I picked up American Colossus: The Triumph of Capitalism, 1865-1900 by H. W. Brands simply because it was by Brands. I had enjoyed a couple of his other books, The Murder of Jim Fisk for the Love of Josie Mansfield: A Tragedy of the Gilded Age, and Lone Star Nation: How a Ragged Army of Volunteers Won the Battle for Texas Independence–and Changed America.
This book however, was not nearly as interesting as either.
Yes, it was full of fun tidbits of information. Yes, those sections were written well. The problem however was that Brands didn’t seem to tell am organized story. It reads like a bunch of left over short snippets of stories thrown together simply because they all take place in the United States. Actually, many of his “asides” weren’t really even about the US at all.
I can’t tell what point he is trying to make with the book. It seems to try to do too much (20 hours in audio) and that could be why it is so disjointed. The only real point I can take from it is that Brands gives capitalism some backhanded compliments while implying it is evil. Not great history – just politics disguised as such.
by Chris Doelle