Remembering, Reading and Listening to David McCullough

David Gaub McCullough, American author, narrator, popular historian, and lecturer, passed away on August 7th at the age of 89. He was a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. In 2006, he was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom, one of the United States’ highest civilian awards. His first book was The Johnstown Flood (1968), and he wrote nine more on such topics as Harry S. Truman, John Adams, Theodore Roosevelt, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Panama Canal, and the Wright brothers. McCullough also narrated numerous documentaries, such as The Civil War by Ken Burns, as well as the 2003 film Seabiscuit, and he hosted American Experience for twelve years.

McCullough’s books were translated into dozens of languages and made into movies and TV shows. His two Pulitzer Prize–winning books, Truman and John Adams, were adapted by HBO into a TV film and a miniseries, respectively.  His books are detailed and often lengthy, but bring history to life with vivid storytelling.

Daniel Lewis writes in the New York Times obituary, “Deep research and lively readability were hallmarks of his books, and so was their tendency to leap off the shelves. Critics saluted him as a literary master, adept at imbuing the familiar with narrative drama and bringing momentous events to life through small details and the accounts of individual witnesses.”

According to NPR’s All Things Considered “The subjects McCullough tackled were massive. The building of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Panama Canal. The shaping of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. He wrote about epic figures, from Theodore Roosevelt to the Wright Brothers. McCullough seemed undaunted by his topics; they were fun for him and he made the subjects enchanting for readers. “

McCullough’s biography of Truman was a publishing sensation in 1992 And topped the New York Times best-seller list for nearly a year.

Below is a selection of this celebrated writer’s  books which you can borrow in print, e-book, or audiobook format using your Livingston Library card.

The American Spirit : Who We Are And What We Stand For

A collection of speeches by the Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winning historian and biographer. Arranged chronologically, the texts of these speeches, most were university graduation talks, reveal both McCullough’s passion for history and his profound belief in America, or at least his vision of America, which is both encompassing and deeply hopeful.

Brave Companions : Portraits In History

A collection of portraits of the men and women who changed history includes discussions of Lewis and Clark, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Harry Truman, Franklin Roosevelt, Beryl Markham, Amelia Earhart, and others.

The Great Bridge : The Epic Story Of The Building Of The Brooklyn Bridge (Borrow on BCCLS)

The dramatic and enthralling story of the building of the Brooklyn Bridge, the world’s longest suspension bridge at the time, a tale of greed, corruption, and obstruction but also of optimism, heroism, and determination.

The Greater Journey : Americans In Paris, 1830-1900

This is the enthralling, inspiring–and until now, untold–story of the adventurous American artists, writers, doctors, politicians, architects, and others of high aspiration who set off for Paris in the years between 1830 and 1900, ambitious to excel in their work. Not content to focus on a few of the 19th-century American artists, doctors and statesmen who benefited enormously from their Parisian education, McCullough embraces a cluster of aspiring young people such as portraitist George Healy and lawyer Charles Sumner, eager to expand their horizons in the 1830s by enduring the long sea passage, then spirals out to include numerous other visitors over an entire eventful century.

John Adams

The author paints a portrait of Adams, the patriot,America’s founding father and second president  in the fullest sense of the word. The reader is treated to engaging descriptions and accounts of Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin, among others, as well as the significant figures in the Adams family: Abigail, John’s love and full partner, and son John Quincy. In tracing Adams’s life from childhood through his many critical, heroic, and selfless acts during the Revolution, his vice presidency under Washington, and his own term as president, the full measure of Adams a man widely regarded in his time as the equal of Jefferson, Hamilton, and all of the other Founding Fathers is revealed.

The Johnstown Flood (Borrow on BCCLS)

The stunning story of one of America’s great disasters—the collapse of a poorly constructed dam and the resulting flood which killed 2,000 people and caused a nationwide scandal.

Mornings On Horseback : The Story Of An Extraordinary Family, A Vanished Way Of Life, And The Unique Child Who Became Theodore Roosevelt

Tells the story of how young Teddy Roosevelt transformed himself from a sickly boy into the vigorous man who would become a war hero and ultimately president of the United States.

The Path Between The Seas : The Creation Of The Panama Canal, 1870-1914 (Borrow on BCCLS)

Describes all the events and personalities involved in the monumental undertaking which precipitated revolution, scandal, economic crisis, and a new Central American republic.

The Pioneers : The Heroic Story Of The Settlers Who Brought The American Ideal West

McCullough tells the story of the settlers who began America’s migration west, overcoming almost-unimaginable hardships to build in the Ohio wilderness a town and a government that incorporated America’s highest ideals.

1776

McCullough presents, in a book of breathtaking excitement, drama, and narrative force, the stirring story of the year of our nation’s birth, 1776, interweaving, on both sides of the Atlantic, the actions and decisions that led Great Britain to undertake a war against her rebellious colonial subjects and that placed America’s survival in the hands of George Washington.

Truman (Borrow on BCCLS)

A biography of the U.S. president explores Truman’s brutal frontier childhood, his education, his dogged optimism, and his rise through the ranks of the Pendergast machine that controlled Missouri politics.

The Wright Brothers

An outstanding saga of the lives of two men who left such a giant footprint on our modern age. McCullough exhibits his artist’s touch in re-creating the lives of the Wright brothers, their father, and their sister Katharine from historical documents. Mining their letters, notebooks, and diaries, McCullough shows the Wright brothers (snubbed by the British as mere bicycle mechanics) for the important techno scientists they were. 

Documentaries narrated by McCullough

Abraham And Mary Lincoln : A House Divided

Brooklyn Bridge

The Civil War

The Great San Francisco Earthquake

-Archana, Adult Services & Acquisitions Librarian

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