New World Coming: The 1920s and The Making of Modern America by Nathan Miller
This is a really comprehensive history of the 1920s with due notes to the decade’s antecedents and the culture that followed it. I felt that a good deal of the book focused on the politics of the time (more so than any other history I’ve read thus far) where other other cultural aspects were bundled together under one chapter. I think I learned a lot from this book–again, particularly the political background and business side of the 20s–which was really eye-opening. I didn’t know much about Harding, Coolidge or Hoover. Learning what Hoover did before, after and during his political career was the most eye-opening. I may pick up a special biography about him if any of you have some good suggestions!
Overall, this was a dense book! Like really dense! It took me a while to get through it but I’m happy I did.
A Wicked War: Polk, Clay, Lincoln & the 1846 US Invasion of Mexico by Amy Greenberg
This is a very engaging book about a war and time period (the 1840s) that I knew little to nothing about. The US-Mexican War is often overlooked in history classes. From my own experience in my high school history class, I remember my teacher briefly mentioning it, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and “BOOM,” we got California. Rarely did we touch upon the nitty gritty and its no wonder.
The narrative discusses how the US-Mexican war was not a noble one. Whilst poring over the details, on a surface level it reminded me of Vietnam. At least in its public perception from noble war to avenge American blood spilled to a growing antipathy towards it the longer it went on. (Of course, this war does not equal Vietnam–different conflict with different motivations.
Amy Greenberg centers her account of the war on a couple of central figures (Henry Clay, James and Sarah Polk, James Hardin, and Abraham Lincoln) showing how they and countless other actors influenced the course of the war and its conclusion. It also discusses how the war shaped them–again, that nice narrative quality.
I personally picked up the book to learn more about the 1840s as a decade and the US-Mexican war played a huge role in shaping it (as well as the following decades). I learned a lot and encourage others who are curious to pick it up.