The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell
I've read two of Vowell's previous books: "Assasination Vacation" and "The Partly Cloudy Patriot" and LOVED them, so I was really looking forward to this one. And it didn't disappoint. This one is a little less funny, though, what with all the Native American slaughter and such.
Relying heavily on John Winthrop's journals and famous sermon "A Model of Christian Charity" as a worldview lens, Vowell takes the reader on an eye-opening tale of the founding of the Massachussetts Bay colony. She interweaves Winthrop's story with those of John Cotton, Anne Hutchinson, and John Williams, among others.
What I found most interesting about this history was the contradiction between our Puritan founders' ideals and those of most modern Americans. In fact, evangelical Christians, who seem to stake a claim as the voice of "our nation's Christian founders", probably diverge from the Puritans ideals most of all (although many might agree with the "eye for an eye" justice meted out in Puritan courts!) Vowell dives to the depths of Puritan theology and how that worldview shaped everything in their lives, encompassing both their charity (sharing with one another) and ruthlessness (burning Indian women and children alive.) It's a complex, brutal, and ultimately, enlightening story about some of the founders of this complex, brutal, and enlightening nation. A must read.