Top positive review
History Bytes, Bits, Pieces, and Other Fun Stuff, Too
October 28, 2015
As with many truncated, off the cuff, spur of the moment book reviews that litter the Internet these days, History Bytes, by Nick Vulich, tends to either get played up way too high, or summarily trounced out of hand. When writing any review it is never my intention to go to either extreme (sort of how history itself definitely should NOT be written), so despite any and all detractors (or even the folks who've actually opined that this book should be "required reading" in our nation's schools), I think it deserves at least four out of five stars.
Now, is History Bytes, as some have arguably observed, not a "real" history book? Probably not. It's most likely not university thesis material, but then not all "real" history books are as succinct, accessible, and easy to read as this one definitely is, either. So even though the author may not come off as being the preeminent history professor that every kid (young or old) really ought to have in school, it's not like he hasn't accomplished something better than average with this particular book about "historical bytes."
Yes, the writing could have been more highly polished, or could have simply been more fleshed out. And sure, there are a few of the usual eBook style typos and all that jazz that really is easy enough to overlook, but I still found reading History Bytes to be an intensely interesting, and even fun experience.
What Mr. Vulich does best here, is to take a considerable collection of somewhat disparate, though certainly important events in the history of the United States, and put them into an almost Reader's Digest type of format. This may of course not be the most scholarly or purely academic approach to ever come down the literary pike, mind you, but it is certainly effective in a number of ways.
One of the strong points of the book is just how effortlessly the author is able to guide the reader through a rapid fire succession of key historical moments in American history. The thing that really does bite, however, is that some of the most important stuff gets either glossed over, or ends up feeling decidedly incomplete. That's good and bad though, of course. It's good because all those juicy tidbits and factoids that the author tosses up into the literary ether actually serve to whet ones appetite to go out and read a more in-depth, "real" history book! And what's wrong with that, right?
The downside is that Mr. Vulich's habit of throwing factoids and quotes about all willy-nilly, sort of belies the fact that there's always more to it than THAT when it comes to history! Yet, that said, surely, one must also concede that the author isn't necessarily inaccurate about any of the information he seems to so nonchalantly run rough shod over. For example; yes, the way America expanded during the 18th and 19th century wasn't always pretty or even particularly just, but the lack of detail, or even a particularly rigorous or scholarly methodology that would have more effectively presented a more multifaceted view of the events covered, is quite noticeably lacking.
What's more, Mr. Vulich really doesn't seem to attempt to distance himself all that much from the material. In fact, in many cases, he doesn't make any bones about how he personally views the various historical figures and significant events included in the book. He's more cheeky than anything though, and although he doesn't necessarily pronounce judgement per say, he isn't entirely nonobjective either. Most readers will surely be gratified by his take on most events though, given that many of his views really don't seem to differ all that much from how most modern, mainstream, politically correct thinkers view certain aspects of American history.
History Bytes is still a pretty darn interesting book, however. For me, the beginning and the end were the most enthralling. No, Vulich's writing style definitely isn't Shakespeare (much less Stephen E. Ambrose), but when profiling many of the famous Western outlaws, for example, his prose is often delightfully right on target, as well as refreshingly frank and to the point. So much so, that I found myself highlighting the heck out of the book, just to hopefully remember all those deliciously fact filled sentences and paragraphs!
Lastly, even though I really do recommend this book, I most certainly wouldn't think of it as gospel in any way, shape, or form. But that's exactly why I've still got to hand it to Nick Vulich. Instead of trying to write witty little factoids about his own presumably interesting history in the "About the Author section" at the end of the book, he instead, quite frankly and admirably admits that, "there are at least two sides to every story. Some readers are going to disagree with my choices, and that’s the way it should be. History is fluid, and we reinterpret the facts from generation to generation. Just remember, there are two sides to every story, and what you choose to believe depends upon your perspective." How very true, and exceptionally well put! And, I really must concede, I could have hardly said it better myself.