Jill Lepore These Truths: A History Of The United States

Last updated date: August 19, 2020

DWYM Score
9.1

Jill Lepore These Truths: A History Of The United States

Why Trust The DWYM Score?

DWYM is your trusted product review source. Along with our in-house experts, our team analyzes thousands of product reviews from the most trusted websites. We then create one easy-to-understand score. Learn more.

Look for the DWYM seal for products that are the best in the category.

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.

Overall Take

Written by Harvard professor Jill Lepore, this book takes an introspective look at the history of America in an effort in an effort to reflect on where we've been. The chapters are organized in sections by both time and theme to make it easier for readers to absorb the information. This book focuses on the three truths "we hold to be self-evident:" political equality, natural rights and the sovereignty of the people. In our analysis of 41 expert reviews, the Jill Lepore Jill Lepore These Truths: A History Of The United States placed 3rd when we looked at the top 6 products in the category. For the full ranking, see below.

Editor's Note August 19, 2020:
Checkout The Best American History Book for a detailed review of all the top american history books.

Expert Summarized Score
8.8
7 expert reviews
User Summarized Score
9.2
874 user reviews
Our Favorite Video Reviews
What experts liked
Harvard professor Jill Lepore chooses to begin her history of the United States with that quotation, and much of the worst of America, from lynching to brutality to Native Americans, is rightly here. But her true purpose is much broader: as she writes, the constitution adopted in 1787 was meant to determine whether government could rule “not by accident and force but by reason and choice”. Seeks to be scrupulously fair to the modern conservative movement, devoting numerous pages to its intellectual origins as well as to its nativist and conspiratorial elements.
- The Guardian
It encompasses interesting takes on democracy and technology, shifts in demographics, revolutions in economics and the very nature of modernity. It’s a big sweeping book, a way for us to take stock at this point in the journey, to look back, to remind us who we are and to point to where we’re headed.
- The New York Times
Lepore generally lets her story tell itself. Where she renders judgments, they are usually sound. There’s not much historiography in Lepore’s book, which is another good thing; the history of history can be deadly dull.
- The Washington Post
I loved the book and hope lots of people read it. In keeping with its title, it’s the most honest account of the American story I’ve ever read, and one of the most beautifully written. Lepore comments in her conclusion that simplistic, feel-good accounts of our past undermine and belittle “the American experiment, making it … a daffy, reassuring bedtime story.” These Truths is just the opposite.
- Good Reads
The chapters of These Truths are organized by both time and theme; she has sections that center on industrialization, mass communication, modernism and so on. This allows her to focus on topics that have been covered before with a new angle, placing them in fresh, but always accurate, contexts. And crucially, she often turns her sights on names that don't often appear in school textbooks
- NPR
Lepore’s work for The New Yorker has allowed her to develop an engaging narrative style that relies heavily on exact detail and clever metaphors.
- NY Books
It’s been good, above all, because she is a superb storyteller. Her fans attest to weeping over These Truths, and I’ll confess to feeling a prelachrymal lump in my throat more than once while reading it.
- The Nation
What experts didn't like
Lepore panders a little to liberal sensibilities. And so in her account, Communism was no real threat at all.
- The New York Times
But any reader who expects a primer on America’s political evolution is going to be at a loss at times. Lepore admits to paying little attention to military history, yet the short shrift she gives to the Civil War, as an episode in American political history even apart from the battles, is going to leave uninitiated readers mystified as to why that conflict still roils the nation.
- The Washington Post
Facts, knowledge, experience, proof.' (c) Not too much of all that. A lot of posturing instead. 'Storytelling, and truth' have had a hard time in here. And 'truth' might have been lost in all the fantasy and conjecture.
- Good Reads
After These Truths appeared, historian Christine DeLucia and other critics noticed that Lepore had made little room in her story for Native Americans, especially in the latter half.
- The Nation

From The Manufacturer

In the most ambitious one volume American history in decades, award winning historian and New Yorker writer Jill Lepore offers a magisterial account of the origins and rise of a divided nation, an urgently needed reckoning with the beauty and tragedy of American history. Written in elegiac prose, Lepore’s groundbreaking investigation places truth itself―a devotion to facts, proof, and evidence―at the center of the nation’s history. The American experiment rests on three ideas―"these truths," Jefferson called them―political equality, natural rights, and the sovereignty of the people. And it rests, too, on a fearless dedication to inquiry, Lepore argues, because self government depends on it. But has the nation, and democracy itself, delivered on that promise? These Truths tells this uniquely American story, beginning in 1492, asking whether the course of events over more than five centuries has proven the nation’s truths, or belied them. To answer that question, Lepore traces the intertwined histories of American politics, law, journalism, and technology, from the colonial town meeting to the nineteenth century party machine, from talk radio to twenty first century Internet polls, from Magna Carta to the Patriot Act, from the printing press to Facebook News.

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.

DWYM Fun Fact

It may seem hard to believe, but until the mid-1990s, the only way to look up a historical fact was through books, unless you could actually track down someone who could give you a firsthand account. That meant if a student was working on a paper for class, that student often had to log some after-school library hours to research.

There was one big exception to that. In many homes throughout the 1900s, there was a bookshelf stocked with multiple books called encyclopedias. These books were sold by salespeople who would knock on your door and give a sales pitch. Encyclopedia sales remained strong because almost as soon as a family bought a set, the information was outdated. When a child was working on a report or a family member wanted to look up something, that handy set of encyclopedias was available with the information they needed. As with Wikipedia today, though, the encyclopedia wasn’t meant as a be-all-end-all source. It simply served as a great way to get an overview on a topic you were studying.

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.