Review: America: The Last Best Hope: Volume II

  • April 2, 2009
  • James Skemp
  • review

The following is a book review of America: The Last Best Hope: Volume II, written by William J. Bennett.

Taking a very short break to read some fiction, I moved from the first volume of William J. Bennett's America: The Last Best Hope, to the second volume. After reading the first I was looking forward to the second volume. I was hoping that the minor issues that I began noticing near the end of the first, would not be issues in the second.

While Bennett appeared to have a major focus point of slavery in the first volume, he seems to have a difficult time picking a topic to move him through the second. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the second volume, but his bias became more and more apparent, until it burst in the final chapter(s).

Stepping back, this second volume begins where the last ended, at 1914, and World War I. It continues through 1989, effectively until the first Bush is elected. Honestly, this was a slight disappointment to me, but, as he points out at the end, the last 20 years needs a bit more time to pass before we really understand their historical significance.

While he covers approximately 75 years of history in 500 pages, I was left, at many points, wanting more from him. Granted, this is a general overview, and the purpose should be to leave us wanting more, so we pursue other books and resources, but …

Then again, it could be that a change in style, or seemingly one, is what amplified this. Bennett will talk about one thing, then mention something else, before going off on another point, only to go back to the point he left behind earlier. At times, this left me a bit confused, but, he seems to continue along the correct path, so I suppose he does it for easier transitions, even if he must sacrifice others. Nonetheless, I feel as though I've missed out on something, which I didn't feel like after the first.

Perhaps, though, it's the ending that really gets me. Compared to the rest of the book, this was a major let-down. Seeing as how it's not a big surprise, the first Bush is elected. However, unlike every other President, he goes into zero detail about the election itself. To me, this suggested that he was done with Reagan, one way or another.

Overall, I give this volume 4 of 5 stars. It's a good overview, that'll leave you wanting more. If you've read the first volume, or are planning to do so, then this makes complete sense to follow up with. However, by itself, I would look elsewhere for a history of this time period, even if you ended up having to purchase three or more books, to cover the same time frame.