The Past Is Never Dead. It’s Not Even Past.
If your beach book bag is not yet full, I recommend two American history books.
I Invented the Modern Age — The Rise of Henry Ford, by Richard Snow (Scribner) surveys the whole life, but focuses on Ford’s early years and his invention of the Model T. Ford is a character — genius, benefactor and monster in equal parts. Snow has a great eye and ear for anecdotes, a wry humor, and crystal-clear prose. What do roller bearings do? He explained it so that even I understood it.
When you’re done with Ford, buy The Manor — Three Centuries at a Slave Plantation on Long Island, by Mac Griswold (Farrar, Straus and Giroux — out July 2) and visit the un-modern age — a colonial plantation on Shelter Island, dating back to the 17th century, whose core is still intact. There you’ll meet slaves, Indians, Quakers and an old old family of almost Gothic antiquity and complication.