Book Review: American Gun

Hi, I’m Keith Greenawalt from the Dillsburg Area Public Library, part of York County Libraries. I’ve been reading American Gun: A History of the U.S. in Ten Firearms by Chris Kyle with William Doyle, available on Axis360 with your library card.

This book is in line with what I typically read: non-fiction, especially military history. It’s author, Chris Kyle, is also the author of the memoir American Sniper, which was turned into a 2014 feature film of the same name starring Bradley Cooper. Kyle was a decorated Navy Seal who served several tours in Iraq. He was murdered in 2013 before the book was finished.

The book itself does what it says: It tells the American story through ten iconic firearms. Kyle uses these weapons to tell how America achieved its independence, won wars, and settled the west. The ten firearms Kyle uses cover gambit of American history from colonial days to modern times and everything in between. Among the ten firearms are the well-known Colt Single Action Army of the Old West and the  Thompson Submachine Gun that made the 1920s roar.

American Gun articulates the stories of good guys and bad guys. It touches on the characters that used or were involved with these weapons, from famous and notable names like Abraham Lincoln, Samuel Colt, George Custer, Wyatt Earp, and Theodore Roosevelt to less well-known names like Daniel Morgan, John Garand, and John Basilone. That’s a common trend in this book, the well-known mixed with the unknown.

I like that this book is about stories. It’s not a history or technical manual of the weapons themselves, but the stories of the people that used them and how they used them to change and shape history. Kyle mixes stories that we’ve all probably heard at least once or twice with stories that you haven’t. Even the stories we’ve all heard, or are at least familiar with, are told in fascinating detail. My favorite example of this is Kyle’s retelling of the Shootout at the O.K. Corral. You almost feel like you’re in that vacant lot in 1881.

While this book is not a technical history, Kyle does interweave some of the development of firearms. The backstory and development of weapons like the 1911 pistol or the M1 Garand are stories worth reading. Firearms are fundamentally a technology, and advances in that technology has meant the difference between life and death.

Guns are controversial items. There is no getting around that. Kyle does a pretty good job of keeping modern-day politics out of the book. While this book clearly puts firearms in a historically positive light and Kyle was clearly pro-firearms, this book is much more a history than a political diatribe. Your opinions of firearms are not going to change based on this book.

This book is different than Kyle’s other book: American Sniper. It’s a history, not a memoir. That being said, if you like this book you would like American Sniper.

Kyle is a good storyteller, whether he is telling his own story or others. This book doesn’t read like a history, Kyle is not a historian. He tells stories worth telling, stories worth reading, and stories worth remembering.

If you want to check out this or other eBook and eAudio titles, go to our website, go to the “What Can I Do?” menu, then “Books, Music, & Movies ” and click on ” eBooks.”

(This is a script to a video I recorded for YCL social media, might as well include it here – KLG)