Book Review: 1776


Note: This is book #33 in my 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge for 2008.

I’m not entirely sure why I couldn’t get into 1776, Jason McCullough’s biography of one of the most pivotal 12 months in American History. McCullough writes about major events in the eponymous year, including sieges on Boston, harried attempts at truce between the British and American rebels, and the personalities of two key Georges –fledgling military leader George Washington on our side of the ocean, and often misunderstood King George II on the other. The best parts of the book for me focussed on these and other figures from history and how we often got the wrong or incomplete picture of things from our high school history texts. George Washington wasn’t infallible, and certain leaders on the British side wanted to parlay and negotiate a lot more than others. There were also extended discussions about sieges and battles and preparation for sieges and battles, and the difficulty of maintaining an army full of farmers and misfits.

But for the life of me, I just couldn’t get into the flow of the book. McCullough’s style seemed dry and uninspired to me, and I couldn’t stay motivated to keep track of the expanding cast of characters. I think the main problem was that that with a few exceptions the author failed to draw them out as actual humans. You got detailed descriptions of physical statures when available and maybe a paragraph on their pedigree, but beyond that most of the drama seemed to exist at too high a level and McCullough seemed intent on covering so much ground that I didn’t get much flavor out of the thing. Maybe I’m just not as big a fan of history as I am of the stories of the people who make it.

Others doing the 52-in-52 thing this week:

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One thought on “Book Review: 1776

  1. I both read and listened to this book. I decided to give it another try through audio maybe hoping to get more into it (I seem to concentrate more listening than reading). I love the way the book starts out in England decribing King George’s motorcade. It is vivid and I can picture myself standing on the street corner. However, I agree that the other characters aren’t described in such detail and I had a hard time connecting. I did like the fact that I learned something about Washington’s commanders like Knox and another guy (who has my favorite in the book). These were young guys flying by the seat of their pants.

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