Book Review-The Presidents Club

There's a place, a physical space, where the former Presidents of the United States meet. And then there's a place, more of a mental and attitudinal state, where this same group exists for the purpose of helping whomever has the blessing or burden of serving as President of the United States in current time. Two journalists in Washington DC, Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy, have collaborated on a … [Read more...]

The Flight of the Intellectuals by Paul Berman

War divides. In American history the division caused by war is not just between one side and the other on the battlefield. It's also between those who support in and believe in the war and its waging, and those who do not. In this sense, the two wars that flowed out of 9-11—Afghanistan and the Second Gulf War—were no different than any other war in American history. They divided. Paul Berman … [Read more...]

1877: The Year of Violence by Robert Bruce

Can you express time in distance? What is the equivalent in distance, for example, of 136 years? I’ll use history to suggest one possible answer. If you look at the United States and the American experience in 1877 and ask yourself how far we’ve come by 2013, I’d say a good argument can be made for this answer—about 15 inches, roughly one full step. Not much more. I measured my distance … [Read more...]

The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell

Entry #21 – The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell What do you do when you start reading a book and, unless something drastically changes, you know you aren't going to like it? That's the question that I had to answer with The Wordy Shipmates. And no, nothing drastically changed. I ended where I began—with an intense dislike of this work. But still, some good came out of it. Hang on and we'll … [Read more...]

Manhunt-The 12-Day Chase For Lincoln’s Killer by James Swanson

They say history is dull. They say history is dry. They say history is dreary. I say they’re nuts. And I point to this book as proof of my point. Dramatic, lively, and gripping—these are the words that describe Swanson’s book on chasing Lincoln’s killer, one of the best historical works I’ve read in recent years. The most outstanding feature of Manhunt is the writing, the author’s result. … [Read more...]

Strategy and Compromise by Samuel Eliot Morison

A long time ago people cared about the books and articles written by this man. Now, hardly anyone would know who he was, let alone what he wrote or said or thought. Yes, it was a long, long time ago. At first, this review was all about tribute. I wanted to honor someone whose writings I had first read in my days in graduate school. Samuel Eliot Morison was one of the three or four most … [Read more...]

The President, The Pope, and the Prime Minister: Three Who Changed The World by John O’Sullivan

During ten years three leaders shared the pursuit of one objective. The ten years spanned 1979 through 1989, the three leaders were Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II, and the one objective was the downfall of the Soviet Union and its sponsorship of communism world-wide. This is the story ably told by John L. O’Sullivan in The President, The Pope, and the Prime Minister: Three … [Read more...]

American Bloomsbury – Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau: Their Lives, Their Loves, Their Work by Susan Cheever

They live in separate houses. They have different families. They conduct distinct lives. Yet, they form into a tight-knit group. Over time, their closeness even transcends the gaps of home, family, and daily life. You will see them together and when you see one of them apart, you wonder where the rest of them are. They are a number of people in your organization, or your neighborhood, or your … [Read more...]

46 Pages: Thomas Paine, Common Sense, and the Turning Point to Independence by Scott Liell

I applaud loudly for Scott Liell, author of this book. He tries to take a single writing and writer, Common Sense by Thomas Paine, and show us nearly two hundred forty years later its meaning and significance. Liell skates on the thin ice of few sources but regardless: applause all round. I read Liell’s book at the best time of year for such a topic, the summer and its high national holiday, … [Read more...]

Big Chief Elizabeth by Giles Milton

“Run out and buy a copy.” “Couldn’t put it down.” “Wish they’d make it into a movie but in the end a great book never does well on film.” These are just a few of the many superlative remarks I offer to you about Milton’s book. And yes, this is straight-shooting. I’m not being glib or sarcastic. Don’t stop reading this review, however, because I think you’ll want to learn a little more about my … [Read more...]