Third or fourth time around for me. One of my favorites and a source of great strength and wisdom.
Exhaustive, but exhausting. I lost interest.
Biography done right. Reads like a novel.
The true story for fans of the PBS Masterpiece series Victoria, this page-turning biography reveals the real woman behind the myth: a bold, glamorous, unbreakable queen.
Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of white working-class Americans. The decline of this group, a demographic of our country that has been slowly disintegrating over forty years, has been reported on with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. J. D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck.
The Vance family story begins hopefully in postwar America. J. D.’s grandparents were “dirt poor and in love,” and moved north from Kentucky’s Appalachia region to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. They raised a middle-class family, and eventually their grandchild (the author) would graduate from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of their success in achieving generational upward mobility.
But as the family saga of Hillbilly Elegy plays out, we learn that this is only the short, superficial version. Vance’s grandparents, aunt, uncle, sister, and, most of all, his mother, struggled profoundly with the demands of their new middle-class life, and were never able to fully escape the legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma so characteristic of their part of America. Vance piercingly shows how he himself still carries around the demons of their chaotic family history.
A deeply moving memoir with its share of humor and vividly colorful figures, Hillbilly Elegy is the story of how upward mobility really feels. And it is an urgent and troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large segment of this country.
Meacham is one of my favorite authors. American Lion is terrifically done.
I devoured this on a recent flight to California. Fascinating story. The true story of a man who lived alone in a tent in the Maine woods, never talking to another person and surviving by stealing supplies from nearby cabins for twenty-seven years.
In 1986, twenty-year-old Christopher Knight left his home in Massachusetts, drove to Maine, and disappeared into the woods. He would not have a conversation with another human being until nearly three decades later when he was arrested for stealing food. Living in a tent even in winter, he had survived by his wits and courage, developing ingenious ways to store food and water, to avoid freezing to death. He broke into nearby cottages for food, clothes, reading material, and other provisions, taking only what he needed, but terrifying a community never able to solve the mysterious burglaries. Based on extensive interviews with Knight himself, this is a vividly detailed account of the why and how of his secluded life--as well as the challenges he has faced returning to the world.
My only complaint: Finkel--inappropriately and uncomfortably, in my view--inserts himself into the story and Knight's life. Ironic that Finkel writes about a man's search for solitude then does his level best to intrude on that solitude.
One of my favorites. This is a day-by-day account of the eighty-day struggle in 1940 between Hitler—poised on the edge of absolute victory—and Churchill—threatened by imminent invasion and defeat--on the eve of the second World War.
In December 2003, after one of the largest, most aggressive manhunts in history, US military forces captured Iraqi president Saddam Hussein near his hometown of Tikrit. Beset by body-double rumors and false alarms during a nine-month search, the Bush administration needed positive identification of the prisoner before it could make the announcement that would rocket around the world.
At the time, John Nixon was a senior CIA leadership analyst who had spent years studying the Iraqi dictator. Called upon to make the official ID, Nixon looked for telltale scars and tribal tattoos and asked Hussein a list of questions only he could answer. The man was indeed Saddam Hussein, but as Nixon learned in the ensuing weeks, both he and America had greatly misunderstood just who Saddam Hussein really was.
Debriefing the President presents an astounding, candid portrait of one of our era’s most notorious strongmen. Nixon, the first man to conduct a prolonged interrogation of Hussein after his capture, offers a fascinating look into the mind of America’s most enigmatic enemy. After years of parsing Hussein’s leadership from afar, Nixon faithfully recounts his debriefing sessions and subsequently strips away the mythology surrounding an equally brutal and complex man.
Powerful. Sobering. Sad.
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.
The story behind this groundbreaking book--one of the most significant works of investigative journalism since Woodward and Bernstein's reporting on Watergate--has been brought brilliantly to life on the screen in the movie Spotlight. Here are the devastating revelations that triggered a crisis within the Catholic Church. Here is the truth about the scores of abusive priests who preyed upon innocent children and the cabal of senior Church officials who covered up their crimes. Here is the trail of "hush money" that the Catholic Church secretly paid to buy victims' silence--deeds that left millions of the faithful in the U.S. and around the world shocked, angry, and confused. Here as well is a vivid account of the ongoing struggle, as Catholics confront their Church and call for sweeping change.
My ninth grade English teacher, Ms. Cochrane, introduced me to Griffin's Black Like Me. Even at that age it impressed me deeply. Sobering. Sadly, much of what Griffin encountered and the lessons learned are as applicable today as then.
Griffin's groundbreaking and controversial novel about his experiences as a white man who transforms himself with the aid of medication and dye in order to experience firsthand the life of a black man living in the Deep South in the late 1950s is a mesmerizing, sad tale.
It will make you laugh and cry. Read the book and see the movie.
Great companion reading for Shusako Endo's Silence.
From the time the first Christian missionary arrived in Japan in 1549 to when a nationwide ban was issued in 1614, over 300,000 Japanese were converted to Christianity. A vicious campaign of persecution forced the faithful to go underground. For seven generations, Hidden Christians—or Kirishitan—preserved a faith that was strictly forbidden on pain of death. Illiterate peasants handed down the Catholicism that had been taught to their ancestors despite having no Bible or contact with the outside world.
Set in Changi, the most notorious prisoner of war camp in Asia, King Rat is an heroic story of survival told by a master story-teller who lived through those years as a young soldier. Only one man in fifteen had the strength, the luck, and the cleverness simply to survive Changi. And then there was King.
Deep, deep water.
In 1637 two Portuguese missionaries undertake a perilous search for their Jesuit tutor missing on the hostile islands of Japan. The Shogun and his Samurai have purged the land of Western influence, rooting out Christians and subjecting them to a fate worse than death - torture until they renounce the word of God. Father Rodrigues knows that if they are discovered, they face the same brutal treatment as the persecuted Christian peasantry; the same mistreatment that - if the rumours are to be believed - caused their tutor to renounce his faith. The deeper Rodrigues journeys into Japan, the closer he comes to the truth, and the more he finds himself questioning the meaning of God's silence in answer to their prayers and to the suffering of the Japanese Christians.
A masterpiece. Won the Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction in 1971. Tells the story of the Pacific War from the Japanese point of view.
Would have benefited from some good editing. Springsteen is unquestionably a good songwriter but his autobiographical prose is often ponderous and distracting.
My Book Report for 2016
Five Best Reads in 2016
Five Worst Reads in 2016
Lieutenant Colonel Juan Reinaldo Sanchez was Fidel Castro's personal bodyguard for 17 years before being imprisoned in 1994 for the "crime" of wanting to retire early. He left Cuba in 2008 after ten unsuccessful bids to escape. Sánchez was party to Castro's secret life – because everything around Castro was hidden. From the ghost town in which guerrillas from several continents were trained, to his immense personal fortune – including a huge property portfolio, a secret paradise island, and seizure of public money – as well as his relationship with his family and his nine children from five different partners. Sanchez's tell-all expose reveals countless state secrets and the many sides of the Cuban monarch: genius war leader in Nicaragua and Angola, paranoid autocrat at home, master spy, Machiavellian diplomat, and accomplice to drug traffickers.
A poignant, intimate, funny, inspiring memoir—both a coming-of-age story and a meditation on creativity, devotion, and craft—from Bryan Cranston, beloved and acclaimed star of one of history’s most successful TV shows, Breaking Bad.
A serviceable introduction.
Well worth reading, if read with a critical eye. Did little to assuage my skepticism about a Trump presidency.
Freeman presents Caesar in all his dimensions and contradictions. With remarkable clarity and brevity, Freeman shows how Caesar dominated a newly powerful Rome and remains relevant today.
Best seller, and for good reason.
Secret Service agent Clint Hill brings history intimately and vividly to life as he reflects on his seventeen years protecting the most powerful office in the nation. Hill walked alongside Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, and Gerald R. Ford, seeing them through a long, tumultuous era—the Cold War; the Cuban Missile Crisis; the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy; the Vietnam War; Watergate; and the resignations of Spiro Agnew and Richard M. Nixon.
Harry S. Truman's presidency illustrates plainly the wisdom of withholding judgment on a president's term in office until long after that term has expired. Truman wasn't regarded particularly well while he was in office but time has proven the wisdom of many of the critical decisions he made. Among those critical decisions was the firing of Douglas MacArthur at the height of the Korean War. The immediate aftermath of MacArthur's firing was a firestorm of criticism of Truman but as events and time played out, the wisdom of Truman's decision became apparent. Brand's' account of the contest of wills and events is terrific.
Superb. One of the best books I have read in 2016.
In this brilliant biography, Jon Meacham, the Pulitzer Prize–winning author, chronicles the life of George Herbert Walker Bush. Drawing on President Bush’s personal diaries, on the diaries of his wife, Barbara, and on extraordinary access to the forty-first president and his family, Meacham paints an intimate and surprising portrait of an intensely private man who led the nation through tumultuous times. From the Oval Office to Camp David, from his study in the private quarters of the White House to Air Force One, from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the first Gulf War to the end of Communism, Destiny and Power charts the thoughts, decisions, and emotions of a modern president who may have been the last of his kind. This is the human story of a man who was, like the nation he led, at once noble and flawed.
His was one of the great American lives. Born into a loving, privileged, and competitive family, Bush joined the navy on his eighteenth birthday and at age twenty was shot down on a combat mission over the Pacific. He married young, started a family, and resisted pressure to go to Wall Street, striking out for the adventurous world of Texas oil. Over the course of three decades, Bush would rise from the chairmanship of his county Republican Party to serve as congressman, ambassador to the United Nations, head of the Republican National Committee, envoy to China, director of Central Intelligence, vice president under Ronald Reagan, and, finally, president of the United States. In retirement he became the first president since John Adams to see his son win the ultimate prize in American politics.
With access not only to the Bush diaries but, through extensive interviews, to the former president himself, Meacham presents Bush’s candid assessments of many of the critical figures of the age, ranging from Richard Nixon to Nancy Reagan; Mao to Mikhail Gorbachev; Dick Cheney to Donald Rumsfeld; Henry Kissinger to Bill Clinton. Here is high politics as it really is but as we rarely see it.
From the Pacific to the presidency, Destiny and Power charts the vicissitudes of the life of this quietly compelling American original. Meacham sheds new light on the rise of the right wing in the Republican Party, a shift that signaled the beginning of the end of the center in American politics. Destiny and Power is an affecting portrait of a man who, driven by destiny and by duty, forever sought, ultimately, to put the country first.
Laugh out loud funny.
A bit too academic at times, but, on the whole, quite well done.
Bloodsport is the story of how the mania for corporate deals and mergers all began. The riveting tale of how power lawyers Joe Flom and Marty Lipton, major Wall Street players Felix Rohatyn and Bruce Wasserstein, prominent jurists, and shrewd ideologues in academic garb provided the intellectual firepower, creativity, and energy that drove the corporate elite into a less cozy, Hobbesian world. With total dollar volume in the trillions, the zeal for the deal continues unabated to this day. Underpinning this explosion in mergers and acquisitions—including hostile takeovers—are four questions that radically disrupted corporate ownership in the 1970s, whose force remains undiminished:
Are shareholders the sole “owners” of corporations and the legitimate source of power?
Should control be exercised by autonomous CEOs or is their assumption of power illegitimate and inefficient?
Is the primary purpose of the corporation to generate jobs and create prosperity for the masses and the nation?
Or is it simply to maximize the wealth of shareholders?
This battle of ideas became the “bloodsport” of American business. It set in motion the deal-making culture that led to the financialization of the economy and it is the backstory to ongoing debates over competitiveness, job losses, inequality, stratospheric executive pay, and who “owns” America’s corporations.
Tags: and Brawling Lawyers Toppled the Corporate Establishment, Bloodsport: When Ruthless Dealmakers, Bruce Wasserstein, Felix Rohatyn, Joe Flom, Marty Lipton, rick e. Hansen, rick Hansen, rick's reads, Robert Teitelman, Shrewd Ideologues, www.ricksreads
Thought provoking. I wasn't converted, but I respect Baggini's position. His writing is thoughtful and measured, avoiding the cocksure dogmatism that so often complicates any discussion of belief.
Bruce Catton is regarded as the dean of Civil War historians. Reading his Reflections on the Civil War is what I imagine having dinner with him would have been like. Edited from tapes that Catton made before his death, the book reads and flows easily. The best kind of history to read.
This is a story about pride: pride of the hunter and pride of the hunted.
Paul Dunn, the hunted, was once a bright light in the firmament of LDS church leadership. He was an inspiring pastor and speaker. His sermons were peppered with moving stories from his past that always seemed to aptly illustrate his point. Unfortunately, many of those stories were either exaggerated or simply untrue. Dunn fed (if not gorged) on the adulation of those to whom he spoke and his desire to inspire shaped the exaggerated stories that spiraled out of control. When questions began to be asked and at last he was cornered, Dunn doubled down. It cost him his leadership role in the Church and, perhaps more importantly, his reputation.
Lynn Packer, the hunter, devoted himself to telling the truth (or lack thereof) about Dunn's stories. An accomplished journalist and teacher, Packer (the nephew of Boyd K. Packer, like Dunn, a leader in the LDS church) has responsibly documented Dunn's career and his embellishments. Sadly, I think, after Dunn was wounded and marginalized, Packer couldn't relent from the kill. In the end, I think his own pride and journalistic zeal went unnecessarily far.
Brisk and readable. Starting with the Western discovery of the islands in 1778--on through the days of the whalers, the missionary period, the plantation era with its vast numbers of Asian immigrants, to the fall of the Hawaiian monarchy, annexation by the United States, and the long, slow move to statehood.
"For verily I say unto you that these things were spoken unto you for your profit and learning."
Historical fiction at its finest. Moore is a master weaver. Soon to be a motion picture starring Eddie Redmayne.
New York, 1888. Gas lamps still flicker in the city streets, but the miracle of electric light is in its infancy. The person who controls the means to turn night into day will make history—and a vast fortune. A young untested lawyer named Paul Cravath, fresh out of Columbia Law School, takes a case that seems impossible to win. Paul’s client, George Westinghouse, has been sued by Thomas Edison over a billion-dollar question: Who invented the light bulb and holds the right to power the country?
The case affords Paul entry to the heady world of high society—the glittering parties in Gramercy Park mansions, and the more insidious dealings done behind closed doors. The task facing him is beyond daunting. Edison is a wily, dangerous opponent with vast resources at his disposal—private spies, newspapers in his pocket, and the backing of J. P. Morgan himself. Yet this unknown lawyer shares with his famous adversary a compulsion to win at all costs. How will he do it?
In obsessive pursuit of victory, Paul crosses paths with Nikola Tesla, an eccentric, brilliant inventor who may hold the key to defeating Edison, and with Agnes Huntington, a beautiful opera singer who proves to be a flawless performer on stage and off. As Paul takes greater and greater risks, he’ll find that everyone in his path is playing their own game, and no one is quite who they seem.
On June 25, 1876, 611 men of the United States 7th Cavalry rode towards the banks of the Little Bighorn where three thousand Indians stood waiting for battle. The lives of two great war leaders would soon become forever linked: Crazy Horse, leader of the Oglala Sioux, and General George Armstrong Custer. This dual biography tells the epic story of the lives of these two men: both were fighters of legendary daring, both became honored leaders in their societies when still astonishingly young, and both died when close to the supreme political heights. Yet they - like the nations they represented - were as different as day and night. Custer had won his spurs in the American Civil War; his watchword was 'To promotion - or death!' and his restless ambition characterized a white nation in search of expansion and progress. Crazy Horse fought for a nomadic way of life fast yielding before the buffalo-hunters and the incursions of the white man. The Great Plains of North America provided the stage - and the prize.
Interesting but not particularly remarkable. There are some gems in here but you'll have to hunt for them.
Included here are letters from Thomas Jefferson to his daughter, warning her of the evils of debt; General Patton on D-Day to his son, a cadet at West Point, about what it means to be a good soldier; W.E.B. DuBois to his daughter about character beneath the color of skin; Oscar Hammerstein about why, after all his success, he doesn’t stop working; Woody Guthrie from a New Jersey asylum to nine-year-old Arlo about universal human frailty; sixty-five-year-old Laura Ingalls Wilder’s train of thought about her pioneer childhood; Eleanor Roosevelt chastising her grown son for his Christmas plans; and Groucho Marx as a dog to his twenty-five-year-old son.
Once in a while I read a book that really touches my soul. This is one of those books.
I became acquainted with Truman Madsen's work while living in Japan as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I would listen to his recorded lectures on the life of Joseph Smith before going to bed. Madsen's voice became an indelible part of my mission experience. Twenty-five years on, I still listen to those lectures and never tire of them. Since then, I have come to love Madsen's other work just as much.
Madsen passed away a few years ago following a valiant fight against bone cancer. This intimate biography by his only son, Barnard N. Madsen, tells of the inner life, private choices, and personal struggles that set Madsen on the course of his life's journey. Drawing from Truman's extensive journals, numerous writings, and the papers he chose to preserve for his posterity, this is a candid portrayal of ''the man himself . . . of his decisions and indecisions, sorrows and joys, regrets and aspirations, reverses and accomplishments, and, above all, his constant striving to achieve a balance between his intellectual and spiritual life.''
Pure drek, and devoid of any literary merit.
On June 5, 2002, fourteen-year-old Elizabeth Smart, the daughter of a close-knit Mormon family, was taken from her home in the middle of the night by religious fanatic, Brian David Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee. She was kept chained, dressed in disguise, repeatedly raped, and told she and her family would be killed if she tried to escape. After her rescue on March 12, 2003, she rejoined her family and worked to pick up the pieces of her life.
In her memoir, MY STORY, she tells of the constant fear she endured every hour, her courageous determination to maintain hope, and how she devised a plan to manipulate her captors and convinced them to return to Utah, where she was rescued minutes after arriving. Smart explains how her faith helped her stay sane in the midst of a nightmare and how she found the strength to confront her captors at their trial and see that justice was served.
Edward I is familiar to millions as "Longshanks," conqueror of Scotland and nemesis of William Wallace. Yet this story forms only the final chapter of the king's action-packed life. Earlier, Edward had defeated and killed the famous Simon de Montfort in battle; travelled to the Holy Land; conquered Wales, extinguishing forever its native rulers and constructing a magnificent chain of castles. He raised the greatest armies of the Middle Ages and summoned the largest parliaments; notoriously, he expelled all the Jews from his kingdom.
Disappointing biography. Don't just tell me that Whitney was a marvelous speaker, writer, and poet; show me. 536 pages and few excerpts from Whitney's sermons, articles, and poetry.
Orson F. Whitney was one of the most influential men and poetic speakers in early Mormonism, receiving commendations from men like Lorenzo Snow, James E. Talmage, and Joseph F. Smith. He led a complicated life. But through struggle and humility, he managed to overcome his obstacles and serve faithfully until the end.
Probably the third or fourth time I've read this. Easily one of my favorites. An inspiring man, worthy of emulation. Terrific biography, candid and insightful, written by a loving son.
Not exactly a page-turner but interesting.
Every president has had a unique and complicated relationship with the intelligence community. While some have been coolly distant, even adversarial, others have found their intelligence agencies to be among the most valuable instruments of policy and power.
Since John F. Kennedy’s presidency, this relationship has been distilled into a personalized daily report: a short summary of what the intelligence apparatus considers the most crucial information for the president to know that day about global threats and opportunities. This top–secret document is known as the President’s Daily Brief, or, within national security circles, simply “the Book.” Presidents have spent anywhere from a few moments (Richard Nixon) to a healthy part of their day (George W. Bush) consumed by its contents; some (Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush) consider it far and away the most important document they saw on a regular basis while commander in chief.
The details of most PDBs are highly classified, and will remain so for many years. But the process by which the intelligence community develops and presents the Book is a fascinating look into the operation of power at the highest levels. David Priess, a former intelligence officer and daily briefer, has interviewed every living president and vice president as well as more than one hundred others intimately involved with the production and delivery of the president's book of secrets. He offers an unprecedented window into the decision making of every president from Kennedy to Obama, with many character–rich stories revealed here for the first time.
William L. Shirer's Berlin Diary has long been one of my favorite books. I read it for the first time in the sixth grade. His triumph of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich is widely regarded as one of the most important books of the twentieth century.
Cuthbertson's fresh look at Shirer's career is well done and a lively read. Written with the full cooperation of Shirer’s family, and generously illustrated with photographs, it introduces a new generation of readers to a supremely talented, complex writer, while placing into historical context some of the pivotal media developments of our time.
A bit dated but still a good pictorial history.
Second time around. One of my favorites.
For decades, Walter Cronkite was known as "the most trusted man in America." Millions across the nation welcomed him into their homes, first as a print reporter for the United Press on the front lines of World War II, and later, in the emerging medium of television, as a host of numerous documentary programs and as anchor of the CBS Evening News, from 1962 until his retirement in 1981. Yet this very public figure was a remarkably private man; few know the full story of his life.
Brinkley traces Cronkite's story from his roots in Missouri and Texas through the Great Depression, during which he began his career, to World War II, when he gained notice reporting with Allied troops from North Africa, D-day, and the Battle of the Bulge. In 1950, Edward R. Murrow recruited him to work for CBS, where he covered presidential elections, the space program, Vietnam, and the first televised broadcasts of the Olympic Games, as both a reporter and later as an anchor for the evening news. Cronkite was also witness to—and the nation's voice for—many of the most profound moments in modern American history, including the Kennedy assassination, Apollos 11 and 13, Watergate, the Vietnam War, and the Iran hostage crisis.