Title: What Ifs? of American History
Editor: Robert Cowley
Publisher: Berkely Books 2003
Genre: Nonfiction - US History
Rating: 5/5 stars
Reading Challenges: Nonfiction Adventure; Mount TBR; Well-Rounded Reader -- History
Did Eisenhower avoid a showdown with Stalin by not taking Berlin before the Soviets? What might have happened if JFK hadn't been assassinated? This new volume in the widely praised series presents fascinating "what if..." scenarios by such prominent historians as: Robert Dallek, Caleb Carr, Antony Beevor, John Lukacs, Jay Winick, Thomas Fleming, Tom Wicker, Theodore Rabb, Victor David Hansen, Cecelia Holland, Andrew Roberts, Ted Morgan, George Feifer, Robert L. O'Connell, Lawrence Malkin, and John F. Stacks.
Included are two essential bonus essays reprinted from the original New York Times bestseller What If?-David McCullough imagines Washington's disastrous defeat at the Battle of Long Island, and James McPherson envisions Lee's successful invasion of the North in 1862.
This isn't the easiest book to read. Or I should say that it isn't the most accessible book. The authors of the various essays presuppose a level of basic history knowledge and then dive into counterfactual history. But for a history nerd like me, I loved every single page. I love wondering "what if?" when it comes to history. One small decision change could have changed the course of history. This collection explores those What Ifs. There are a few more common ideas: What if JFK lived? What if Eisenhower pushed on to Berlin? While those were enjoyable reads, my favorite was actually an essay exploring the idea that John Tyler never became president after the death of William Henry Harrison. Tyler is a forgettable president, but his policies regarding Mexico and Texas set the stage for the growth of the country and even changing the run-up to the Civil War. Fascinating stuff! I only recommend these books to the serious history nerd. To those people, pick up this collection for some history fun.