Saturday, October 04, 2008

Pg. 99: David S. Reynolds' "Waking Giant"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Waking Giant: America in the Age of Jackson by David S. Reynolds.

About the book, from the publisher:
America experienced unprecedented expansion and turmoil in the years between 1815 and 1848. In Waking Giant, Bancroft Prize-winning historian and literary critic David S. Reynolds illuminates the period's exciting political story as well as the fascinating social and cultural movements that influenced it. He casts fresh light on Andrew Jackson, who redefined the presidency, along with John Quincy Adams and James K. Polk, who expanded the nation's territory and strengthened its position internationally.

Waking Giant captures the turbulence of a democracy caught in the throes of the controversy over slavery, the rise of capitalism, and the birth of urbanization. Reynolds reveals unknown dimensions of the Second Great Awakening with its sects, cults, and self-styled prophets. He brings to life the reformers, abolitionists, and temperance advocates who struggled to correct America's worst social ills. He uncovers the political roots of some of America's greatest authors and artists, from Ralph Waldo Emerson and Edgar Allan Poe to Thomas Cole and Asher B. Durand, and he reveals the shocking phenomena that marked the age: bloody duels and violent mobs, P. T. Barnum's freaks and all-seeing mesmerists, polygamous prophets and wealthy prostitutes, table-lifting spiritualists and rabble-rousing feminists. All were crucial to the political and social ferment that led to the Civil War.

Meticulously researched and masterfully written, Waking Giant is a brilliant chronicle of America's vibrant and tumultuous rise.
Among the praise for Waking Giant:
“A pleasure to read…. [Reynolds] does not confine himself to the staples of conventional narrative history…The result of his research is a happy mosaic of an era that may well be, just as the author suggests, "the richest" in American history.”
--Wall Street Journal

“A really good volume of history provides the reader with a keen sense of perspective and a genuine appreciation of the past. This is exactly what David S. Reynolds does in Waking Giant: America in the Age of Jackson, which authoritatively describes the early to middle part of the American 19th Century and makes clear how important this period was to the nation’s growth in sociocultural, industrial and political terms.”

“A remarkable synthesis, impressive on many levels…. Award-winning historian Reynolds charts the political, cultural, economic, artistic, scientific and religious currents roiling America from the Era of Good Feelings to the verge of the Civil War.”
--Kirkus, starred review

“Offers a fine addition to the literature on pre-Civil War American history in this account of the years 1815-1848.”
--Publishers Weekly

“Highly recommended…. Bancroft Prize winner Reynolds has produced a thorough chronicle of America from 1815 to 1848.”
--Library Journal
Browse inside Waking Giant, and learn more about the book and author at the publisher's website and David S. Reynolds' faculty webpage.

David S. Reynolds is Distinguished Professor at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. His books include John Brown, Abolitionist, winner of the Gustavus Myers Outstanding Book Award; Walt Whitman's America, winner of the Bancroft Prize and the Ambassador Book Prize and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; and Beneath the American Renaissance, winner of the Christian Gauss Award from the Phi Beta Kappa Society.

The Page 99 Test: Waking Giant.

--Marshal Zeringue