The central question of Jill Lepore’s ambitious and masterful book, These Truths: A History of the United States (W.W. Norton, $39.95), is whether America has lived up to the ideals of its founders. For Lepore, a Harvard professor and New Yorker staff writer, America’s defining struggle has been trying to adhere to the three truths articulated by Thomas Jefferson—political equality, natural rights, and the sovereignty of the people—while dealing with darker realities. Even at nearly 800 pages (not including footnotes), the book skips over a lot and focuses chiefly on political history, but it does tell a comprehensive and engaging story about the United States. It also serves, as Lepore intends, as “an old-fashioned civics book, an explanation of the origins and ends of democratic institutions.” By examining both the triumphs and failures of America, Lepore lays out not only the “uneasy path” the nation has travelled so far but leaves readers better prepared to navigate whatever lies ahead.
These Truths: A History of the United States