The American Story : Conversations with Master Historians by David M. Rubenstein
book review #159
The American Story is a book by billionaire financier, philanthropist and lawyer David M. Rubenstein. Rubenstein is a well known interviewer who has shared his conversations with influential people in the world of tech, business and finance like Jeff Bezos, Masayoshi Son, Satya Nadella, Tim Cook, Steve Ballmer, Ray Dalio and more. His interviews are some of the best on the internet so I was looking forward to listen to the audiobook of this book.
The audiobook version of this book was even better than what I had expected as it turned out to be a collection of interviews with historians regarding American history. He starts off each chapter with a brief introduction of each biographer and the brief biography of the person they wrote the book about. He then plays a clip of him interviewing the author at an event. The audio recoding is slightly compromised due to this live recording with an audience in the background but that doesn’t really matter at 3x speed. Overall a great read to get brief introductions to various books, historians and interesting people in the American story.
These were the 11 books that were discussed. From Founding Fathers (and Mothers) of America to 20th Century US Presidents. Here are some thoughts on some books or sections that I found interesting.
John Adams by David McCullough
John Adams was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States and the second President of the United States. He played a key role in the American Revolution and the drafting of the Declaration of Independence. Adams was also a skilled diplomat, serving as America's first ambassador to Britain and later as vice president under George Washington. He was a staunch advocate of American independence and believed strongly in the separation of powers. The conversation revolved around his ‘humble farmer’ childhood upbringing.
Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
Phenomenal. I have reread Alexander Hamilton three times or maybe even more since I first found out about Ron Chernow in 2020. I only realised that there was an extremely popular and successful broadway musical based on this book afterwards which was a pleasant surprise. The conversation was with Ron Chernow before Hamilton the musical became popular so it was interesting to hear their thoughts on the musical knowing in hindsight that it would change Hamilton’s legacy forever. It’s the reason why Alexander Hamilton is still on the ten dollar bill today and politicians cancelled plans to change it to someone else.
Benjamin Franklin by Walter Isaacson
Walter Isaacson is one of my favourite authors ever. His biographies on Benjamin Franklin, Kissinger, Einstein, Steve Jobs, Leonadro Da Vinci are great to say the least. Also he has an upcoming biography on Elon Musk which is exciting as the last Elon biography was back in 2015 before his rise to global superstardom and craziness.
Founding Mothers by Cokie Roberts
About the founding mothers, the women who shaped the founding of America. This book was written based on letters written by women during the time, the founding fathers wrote personal letters that were more real and authentic compared to their more formal letters which they would have thought would stand the test of time and be cemented into history if the American experiment were to succeed. The letters written by the women of the time was a lot more frank and real and captivating that allows for a more perfect picture of what occured during that time.
Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Charles Lindbergh by A. Scott Berg
Read this chapter multiple times as I have never heard of Charles Lindbergh before and was mind blown by his story. Wrote more about it here.
Franklin D. Roosevelt by Jay Winik
Talked about FDR being the only president to be elected for more than two terms. He won in 1932, 1936, 1940 and 1944. They also talked about how he won over people with the New Deal and Social Security using his famous Fireside Chats over the radio. He is now widely regarded as one of the greatest US Presidents for leading the country not only through the Great Depression but World War II as well.
Dwight D. Eisenhower by Jean Edward Smith
Talked about Eisenhower being a military officer and leading the D-Day Invasion of Normandy. Explored his military connection and how this lead to his presidency.
Martin Luther King by Taylor Branch
Richard Nixon by Bob Woodward
Obviously about the Watergate scandal being a watershed moment in American politics.
Ronald Reagan by H.W. Brands