the reckless decade coverAuthor: H.W. Brands

Number of Pages: 390

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Release Date: 1995

“The 1890s saw the closing of the American frontier and a shift toward imperialist ambitions. Populists and muckrakers grappled with robber barons and gold-bugs. Americans addressed the unfinished business of Reconstruction by separating blacks and whites. Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. Du Bois, and other black leaders clashed over the proper response to continuing racial inequality. Those on top of the economic heap—Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Morgan—created vast empires of wealth, while those at the bottom worked for dimes a day. Brands brings all this to life in a vivid narrative filled with larger-than-life characters facing momentous challenges as they worked toward an uncertain future.”


I read this book for one of my assignments in my AP United States History class, since we have to write a long analytic paper on one particular book each quarter. The 1890s is by no means my favorite decade in American history- I don’t even find it that interesting. It transitions the United States from Reconstruction and westward expansion to the Progressive Era and World War I, and it just seems so bland in comparison. My expectations were not very high when I first started reading this book.

Having finished reading The Reckless Decade, I can now say that my initial expectations were basically met- not exceeded, but met. Brands is an excellent writer, and his style made the information easy to comprehend and absorb. He also included tiny historical details that aren’t normally discussed in high school textbooks, which I really appreciated. For example, explained much of the drama behind the presidential campaign of 1896 between William Jennings Bryan and William McKinley. These interesting details broke up some of the slower parts that tended to drag on. Otherwise, much of this book was quite bland.

Overall, I have mixed feelings about this book. It was very informative and educational, and I really enjoyed the way Brands told historical events as if they were parts of one giant story- which, if you think about it, they kind of actually are. But the good writing could not mask the slow parts of this book, and at times there were so many minute details that it was hard to understand what the overarching theme of the chapter or section was. If you’re looking for a book about the United States in the 1890s, The Reckless Decade is a fairly decent one that is extremely informative but mildly entertaining.

My Rating: :0) :0) :0) 3 out of 5 smileys.

Would I recommend it to a friend?: Only if they needed to know more about the 1890s in the United States or if they were particularly interested in that specific decade. Otherwise, this isn’t really the kind of book that I would read for pleasure.

What is the last book you read that was just…. meh? Let me know in the comments section below!




One thought on “Book Review: THE RECKLESS DECADE

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