Customer Reviews for

That's Not In My American History Book

Average Rating 4.5
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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 16, 2004

    An entertaining, informative read not without its pitfalls.

    That's Not In My American History Book showcases 50 short essays profiling, as the title informs, little known events and forgotten heroes that didn't show up in high school. While Thomas Ayres says plainly in an introduction that the stories are not hard to find if you look hard enough, these events and people have truly and unfortunately (in most cases) been overlooked by history. The book also attacks some of American history's most common myths, such as the 'grandeur' of the Columbus voyages and all of the little things that have been distorted by time about our first president. Split up into five different sections, Thomas Ayres's work certainly gives off the aura of wide-ranging, deep research, and in most cases, that's true. One section is devoted to Historical Myths, another to Forgotten Heroes, another to history's scandals, etc., so the reader can enjoy many different facets of history that they may know nothing or little about. In a lot of the essays (for me at least) I knew scattered bits of trivia about the event or person, but Thomas Ayres was able to give me a full story behind them, and it really made me feel like my understanding of that person or event was more complete. Other essays will peek your interests and perhaps provoke further research on your own part about the subject of the essay. In this way, the book is fantastic. However, the book does have its pitfalls. Some essays will have some great potential and then feel incomplete. I'm not sure if this is due to lack of concrete evidence or sloppy writing. Some essays, if you aren't interested in the subject, you'll skip altogether. It also somewhat heavily focuses on people and events from the American Revolution and the Civil War, so if you're not a big fan of these two conflicts, I would be cautious before buying this book (perhaps check it out in your bookstore first). Also, through some of Thomas Ayres's myth-smashing, he offers some fairly harsh indictments of some of history's most famous citizens, such as Betsy Ross (who he claims did NOT sew the first American flag) and Paul Revere (who was on the other side of town when the laterns were hung in the Old North Church on that famous night) when the fact that history has distorted their stories isn't even their fault. But this does not happen often. Despite its faults, however, this is truly a fun and interesting read that will open your eyes to some of the distorted, weird, and just plain funny parts of history you were never aware of. If you're a fan of history, and want to gain a better understanding of some of the events, people, and conflict that have shaped our nation in a way that doesn't feel at all like a boring history textbook, pick up this work by Thomas Ayres. You'll be amazed, saddened, enlightened, and shocked at some of the more stranger-than-fiction happenings that made America what it is today.

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    Posted November 12, 2008

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    Posted October 24, 2012

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