Friday, January 18, 2013

Favorite Reads 2012: The Greater Journey

I love to read nonfiction, especially history and biography. Obviously, David McCullough is one of my favorite authors. His books are so well written that you might think they were fiction. They definitely are not, as they are meticulously researched.

His latest, The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris, is a bit different from his earlier books. It's not about one person or event, and it doesn't take place in the United States. It's about the hundreds of Americans who went to Paris between 1830 and 1900 - not to visit or live - but to study. These were American artists, doctors, writers, scientists, and others who were adventurous enough to cross the Atlantic Ocean (which in those days was a dangerous and long trip) just to learn. They went on to have a tremendous effect on American culture and history.

What we as Americans may not realize is that during these years there was no place in America to learn these skills. Since they had to leave home, they decided to go to the best place to learn - Paris, France. Paris was the intellectual and cultural center of the world at that time. The book ends in 1900, because by then, it was no longer necessary to leave the US to study, mainly because of these intrepid adventurers who brought their knowledge home.

I was amazed at how many well known American artists, physicians, writers, and others made the "greater journey" to Paris. Elizabeth Blackwell, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Mark Twain, Samuel Morse, James Fenimore Cooper, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Charles Sumner, John Singer Sargent, and Mary Cassatt are just a few.

Through the eyes of this author you will come to love Paris and vividly see the impact of this city upon these American students. You will also come to realize the tremendous effect these travelers had on our country. It also has many magnificent color pictures. This is an inspiring, enlightening, and entertaining book that I can highly recommend.

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