Cell Phones, YouTube, and the Constitutional Convention of 1787

What if one of the delegates at the Constitutional Convention of 1787 had used their cell phone to record debate and then posted it on YouTube? Wow, that takes a minute to grasp. In case you aren't aware, you can buy a cell phone that has the capability to record "moving pictures", like a camcorder. You can then post the film on the internet. For many people, especially those under thirty years … [Read more...]

What if…John Wilkes Booth had not assassinated Abraham Lincoln?

What if Booth had not killed Lincoln? Put another way, what if Lincoln had lived through two complete presidential terms? In my view, had Lincoln lived and died of natural causes his reputation would reach us today in lessened form. We would not have the near Christ-like admiration that most people express for Lincoln. Conversely, we would probably still have the current minority (which is … [Read more...]

The Eloquent President by Ronald White, Jr.

All of us want to speak and write persuasively. Some of us do one or the other well. Few are masters of both. Ronald White Jr. has written a book that explores the great speeches and writings of Abraham Lincoln as president. As you gather from the title, The Eloquent President, White concludes that Lincoln is without peer or parallel in his ability to communicate from the White House, be it as … [Read more...]

Empire and Independence by Richard Van Alstyne

Don’t make the mistake of thinking an older, out-of-print book can’t offer interesting information and points of view. For me, a book written in 1965 by Richard Van Alstyne, Empire and Independence, is an example of time well-spent reading a book you can only find in quaint used book shops or on similar Internet sites. Van Alstyne’s book is brief and written for someone with a keen interest in the … [Read more...]

This Man’s Army: A Soldier’s Story From the Front Lines of the War on Terrorism, by Andrew Exum

Published in 2004, this book covers the experiences of a young man from Tennessee as he joins the Army, becomes a lieutenant, trains as a Ranger, and serves in the 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan. Andrew Exum, the author, is the lieutenant. It’s a brief book, easy to read. Exum offers an honest glimpse into the daily life of a company-grade infantry officer in the Afghan War. He does so … [Read more...]

The Times and Trials of Anne Hutchinson by Michael Winship

You likely don’t know, but my personal approach to historical reading is to keep books going in five centuries—17th, 18th, 19th, 20th, and 21st. I just completed my latest installment for the first of those centuries, the 17th. Thus we come to Anne Hutchinson, arguably the most well-known female character of 17th century America. I knew the fundamentals going into the book by Winship, nearly … [Read more...]

Jesse James, The Last Rebel of the Civil War by TJ Stiles

A dense book packed with details, The Last Rebel by TJ Stiles is an exhaustive treatment of the life of Jesse James, the most notorious bandit of the post-Civil War era. The memory of Jesse James is one-part folklore, one-part pop culture, and one-part fact. Stiles’ book alters that mix, wiping out the large fractions of myth that have built up around the prototypical Wild West bank and stage … [Read more...]

Class 11, Inside the CIA’s First Pot 9-11 Spy Class by T.J. Waters

T.J. Waters is, to the best of my understanding, an employee of the Central Intelligence Agency. He rushed to join the CIA in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Five years later, in 2006, he published a book about his training and education experiences as an aspiring spy, analyst, and staffer at the Agency. He was a rookie, one of many to comprise Class 11, trying to … [Read more...]

When the Mississippi Ran Backwards by Jay Feldman

The ground shook, the big river changed direction, and it affected people. That is the basis of this book by Jay Feldman, who added the subtitle “Empire, Intrigue, Murder, and the New Madrid Earthquakes.” That’s New Madrid, Missouri where the earthquakes referenced occurred in three major episodes from December 1811 to February 1812. Feldman tells three stories. One is how the fault line … [Read more...]

Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin

One of my friends, a man for whom I have immense respect because of his wisdom and broad reading interests, purchased a copy of Team of Rivals at my suggestion. Off he went, new book in hand. I was eager to hear his verdict. Let me repeat, word for word, his reaction to Team of Rivals. “Outside of the Bible,” he stated in an email, “the Goodwin book may be the best I’ve ever read.” I don’t … [Read more...]