Simon Winchester is a Briton who is absolutely head-over-heels in love with America and all things American, which is a bit surprising, really, for a member in good standing of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire .
But love it he does, so much so that he wrote The Men Who United the States, a very charming and meticulously researched celebration of America’s enduring unity and the various people and historical forces that have made it possible.
His approach is quite original: he places the basic themes behind the country’s establishment and development in the context of the five classical elements – wood, earth, water, fire and metal .
Wood? Think wilderness exploration. Earth: the discovery of rich mineral deposits. Water: power generation and transport. Fire: the combustion engine. Metal: the telegraph wire.
This book is clearly aimed at those who share Winchester’s unbridled enthusiasm for US history, but his quirky, entertaining approach makes it broadly appealing.