Thursday, December 29, 2016

On the Brink Book of the Year: William Cullen Bryant: Author of America

I reviewed some amazing and interesting books this year, but of all of them, Gilbert Muller's book, William Cullen Bryant: Author of America, stands out as the most scholarly and significant of a strong group. In some ways, this selection is not fair since the book came out in 2008. However, since it was first reviewed this year on this blog, it was eligible in my selection criteria for book of the year.
Anyone who is interested in the history of environmental thought, New York, publishing, or America in general will find the book interesting. Bryant is arguably one of the most important Americans of the 19th century. Muller makes the point in his book that Bryant created what it meant to be American. He helped to define and refine American culture through his publications and through his elevation of mainstream American intellectualism. He also helped to start the American environmental movement first through his artistic romanticism and then through his support of individuals like John Muir.

The book is incredibly well researched with ample footnotes as well as details that are new to those interested in Bryant and 19th century history. Some unfortunate historical biographies become unreadable when authors take such a detailed approach. Not so in this case. Muller is an excellent writer and I did not find my interest flagging.

In a time when American culture is deeply splintered, this book serves as a reminder of how one person can improve the intellectual life of a nation.

Check out my original review here.

No comments: