Tom MacWright

I read How to Hide an Empire by Daniel Immerwahr on


I went into this book with high expectations, and it met them. This is a pretty great book.

It’s kind of one of those history of everything style books: we read about hundreds of years of history, stopping for a chapter to magnify a few days into a story that both connects the narrative and gives you some fun facts. And boy, it has some fun facts, everything from the origin of the brand name “Sony” to the historical accuracy of Bond plots.

So, in getting there, it’s a bunch of different books in one. There was one that I stalled out on: specifically, war. It becomes sort of a “war book” in the middle, and I really lost momentum there. History was never my strong suit, and war much less: battles don’t make good stories for me.

But, that was just one of the many forms this took.

My only wish was that it spent a little more time on the final era, what it calls the “pointillist empire” of military bases. It’s great to read about their impact on culture (were The Beatles jump-started by the American culture they absorbed by their proximity to a military base near Liverpool?), but I wanted a little more about how they were established in the first place, and whether that presence is expanding or contracting. There must be another book for that.

Highly recommended: Immerwahr manages to be both poignant and fun, and convincingly argues the point that America has created an empire that’s rarely recognized as such.


  • How to Hide an Empire by
  • ISBN: 0374172145
  • ISBN13: 9780374172145
  • OCLC: 1086608761
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  • Published:
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux