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Book Review: The Intellectual Devotional: American History, by David Kidder and Noah Oppenheim

  • Rodale
  • October 2007
  • 368 pp.

Recommended. An engaging, manageable, and well-organized source of daily readings in American history.

As some of you know, I’ve been given an exciting teaching assignment for next fall: World History and US History since Reconstruction. Though this news made me excited for the opportunity to teach in a new discipline, it also immediately brought to mind a humbling reality: I haven’t taken a history class in years! For this reason and others, I was excited when the folks at Rodale agreed to send a review copy of The Intellectual Devotional: American History: Revive Your Mind, Complete Your Education, and Converse Confidently about Our Nation’s Past.

One reason I enjoy TID:AH so much is that it’s simply been an enjoyable way to relearn US History. Organized like a daily devotional, TID:AH covers a different person, place, event, or term each day. The first paragraph of each entry effectively summarizes the importance of the day’s topic (for example, “World War I” or “American Imperialism” or “Langston Hughes”), and the remaining paragraphs, using a slightly smaller font, treat the subject in greater detail. And, for the true historical trivia buffs, there’s also a trio of interesting facts at the bottom of each day’s entry–more often than not, I find myself underlining at least one of these.

However, the format wouldn’t help much if Kidder and Oppenheim were shoddy historians; thankfully, they are far from it. It’s amazing how well the authors treat a person like “Theodore Roosevelt” or a topic like “The Military Industrial Complex” in such small space. TID:AH contains efficient, engaging prose that keeps a reader flipping the pages.

I enjoy reading this book as a Christian because it allows me to see American History through a fairly balanced lens. Of the Christians I came across in the book–for example, there is an entry on Williams Jennings Bryan–I found a refreshing lack of bias either for or against the man. Additionally, for those characters who are decidedly non-Christian–Victoria Woodhull, for example–the authors take an equally non-slanted approach. This even-keeled approach to history allows the reader to prayerfully consider each day’s topic, learning from both its praiseworthy and shameful aspects. In an age when pundits reign over the airwaves and preach their own versions of American history, the Christian thinker will benefit from the approach taken by TID:AH.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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About davestuartjr
Dave Stuart Jr. is a full-time teacher who writes about becoming better, saner teachers at TeachingtheCore.com. He is a follower of Jesus Christ, a husband to Crystal, and a father to Hadassah, Laura, and Marlena.

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