I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS/MAYA ANGELOU

I came to I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings only recently.

I consider myself fortunate that my tardiness did not preclude this Memoir of Maya Angelou’s adolescence. The openness of the beautifully written narrative is welcoming to the reader. The vivid details of a black child growing up in Arkansas under her grandmother’s loving care is all-encompassing.

Don’t wait. You will thank me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE AGE OF EISENHOWER/WILLIAM HITCHCOCK

I chose THE AGE OF EISENHOWER, a discussion of his presidential years 1952-1960, primarily because of the timeliness of  the comparison of leadership and policy with the present administration. Historian William Hitchcock has  accomplished  a scholarly milestone with this objective retrospective of the nostalgic 1950s and Ike himself.

The  triumphs and failings of the Eisenhower presidential years  are expertly chronicled. However, it is Hitchcock’s insight into Eisenhower’s  presidential leadership style, personality  and his transformation from the military leader of the free world to the presidency, that is most compelling.

We think of the 1950s of a period of peace and prosperity which was true. It was also a decade of international and domestic turmoil including the beginning of the Cold War.The decade also produced the arms race, the missile gap, the U-2 disaster, the Suez Canal crisis and the Castro takeover of Cuba. The Eisenhower years gave us the beginnings of the battle over desegregation of public schools, Little Rock, McCarthyism, Nixon and the creation of the CIA and NASA. How Ike handled and sometimes mishandled these critical developments is given microscopic analysis.

THE AGE OF EISENHOWER is for lovers of  American History. This biography of Eisenhower’s presidency is deserving of its high praise.

LINCOLN AND CHURCHILL/ STATESMEN AT WAR

Historian Lewis Lehrman compares the  leadership of  Winston  Churchill and Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War and World War II.  LINCOLN & CHURCHILL STATESMEN AT WAR delves heavily into  comparisons of their respective personalities, management of subordinates, personal habits and military expertise.

Much of  Lehrman’s subject has been well documented by a plethora of historians and the reader will find that the emphasis of this book clearly lies with Churchill. He does draw a very insightful polemic  comparison between Churchill  as wartime Prime Minister and  Lincoln as Commander-in-Chief.  A clear commonality is that both men weaponized  language as a decisive element in their ultimate victories.

Don’t look for descriptions of battles.  This book is about the grand strategy of war and how individual personality and persona influences outcomes.

 

GREATER GOTHAM/WALLACE/EXCEEDS ALL EXPECTATIONS

Mike Wallace’s sequel to GOTHAM  is another enormous undertaking for both the author and the reader.  GREATER GOTHAM A HISTORY OF NEW YORK CITY FROM 1898 TO 1919 epic and heroic.  Having completed both volumes ( search GOTHAM at gordonsgoodreads.com) I heartily recommend this new work.

Wallace advances a deep understanding of the evolution of the economic, political and social fabric of New York City as the five New York Burroughs became one. It is a fascinating look at the multi-cultural and political conflicts that impacted the growth of the city.  Wallace leaves out no aspect of city life in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  Media, music, art, race, gender, gentrification, Tammany, titans, aristocrats, prostitutes, swells and hacks. Irish, Jews, Chinese, Greeks, Italians and the unlikely alliances  among them that drove the city politic during this period of enormous growth for the manufacturing, financial and cultural capitol of  America.

I look upon Wallace’s work as earning a Master’s Degree in the History of New York.  At 1052 pages, not including the bibliography and index, this is not an airplane read but rather for comfortable surroundings in which to be astonished, inhaling and contemplating the complexities of the great City of New York.

Wallace is already at work on the next volume of GOTHAM which will focus of the 1920s,30s and 40s. I can’t wait.

ORIGIN/ DAN BROWN/INCREDIBLE IMAGERY/SUSPENSE/ SCIENCE

” Where did we come from and where are we going.”  The ultimate mystery?  Creation versus evolution? God versus science? What is waiting for us?  Big questions, but not for a Dan Brown novel.

Brown’s latest suspense thriller, Origin,  couples Robert Langdon with a wonderful cast to bring forth this suspense filled story in all its glory.  Set in Spain, the  novel couples the story line with incredible imagery. Brown states : ” All art, architecture, locations, science and religious organizations in this novel are real.”  It adds greatly, to drawing the reader deeper and deeper into the story.

Edmund Kirsch, an eccentric billionaire and futurist, claims to have found the answer to life’s ultimate questions.  The story conflicts Christians with atheists, adds a good dose of the Spanish Monarchy and even romance.  Of course, the ending will surprise.

There is not a lot more that needs to be said about a Dan Brown novel. I highly recommend the book. Quite possibly  the story warrants a screenplay. You never seem to tire of Langdon and you will find yourself with a new outlook regarding artificial intelligence.  Prescient? I think so.

 

 

 

THE ROOSTER BAR/ MORE WILD CHARACTERS FROM GRISHAM

Wannabe lawyers, private law schools, misfits, and a peeling back of the skin on the daily crush of our judicial system.

John  Grisham is at it again in another best-selling novel The Rooster Bar.  If you are a Grisham fan you need not know much more from me to imagine where the twists and turns will lead in his new offering.

I have read and enjoyed all of Grisham’s work. The Rooster Bar  in my view is certainly not up to A Time to Kill, Pelican Brief or Sycamore Row but you may have a different view and it won’t take much of your time to turn these pages.

Enjoy.

ALL YOU DID NOT KNOW ABOUT ORGANIC FOOD! THE THIRD PLATE, DAN BARBER

Here is an update. ( June, 2018) My wife and I did it…the multiple course dining experience at Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, New York. It was the most memorable dining experience of a lifetime and even more meaningful having read The Third Plate.

The Third Plate, authored by restaurateur  Dan Barber dispatches all popular concepts of what the term “organic” in our food chain really means. Barber is the chef and owner of Manhattan’s Blue Hill restaurant in the West Village and Blue Hill at Stone Barns and the non-profit  Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture located on the Rockefeller Estate in Westchester County, New York.

The “industrial organic food”  proffered in today’s food distribution system bears no resemblance to Barber’s discussion of the origins of  food, the seed, the soil, the sea and the land. The Third Plate is well written, researched and enjoyable.  Make no mistake however, the book is an academic and scientific discussion of what Barber believes is the destruction of the integrity, taste and wholesomeness of what we eat.  The book makes an enormous contribution to the entire ” sustainability” discussion and offers hope for a way forward.

The Third Plate travels the world for answers to how it might become realistic to return the world’s food supply to the purity of its origins. Population growth, economics and demand would likely make that impossible. However, Barber makes the reader hopeful by tantalizing the taste buds of what a carrot or potato or naturally raised beef, lamb or pork should really taste like.  In reality, without a visit to Blue Hill or Stone Barns, you may never know.

Any cook would be naturally drawn to this book but don’t look for recipes. Instead, imagine what it would be like to work with the ingredients that Barber nurtures  and encourages. This book “tastes good” right down to the acorn flavor in Eduardo’s   jamon iberico from Iberian pigs raised under ancient oaks in Spain’s dehesa.

I hope you enjoyed the flavor of this brief synopsis.  If it is enticing you will enjoy reading The Third Plate. Then make a reservation at Blue Hill or Stone Barns and taste for yourself.  Also, include a visit to the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture.