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In its starred review, Kirkus Reviews declares American Gun “superb history,” “insightful,” “meticulously researched,” and “impressively informed.” “Ultimately, readers gain an unsettling and timely understanding of how ‘a device created to protect America [is] wounding it.’ A riveting exploration of the cost of the nation’s fascination with an iconic weapon.”
The New York Times chose American Gun for its select reading list of new books being published in September. It wrote: "An important book on a sadly topical subject, American Gun, by two reporters for The Wall Street Journal, enlists formidable research and reporting in the service of explaining how an assault rifle developed for military use by a Marine veteran and self-taught engineer in the 1950s was marketed to civilians, eventually becoming the weapon of choice for perpetrators of mass shootings."
In its list of "30 books We can’t wait to read this fall," The Los Angeles Times says of American Gun: "The authors weave Stoner’s story alongside a propulsive, often wrenching tale of politicking and ever-escalating rhetoric." In its list of books to read in September, the Times says: "The authors meticulously interview many people on all sides of the debate over this tragically iconic weapon of war."
The Washington Post recommends American Gun for its "29 books to read this fall." The Post says, "This biography of a weapon, written by two Wall Street Journal reporters, traces the AR-15 from its invention in the 1950s as a lightweight tool of war to its current ubiquity as the gun of choice for many of the country’s mass shooters."
Harper's writes that American Gun’s “reporting astonishes..." and adds that the book's section on mass shootings "accrues with devastating force..."
Publishers Weekly states in its review: "Wall Street Journal reporters McWhirter (Red Summer) and Elinson tell a captivating tale of unintended consequences in this deeply researched history of the AR-15...The result is a fascinating genealogy of a weapon that has become the flashpoint of the contemporary gun control debate."
Jonathan Eig, author of King: A Life: "American Gun is an unforgettable story of American ingenuity and mayhem, built with hard-core reporting and gripping prose. This is social history at its finest."
The Millions Most Anticipated Books of 2023: "With mass shootings now endemic to American life, two veteran Wall Street Journal journalists look at one of the most common culprits—the AR-15—to figure out how we got here. Tracing the weapon’s history and embrace by the gun industry, the duo reveals the various financial, political, and cultural interests at play in the horrific assent of a killing machine. Esteemed MLK biographer Jonathan Eig calls this 'social history at its finest.' "
Lit Hub’s Most Anticipated Books of 2023: "I can’t tell you how sorry I am that we need this history of the AR-15, from Wall Street Journal reporters McWhirter and Elinson, which seeks to answer the question: 'How did the same gun represent the essence of freedom to millions of Americans and the essence of evil to millions more?' And yet need it we do."
James Pekoll: “This is an excellent, thoroughly researched synthesis…presented in an even-handed manner that has the potential to bridge the divide between all but the most committed partisans. Such a highly charged subject deserves a well-written analysis, grounded in facts and presented with journalistic detachment, and McWhirter and Elinson deliver on all counts.”
Hank Klibanoff, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and co-author of The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation: "American Gun is an engrossing read. It is both a revealing biography and a thorough autopsy of a historical figure that resides in millions of American homes: the AR-15 rifle, the destructive weapon of choice in many mass killings and a source of heartbreak that gnaws at the souls of millions of Americans every day."
Paul S. Barrett, the author of Glock: The Rise of America's Gun: This book should be of vital interest to both gun-rights advocates and those who would ban the AR-15 as the instrument of ruthless death at schools, Walmarts, and grocery stores. At this fraught moment, there is no more compelling symbol of the unique American fascination with ― and horror over ― firearms.
Chosen as one of the Orange County Register's 15 must-read books of the summer of 2023 and beyond.
Chosen as one of six books to read in the fall of 2023 by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Editors at Graydon Carter's new venture picked American Gun this week as one of three books not to miss. "The authors, who work for The Wall Street Journal, have done a masterful and damning job tracing the birth and development, and rampant misuse, of the AR-15, and there are heartbreaking stories elegantly told of the destruction this weapon has wrought on families and towns across the nation."