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These Truths: A History of the United States

4.44  ·  Rating details ·  423 ratings  ·  106 reviews
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,
Hardcover, 933 pages
Published September 18th 2018 by W. W. Norton Company
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David Rush I haven't read the book but I thought that would have been a pretty big mistake. But I was curious so after a quick web search I found that Norfolk…moreI haven't read the book but I thought that would have been a pretty big mistake. But I was curious so after a quick web search I found that Norfolk Virginia was was actually under Union control at the time of the Emancipation Proclamation and were exempt from the freeing of slaves.

I found this interesting article that references the celebration you read about in the book.

"Perhaps ironically, one of the largest emancipation celebrations occurred in Norfolk, Virginia, which was exempted from the Emancipation Proclamation because it was in Union hands."(less)

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Ryan Boissonneault
Sep 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
In an age of political polarization, Jill Lepore reminds us that there has never been an age without political polarization. The faintest familiarity with United States history should convince you that political conflict has deep roots.

Some examples: the revolutionaries and loyalists fought vigorously over the issue of independence during the Revolutionary War; the Federalists and Anti-Federalists fought over federal versus state rights; the Mexican-American War was vigorously defended and oppos
Oct 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
It's hard to write a history of the United States from the beginning to now. Lepore is perfectly suited for the task --she's a great historian and a great writer. The best thing about this American history is that it includes the women and the racial minorities that are usually left out. As such, it's a history of America--warts and all. With so much ground to cover, it would be easy to leave out the incidental players, but as Lepore shows brilliantly, it's impossible to understand America witho ...more
Aug 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Oof. This is a very, very good book. Difficult at times, depressing at others, always well-written, well-put together.
Dec 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
"To study the past is to unlock the prison of the present."

"The past is an inheritance, a gift and a burden."

"To write something down is to make a fossil record of a mind."
-Jill Lepore

History lovers will delight in this one volume political history of the United States. I enjoyed learning about facts, stories, and characters I was unaware of before. That famous quote that history doesn't repeat itself but it rhymes, is so true. I saw so many echoes of the past in our present day as I read this
Peter Mcloughlin
Lepore wrote this book in the wake of 2016 and it shows in the narrative arc. The history starts out as the usually admiring but ambivalent tale told by a liberal historian. Accounts of discovery and plunder, of self-government and the original sin of slavery, told very well but up to the twentieth century in a standard liberal nuanced but positively progressing narrative. However the tone strikes at first mildly discordant notes when she touches on changes in media in the twentieth century as ...more
Peter Tillman
Oct 27, 2018 marked it as to-read
Shelves: history, at-bg-pa
960 pages! Which gives one pause. But she is such a good writer....
A good review, at NYRB:
"... at the time of Christopher Columbus’s voyage, Lepore notes, the Americas already contained more people than Europe. Three million Taíno lived on Hispaniola alone, as Columbus called the island where he first made landfall, believing he had found the edge of Asia and a trade route to the East. He wrote in his voyage diary of how easy it would be to enslave
Sep 17, 2018 rated it did not like it
A pessimistic history that runs close to 1000 pages. Of course America has committed sins, but are there any positives to be found? According to Lepore, very, very few.
Oct 14, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: bs-pabluim, history
This book has been heavily touted.

That makes it all the more disconcerting to see an error as early as page 8 and a whopper to boot.

Indeed, beyond that as representative of numerous errors of fact, there’s numerous arguable errors of interpretation, and dubious decisions what to contain and what to omit.

Behind THAT, as Gertrude Stein said of Oakland, as far as I can tell, there’s no “there” there.

With that, let’s dig in.

Page 8: No, pre-Columbian American Indians did NOT herd pigs because there
Jeremy Neely
Nov 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I learned something on every page and thought “I wish I had written that!” much more frequently. It’s a stunning thing, to produce a single volume of American history this sweeping and compelling and richly written. Of course, it’s impossible to include everything, and there were often times that I wish she would have covered this or that. That said, I’m just floored by the narrative audacity and the degree to which she pulled this off.
Richard Subber
Oct 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Jill Lepore makes it easy to read authoritative accounts of our history as a nation. She is already a venerable historian.
These Truths offers two things that I crave when I’m reading/learning history: context, and a penetrating commitment to seek truth in terms of what they were thinking and what they knew way back when.
One of the thrilling and challenging realities of studying history is this humdinger: pick your time in history, and you can say “They didn’t know how it would turn out.”
Barely w
Mark Burris
Oct 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
By too many reviewers this book has been held up as a 1-volume history of America, from Columbus to Trump. Actually, it's much more of a history of ideas, specifically of the founding and guiding of "truths," and as such, it flows through the centuries with insight and perspective. Lepore's an excellent writer, building transitions and inserting humorous commentary that delighted this reader.

"Columbus widened the world, Gutenberg made it spin faster." (p. 13)
"Dewey ... proved about as good a ca
Nadine Jones
Aug 28, 2018 is currently reading it
Oof ... i want to read this, but ... 960 pages?!
Nov 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I heartily recommend that people interested in American History - thoughtful American History - read this book. It is a well-written, thoughtful, and enlightening statement on the history of the US from 1492 until the Presidential Election of 2016.

Jill Lenore is a Professor of History at Harvard. She has written on a variety of topics, from Benjamin Franklin’s sister to the writings of street people, to the history of the Wonder Woman comic book character. She is also an accomplished essayist wh
Dan Graser
Dec 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Whenever you read an ambitious work of history written by a single author (Gibbon's Decline and Fall and Taruskin's History of Western Music come to mind), you first have to marvel at the accomplishment and then, over the course of careful reading and evaluation, come to find just how well they have represented fact while simultaneously making their opinions known - first of all to be opinions - but to be grounded in the facts already mentioned. Many do not measure up to that initial awe-inspiri ...more
Nov 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It’s probably a little early for me to render an opinion - i’m only 12% into the book - but i really want to encourage others to read this. I started highlighting key passages, phrases, quotes, etc. at the outset, and i’ve so far ended up with more text highlighted than not. The book really is just packed with valuable, insightful, and revealing information, including that regarding the roles of slavery and rebellion in shaping our country’s roots. It’s a slow read for me, but i’m savoring every ...more
Nov 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Lepore is my favorite living historian, but the nature of the work means she can’t revel in the details like she does in her more heady historical readings. I hate imagining the ideas her editor forced her to cut from this 1,000~ page behemoth. As is, we get an absolute whirlwind ride through our sordid American history; Lepore is infatuated with the people from our past who got it wrong, likes to let them indict themselves with their own words. I just wish she gave them more than a few paragrap ...more
Nov 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great background for the current political era

Having not taken us history since 1996, I found this sweeping overview that is unabashedly through the lens of the modern era to be extremely helpful in understanding just how much of the current political invective has been part of the conversation since before the revolutionary war. This book is eminently readable. I found myself as excited to get back to reading as I normally am for a Scandinavian crime novel. Highly recommended for anyone who wan
Oct 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
I bought "These Truths" because I've always been interested in the history of our country. I figured I would learn new information primarily about the founding of the country as I have in similar nonfiction history I've read covering the America. What this book showed me was how little I know about all of the things that happened after the founding of this country and our first few presidents. The closer the book got to the present, the less familiar with history I was. I don't think I will be t ...more
Heard about on the Fully Booked Podcast at

Dec 08, 2018 marked it as postponed
I tried. I really did try. But this is just dull. I've vowed not to carry over into next year anything I'm struggling with, so this is getting canned. Next, please.
Joanne Annabannabobanna
Sep 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Jill Lepore, professor of American History at Harvard University, staff writer at The New Yorker, and the author of many books, including her latest, These Truths: A History of the United States, talks about her new take on the full scope of U.S. history - an exploration of how well American democracy has satisfied the three "self-evident" truths in the Declaration of Independence.
Prof Jill Lepore: "It is in fact a right to revolution that's inscribed in our founding documents."
What did the fou
Antonio Nunez
Nov 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Lepore’s “These Truths” is a fine single volume history of the US. As is the case with such works, it sheds light on continuities and particular moments but it can’t give more than a glance to long periods of time. I was struck by how central to the country’s history was race, initially through slavery, then discrimination, then economic inequality, incarceration and now immigration. This is not political correctness. Lepore shows that, from its inception in the Declaration of Independence, the ...more
Porter Broyles
Nov 20, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: couldn-t-finish
I won a kindle version of this book through Goodreads. While I won a Kindle version, I decided to check it out from the library because I prefer paper books. I've had the book for 2 weeks and have read less than 200 pages. Due to a wait list, I have to return the book to the library and am unlikely to finish it.

So why my rating?

1. The official summary of the book declares the book to be "the most ambitious one-volume American history in decades." While this may be true, the book is not really a
Oct 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Excellent! Lepore does a wonderful job highlighting the threads that weave through our history. This would be an amazing text for high school students, although schools would probably reject it for not prettifying the story. (We do enjoy our collective origin myths). The book covers our country from 1492 clear through the ghastly tale of Trump over truth. Most of our national story has been the the story of white, male, heterosexual, Protestants trying vigorously to deny rights to everybody who ...more
Drew Zagorski
Dec 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book should be added to the curriculum for all high schools. Lepore looks at U.S. history through the lens of how we've lived up to "...all men are created equal." Clearly we have yet to meet that ideal. My only complaint is that this is a one-volume book, so there is not a deep dive into any single event or period of history. But what Lepore does well is introduce many events and people who have not gotten much play in other history books. In reading it, one gets a real understanding of ho ...more
Holly Lofgreen
Nov 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
To live in such a country. To read such a book! Tackle the joy of an unrestrained civics education by reading this honest, questioning account of a past explored in light of founding principles. With all the insight ‘These Truths’ contains, its version of history makes the learning fun.

From Columbus to Trump, Lepore gives astute attention to nuanced shifts in public consciousness. She explores the serpentine tools of political persuasion and the ideological changes that now tie person to party,
Out of 900 or so pages, I think I learned something I didn't know on just about every other page. While the rigor and depth of her analysis breaks down somewhat after about 9/11, her ability to weave the history you know with the history you didn't know through every era is fascinating. How much of our history is really all about slavery even years later comes through clearly. Heartbreaking it-could-have-been-different moments around the ERA and abortion and gun control from before they got to b ...more
Nov 30, 2018 rated it liked it
A mostly interesting read on how racism/technology/media/etc. has affected our country. If you aren't pessimistic about the future of the country now just wait until you read this book. As a political independent it was interesting to me on where the author placed blame for the current mess this country is in. In general I agree with her analysis, but I wish there was more of an answer for how to fix it. It really hits at the racism/sexism endemic in our country. One thing I really got out of th ...more
Nov 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
A very readable, engaging, illuminating, and sobering history of America.
Oct 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is the book I want my kids to use in their AP US History classes in high school. Please. I'm begging.

Covers everything but covers the world inside the worlds. What a gift.
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Jill Lepore is the David Woods Kemper ’41 Professor of American History, Harvard College Professor, and chair of Harvard's History and Literature Program. She is also a staff writer at The New Yorker.

Winner of the Anisfield-Wolf Award for the best non-fiction book on race, and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; The Name of War (Knopf, 1998), winner of the Bancroft Prize, the Ralph Waldo Emerson P
“The past is an inheritance, a gift and a burden. It can’t be shirked. You carry it everywhere. There’s nothing for it but to get to know it.” 4 likes
“That the revival of Christianity coincided with the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration, an anniversary made all the more mystical when the news spread that both Jefferson and Adams had died that very day, July 4, 1826, as if by the hand of God, meant that the Declaration itself took on a religious cast. The self-evident, secular truths of the Declaration of Independence became, to evangelical Americans, the truths of revealed religion.” 3 likes
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