Top shelf picks: Best Business Books 2020

Narratives

Jim Rasenberger’s book Revolver: Sam Colt and the Six-Shooter That Changed America (Scribner, 2020), the year’s best narrative, tells the tale of Sam Colt, who helped Americans conquer the West. The great gift of Revolver is that this story about a man who invented a gun is also a story about entrepreneurship, how America came to be, the dark side of innovation, and of course, why history matters. Before Colt’s inventions in the 1830s and 1840s, guns had to be painstakingly reloaded between shots, rendering them less effective against highly skilled Native American warriors armed with arrows. The Colt revolver changed the game, both in America’s westward expansion and in its annexation of Texas. Colt’s revolver had an equally profound, although perhaps more appealing, effect on manufacturing. Because gun manufacturing at scale had to use machines to make parts that were interchangeable, Rasenberger writes that Colt “was a pioneer of the technological revolution of the 1850s that had nearly as much impact on the world as the American political revolution of the 1770s.”

—Adapted from “Narratives,” by Bethany McLean



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