If you go on to Amazon and lookup ‘A Patriot’s History of the United States’ (by Schweikart and Allen, which originally came out in 2004, and is now in its 10th edition), about halfway down the webpage you’ll notice that in the ‘frequently bought together’ the book that shows up next to it is ‘A People’s History of the United States’ (by Howard Zinn, first out in 1980). If you perform the same series of clicks with the latter, upon reaching the ‘frequently bought together’ section, you’ll not find the former book, but rather Jill Lepore’s new book ‘These Truths: A History of the United States’.
By their very nature, most history books are at least somewhat biased and opinionated. The first two, both long-time bestsellers, are particular examples of this, with one having a quite rightward bent, and the other a leftward one (courses sometimes use them to illustrate opposing viewpoints). Depending on your own views, you may find Lepore left- or right-leaning, but she attempts a balanced view.
I heard Lepore for the first time on New Yorker radio hour podcast. It was a quite short interview, but her sense of humor and engaging manner caught my attention, so I searched for a longer interview online, which I found on the Sept 29 post of Jason Got’s ‘Think Again’ podcast.
What strikes me about Lepore is how quickly on the spot she can casually summarize large chunks of historical events (along with dates) in a manner which others use to discuss final four brackets, or a barbeque recipe or the latest news out of Washington, and then can take the summary forward and use it frame the current context. In this particular interview, her notion of political settlements and how they are becoming much more difficult to achieve in our current age of social media and hyperpolarization. She also discussed de-platforming (her views are not dissimilar to Sam’s here) and free speech.
To me, Lepore is a leading public intellectual of our time (one that I hadn’t previously known much about).
You can download and hear Lepore’s conversation with Got’s here: https://bigthink.com/podcast/jill-lepore