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Review: Stuff Every American Should Know

July 4, 2014

Stuff Every American Should Know

Denise Kiernan and Joseph D’Agnese have complied a list of things they think everyone should know in a handy little pocket sized book titled Stuff Every American Should Know.  It’s a fun little book, even if you don’t agree with all of the authors’ choices.  As a matter of fact, they really don’t expect you to.

This book, which purports to be about stuff every American should know, is admittedly selective, idiosyncratic, and likely to touch off arguments.

As you would expect, I agreed with many of the things they included, like “What does the Bill of Rights allow me to do?” and “What’s a bicameral congross?”  There were quite a few things that I thought were fun but not things that are necessary to know like “Ten Things You Can Make with a Bandana” and “Who invented blue jeans?” I was dismayed to see that I’ve only read two of the books on their list of “Ten Books Every American Should Read”:

  1. Common Sense by Thomas Paine
  2. The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay
  3. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  4. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  5. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  6. The Grapes of Wrath by John Stienbeck
  7. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  8. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  9. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
  10. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown

The last section of the book explains that in order to become a U. S. Citizen, immigrants must pass a test on U. S. history and government.   Tests are made up of 10 random questions out of a pool of 100, and applicants must answer 6 correctly to pass.  Kiernan and D’Agnese include 10 of the questions and answers and I had fun quizzing everyone I know – needless to say, most people did not score that well.  Stuff Every American Should Know is a quick, fun read that would make a great gift.

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23 Comments leave one →
  1. July 4, 2014 4:19 am

    Golly Kathy, I can’t believe it. I’ve read three of those ten: Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. While out on a summer break, I remember reading Gone With The Wind. It took me the whole summer. I’ve read TAOHF by Mark Twain simply because it never really excites me like it does other people. Each time I try for the excitement and, it doesn’t happen.
    Because I am an African American. That’s the reason I read Invisible Man. For me it wasn’t an easy book to read. There is one scene I remember. An older couple are being evicted from their home in New York. I also remember the strange way the main character was treated on one of his few jobs. I’ve started Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Stowe more than once. It’s wonderful. Have never finished it. I think because the print is always too small.
    I like the title of this book. I know it would prove my lack of knowledge. There is so much to know. The poor school teachers couldn’t tell us everything. Plus at times, I was busy passing notes to whomever sat in front or beside me.

  2. July 4, 2014 4:20 am

    I ended up on your blog. Don’t know how I got there. lol.

  3. July 4, 2014 7:49 am

    I’ve read four. I was following the questions for Aussie immigration. Who was Don Bradman, What is pavlova and what is Waltzing Matilda. I was amazed that most people did not know any. For anyone from the Indian sub continent not to know Bradman is literally a hanging of fence! He is a cricketing legend.

  4. July 4, 2014 8:05 am

    Looks like a fun book.Guess I’ve got some reading to do! ;-)

  5. July 4, 2014 8:52 am

    One of my American colleagues used to have fun asking immigrant colleagues questions that every American “should” know about, and then he would joke that he, as an American did not really know all the answers nor worried about it, but immigrants had to know more about this country than citizens, anyways, because they took the test eventually.

  6. July 4, 2014 9:07 am

    Sounds like an amusing read. I would probably fail that test- I’m awful at history, popular culture questions. I’ve read four of the books listed- tried another twice and ditched it (Catch-22) and have been wanting to read two others- Bury My Heart and Gone with the Wind. The first two look boring, and the Invisible Man I had thought I’d read, but turns out I was thinking of the one by H.G. Wells! (which wouldn’t be on this list anyways)

  7. July 4, 2014 9:17 am

    Sounds like a fun book to quiz people about!

  8. July 4, 2014 9:55 am

    Oh my, I haven’t read any of those books, but then again I’m Canadian.

  9. July 4, 2014 2:36 pm

    Oh, this does sound like a fun book. I’d like to take the quiz myself!

  10. July 4, 2014 3:04 pm

    I surprised myself! I read 6 but I was an English Lit major for a while!

  11. July 4, 2014 5:19 pm

    I’ve only read 3 of the books on the list. The book sounds interesting, Kathy! Trivia is so fun–but I agree, there are certain things that I think every American should know about their own country.

  12. Beth F permalink
    July 5, 2014 8:49 am

    I haven’t read all of the Federalist Papers, but I’ve read some of them. I’ve read all the rest. But some were through work. Sounds like an interesting book to look through. Reading lists, law, and bandana tricks!

  13. July 5, 2014 11:46 am

    This sounds like a lot of fun–and informative. Good for me reading to Scott during roadtrips. LOL! My dad became a US citizen a few years ago and had to take the test. Even after living in the states for 20+ years he still had to study quite a bit for it! I’ve read five of the books on the list but I can’t believe I still haven’t read Uncle Tom’s Cabin!

  14. July 5, 2014 12:02 pm

    I’ve read 4, which is not a good percentage. I can see why this book may set off arguments because, in my opinion, Americans today do not subscribe to the same set of values our forefathers did.

  15. July 5, 2014 12:35 pm

    This would be so fun. I’ve read all of those books, except “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown” I guess I’ve done well. I wonder how I would do on the quiz.

  16. lisaalmedasumner permalink
    July 5, 2014 1:50 pm

    This looks like a good resource for my classroom. I’ve read 6 out of the 10 recommended books. I keep meaning to read Uncle Tom’s Cabin but admit I am put off by the length. I agree with Topaz Shell that Invisible Man is very difficult to read–but also one of the best books I have ever read.

  17. July 5, 2014 7:28 pm

    Nice book pick for the fourth of July! I’m sure I’d do terrible on that quiz.

  18. July 6, 2014 3:22 pm

    I would love this book. I’m going to have to get it!

  19. bookingmama permalink
    July 7, 2014 10:48 am

    Fun book and perfect to feature for the holiday! Evidently, I need to read a few more of those books!

  20. July 7, 2014 5:04 pm

    I’ve read five. I think. Maybe.

  21. July 9, 2014 9:15 pm

    I’ve only read 2 of those books!

  22. Jennifer permalink
    July 11, 2014 8:20 pm

    I love the idea of this book.

    I’ve actually read excerpts from many of the books on your list (and I’ve at least heard and know the gist of all of them).

    I studied America in different disciplines throughout high school and college. I’m still baffled by how much I don’t know despite my years of study!

  23. July 16, 2014 3:30 pm

    I like history and factoids so this little book does sound like a lot of fun to me. thanks for spotlighting it.

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