On American History Books

In school, you were handed a history textbook and told to read it. It likely had a condensed history of America, covering wars, important political figures and big events.

For those interested in history, though, the thirst for information continues long after graduation. Even children may find school textbooks inadequate if they’re really interested in learning history. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of history books, especially if you want to study a particular event or era in depth.

But what if you just want a full telling of the history of America? There are books for that, as well. The key is to find one that covers the timeframe you’re interested in studying. Some start with Columbus’s arrival, while others include the history of Native Americans before settlers arrived.

Most American history books will focus on a certain theme. This is what makes each one unique. So before you start looking for a good book, think about what interests you most. Do you want to learn more about the political climate of America throughout history, or do wars and foreign relations interest you more? Are you interested in exploring a particular theme, or would you prefer to simply read the events in chronological order, pulled together with an interesting narrative?

For younger readers, images can be a great way to break up pages of text. Many children’s history books will use compelling photos, charts, maps and other imagery to both illustrate points and keep things interesting. Also look for text that’s engaging, rather than the more serious approach usually seen in textbooks. When children see that learning history can be fun, they’re more likely to continue to want to research as they grow into adults.

The American History Book Buying Guide

  • The structure of a history book is one of the most important aspects. If possible, take a quick look at the table of contents and pay close attention to whether the story is told chronologically or separated by themes. There’s nothing wrong with either approach, but many readers find they prefer one over the other.
  • Even the best-written nonfiction book is useless if it isn’t based in fact. Look for books from authors with impressive backgrounds. A renowned historian or professor of history is better than an author with no connection to the field whatsoever. If you can, check how the author conducted research and whether information came from valid sources.
  • The publication date on the book comes into play, as well. A history of America that was published 20 years ago won’t just leave out a couple of decades of events. It may be missing the perspective that those two extra decades have brought. Some history books are updated to compensate for this lapse, but make sure the updates make the book as relevant as one published recently.
  • Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, you may want an unbiased telling of historical events. There are plenty of American history books that sway conservative or liberal, though, if that’s what you prefer. You can often identify them by the themes they promote in the blurb. However, the review section will often include at least a couple of readers who found the book too political on one side or the other, so browsing those can help.
  • At one time, history books painted a rosy picture of historical events. But toward the end of the 20th century, documentarians and authors began digging into the reality of events that have happened. You can still find positive, upbeat takes on American history, but you’ll probably notice those are rarer than books that are more upfront and honest.