The Greater Journey, by David McCullough

In the 1830s most Americans were finding plenty of adventure in their own country. It was just over 50 years old, after all. Some were trudging along the new Oregon Trail; some were pushing Native Americans west of the Mississippi with legislation or guns; others were involved in increasingly volatile arguments over slavery.

But not all Americans were thinking about America. Dozens of young adults were heading east instead of west, across the Atlantic Ocean to France. David McCullough immersed himself in their letters, diaries, lectures and memoirs and has shaped the material into a fine popular history of both individual travelers and the French era that they sailed into.

As McCullough's editor, Michael Korda, said in a USA Today interview, McCullough is "driven by stories and by people, not just facts." The result is rich storytelling, with engaging short biographies that are part of a larger narrative of Paris as experienced between 1829, when painter and inventor Samuel Morse crossed the ocean, and 1900, when Paris hosted the Exposition Uni­verselle of 1889.