January 22, 2018

The American Revolution in Six Lives

The American Revolution in Six Lives


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In The New York Times Book Review, Lynne Cheney reviews Russell Shorto’s “Revolution Song: A Story of American Freedom.” Cheney writes:

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“There is properly no history, only biography,” Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote. Russell Shorto, in his new book “Revolution Song,” seems to be of similar mind. He writes about six people, all of whom lived in the Revolutionary era, but he does not roll them up into a single narrative or use their lives to bolster an overarching thesis. Instead, he artfully weaves their stories together and leaves it to the reader to draw conclusions. “I have tried not to preach or even teach,” Shorto writes in the preface — and it proves a decidedly refreshing approach.

Shorto has an eye for intriguing subjects (his previous books include “Amsterdam,” “Descartes’ Bones” and “The Island at the Center of the World”), and this book is no exception.

On this week’s podcast, Shorto talks about “Revolution Song”; Richard Aldous discusses his new biography of Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.; and Lauren Christensen, Jennifer Szalai and John Williams on what people are reading. Pamela Paul is the host.

Here are the books mentioned in this week’s “What We’re Reading”:

“Draft No. 4” by John McPhee

“The Power” by Naomi Alderman

“Travels With Lizbeth” by Lars Eighner

“Giving Up the Ghost” by Hilary Mantel

“Hadji Murad” by Leo Tolstoy

We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.

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