December 29, 2011

"December 1941" by Craig Shirley (Review)

I'm a revolutionary era history buff. I don't have a ton of facts that I rattle off in conversation, but the time period in American history is the most exciting to me. You have a host of smaller events that collectively set the tone for the entire nation. While it was less than 250 years ago, a relatively tiny stretch in history, it's amazing how many holes we still need to try and find pieces for to better know and understand life during that period.

World War II was a defining moment in American history sixty years ago. Because of the relative historical proximity and the technological advances that were made since the revolution, we have access to information from so many sources the difference is like night and day. Craig Shirley capitalizes on this in his solid, historical volume "December 1941: 31 Days that Changed America and Saved the World."

There are more than 550 pages in this thoroughly researched book. He provides a day by day account of that month of not only the advances in the war efforts, but also a sense of what life was like for everyday people. He provides an American daily life context and intermingles it with what was happening politically and militarily. This provides a unique balance for someone interested in history but isn't necessarily looking for military history.

The biggest strength of the book is the presentation of the thoroughly performed research using every day language. A high school student should be able to well-grasp all the material that Shirley has written. However, it does not have the polish of the Pulitzer Prize worthy book, and becomes unreadable at several points - not because of a "sit and let it marinate" sort of reader pondering, but because of the author's inability to provide clear transitions from the various topics covered.

I feel that this book had plenty of potential but it wasn't realized. Shirley should have let the book sit for six months in its current state and then turned it into a grade A masterpiece. Instead, it's like that college term paper that has a bunch of good research done but is cobbled together at the last minute. I wanted to like the book, but it ended up being sort of bleh.

Three stars (out of five.)

I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Thomas Nelson.

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