Upcoming Event

John Kaag at Harvard Book Store


American Bloods:
The Untamed Dynasty
That Shaped a Nation



May 15, 2024
7:00 PM ET


Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138


This event is free; no tickets are required.

Harvard Book Store welcomes JOHN KAAG—professor of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell and bestselling author of American Philosophy: A Love Story and Hiking with Nietzsche—for a discussion of his new book American Bloods: The Untamed Dynasty That Shaped a Nation. He will be joined in conversation by REBECCA NEWBERGER GOLDSTEIN—National Medal of the Humanities awarded author of Plato at the Googleplex and Incompleteness.

About American Bloods

The Bloods were one of America’s first and most expansive pioneer families. They explored and laid claim to the frontiers—geographic, political, intellectual, and spiritual—that would become the very core of the United States. John Kaag’s American Bloods is the account of a remarkable American family, of its participation in the making of a nation, and of how its members embodied the elusive ideals enshrined in the Declaration of Independence. Kaag follows eight members of this family from the British Civil War in the seventeenth century through the founding of the colonies, the American Revolution, Transcendentalism, the Industrial Revolution, the Civil War, and the rise of first-wave feminism, all the way to the beginning of the twentieth century.

The Bloods were active participants in virtually every pivotal moment in American history, coming into contact with everyone from Emerson and Thoreau to John Brown, Frederick Douglass, Victoria Woodhull, and William James. The genealogy of the family tracks the ebb and flow of what Thoreau called “wildness,” an original untamed spirit that would recede in the making of America but would never be extinguished entirely. American Bloods is an enduring reminder of the risks and rewards that were taken in laying claim to the lands that would become the United States, and a composite portrait of America like no other.

Praise for American Bloods

"American Bloods is an unflinching history of our nation, told through the wild, fearful tales of a remarkable American dynasty. This is a breakout book for John Kaag―the natural extension of his genre-defining writing.” ―Doris Kearns Goodwin, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Leadership: In Turbulent Times

"John Kaag’s seductive book weds his empathy for the Transcendentalists―Thoreau and Emerson―with the biographer’s quest for ferreting out the astonishing, funny and highly improbable story of the American Bloods. A multi-generational biography that reveals America with all its glorious warts, this book tells a delightful tale." ―Kai Bird, Pulitzer Prize–winning biographer and director of the Leon Levy Center for Biography

"Leave it to the adventuresome philosopher John Kaag to uncover yet another hidden tale central to the history of American life and thought. He was living right on top of this one, in a house on the outskirts of Concord, Massachusetts, where a family called Blood once held title to a vast tract of New England wilderness. In a taut and spell-binding narrative, Kaag traces the Blood family’s influence through generations by singling out individuals―revolutionary, ascetic, polygamist, mystic―and finding these 'borderers' always in close connection with the central thinkers and doers of their day: Emerson, Thoreau, Cornelius Vanderbilt, William James. I couldn’t have been more surprised―and delighted―to join Kaag on this voyage of discovery." ―Megan Marshall, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Margaret Fuller: A New American Life and The Peabody Sisters: Three Women Who Ignited American Romanticism.

Masking Policy

Masks are encouraged but not required for this event.

John Kaag
John Kaag

John Kaag

John Kaag is a professor of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. He is the author of American Philosophy: A Love Story and Hiking with Nietzsche, both of which were named best books of the year by NPR. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Harper’s Magazine, The Christian Science Monitor, and many other publications. He lives outside Boston with his wife and children.

Photo Credit: Douglas Merriam

Rebecca Newberger Goldstein
Rebecca Newberger Goldstein

Rebecca Newberger Goldstein

Rebecca Newberger Goldstein received her Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton University and was Professor of Philosophy at Barnard College. She is the author of ten books, including The Mind-Body Problem, Thirty-Six Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction; Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Gödel; Betraying Spinoza: The Renegade Jew Who Gave Us Modernity; and Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away.

The recipient of numerous awards for her fiction and scholarship, including a MacArthur “Genius” Grant, in 2014, she was awarded the National Medal of the Humanities by President Obama. The citation reads: "For bringing philosophy into conversation with culture. In scholarship, Dr. Goldstein has elucidated the ideas of Spinoza and Gödel, while in fiction, she deploys wit and drama to help us understand the great human conflict between thought and feeling.” 

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1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

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