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Extended Audio Sample The American Future, by Simon Schama Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (302 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Simon Schama Narrator: Rupert Dega Publisher: HarperCollins Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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Acclaimed historian and award-winning author Simon Schama offers an essential historical perspective on the crucial 2008 presidential election and its importance for reclaiming America's original ideal.

It's not business as usual. Cultural hostilities more irreconcilable than any since the Civil War have divided America in two. In November 2008, the American people elected a new president, feeling more anxious about the future of the nation than at any time since Watergate. Our omnipotent military, the cornucopia of material comforts available, the security of our borders, and the global economy can no longer be taken for granted.

In The American Future, historian Simon Schama takes a long look at the multiple crises besetting the United States and asks how these problems look in the mirror of time. In four crucial debates—on wars, religion, race and immigration, and the relationship between natural resources and prosperity—Schama looks back to see more clearly into the future. Full of lost insights, The American Future showcases Schama's acclaimed gift for storytelling, ensuring these voices will be heard again.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “I hope Obama will have this book on his bedside table. A more inspiring evocation of the spirit of liberal America—past, present and future—does not exist.”

    Niall Ferguson New York Times bestselling author

  • “It is a tribute to Mr. Schama’s talent that he is able to make this work sound exciting, even inspiring…The American Future is a success because Mr. Schama knows how to entwine past and present into a meaningful, continuous whole.”

    New York Times

  • The American Future demonstrates once again that Schama is a quick study, a writer of gorgeous prose, and that he has a deep and clear-eyed love for his adopted land.”

    Washington Post

  • “Schama's wide-ranging narratives wander between contemporary reportage…and fluent, richly literate history. He's alive to irony and hypocrisy in the American story…but Schama is optimistic that the nation's perennial openness and complexity can see it through the storm clouds ahead.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Schama is a genius of storytelling…A historian who radiates such anticipated pleasure is a rare thing. We are lucky to have him.”

    Times (London)

  • “An optimistic work that asserts the inherent strengths of American optimism and commitment to democratic ideals.”


  • “Schama is a masterful stylist and storyteller.”

    Boston Globe

  • An AudioFile Earphones Award winner

Listener Opinions

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 by Pat | 2/12/2014

    " Sorry, I got bored. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Caroline | 2/2/2014

    " This isn't so much of a history of America as it is a history of how Americans view the future. Perhaps of all countries America has always been the most progressive and forward-looking, not in the usual liberal sense of the words, but in the sense of moving forward, seeing what's next. The most obvious example of this is the exploring of the West and Manifest Destiny. Obviously this spirit of pushing forwards, pushing out has casualties, and this book explores that particularly well - the cataclysm of the Civil War, the nativist backlash to immigration, the betrayal of American principles with the Mexican war, the genocide of the Native Americans. Schama writes wonderfully well; he has a very witty, wry tone, and this is an excellent read, albeit a little fragmented. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Miguel | 2/2/2014

    " Schama's prose becomes more self-indulgent with every book he writes, and this tome takes the tendency to a new extreme. I watched the BBC series beforehand and was dazzled by the episode on "American Plenty", learning for the first time about John Wesley Powell and finding out that Las Vegas is the most conservation-conscious city in the West. Sadly, that was not the chapter that stood out the most in the book (the narrative of the Trail of Tears seems misplaced). The most original thesis is in "American Fervor", where he posits that religious tolerance handed down from the founding fathers is he best way to engage religious fundamentalism. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by David Cheshire | 1/29/2014

    " This is not a narrative history, more a history built of many narratives, from which themes emerge, such as "American fervour" (religion)and "American plenty" (economy). It's not a book you can skip or dip into; more an extended essay, it asks commitment from the reader. But it's worth it. Through the selection of less familiar figures whose stories are woven into the bigger picture and used as archetypes fresh insights emerge; like how for American soldiers the regiment or unit does not replace family as much as in Europe; and how double edged attitudes to immigrants have been, far from the unambiguous welcome of the Statue of Liberty (composed by a Jewish poet). The account of the mistreatment meted out to the Chinese labourers who built the railroads is shocking. There are some moving quotes; some well-known (Jefferson's "Whereas God hath made the mind free...") others not (a God-fearing civil rights warrior defied death-threats: "I was not saved to run..."). He is good on how British attempts to keep their colonies defensible by boxing-in territorial expansion made the revolution inevitable, and how noone ever won an Americal election "by lecturing Americans about limits." Freedom is the freedom "to move on" and Appollo is mischievously described as "the ultimate meaningless road trip". I warmed to this book as a quirky, often subjective account, history coupled to personal reflection, one of the legitimate uses of history, and one that Schama is rather good at. "

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About the Author
Author Simon Schama

Simon Schama is a professor of art history and history at Columbia University and is the author of numerous award-winning books; his history Rough Crossings won the National Book Critics Circle Award for nonfiction. He has been a cultural essayist for the New Yorker and has written and presented more than thirty documentaries for the BBC, PBS, and the History Channel, including The Power of Art, which won the 2007 International Emmy for Best Arts Programming.