In his latest work Friends Divided JOHN ADAMS AND THOMAS JEFFERSON, Pulitzer Prize author Gordon Wood turns his sights on the stark contrasts in the philosophies of America’s most famous founding fathers.
Incredible research and access to the writings of both men delivers a portrait of dramatically different and often conflicting views of the formation of the of the new nation. Adams the son of a Massachusetts shoemaker and hardscrabble farmer, Jefferson born into plantations of the slave holding southern aristocracy. They were friends, malevolent enemies, then friends again. Each leaving his enduring mark on America’s formative years.
If your passion is American history Friends Divided is an important read. As you would expect it is the work of a scholar minus any whimsical passages or grand tours of the American landscape. Both Patriots receive their share of the authors scorn. If you favor one over the other be prepared for the harsh criticism of an acclaimed historian. Does Wood have a favorite. Yes he does. Enjoy.
A wonderful companion read, preferably first, is Wood’s Empire of Liberty. Search this site for my observations.
SOJOURNER TRUTH, NARRATIVE AND BOOK OF LIFE.
The story of Sojourner Truth is well-known within antislavery literature. This narrative, first written with the aid of a white woman, Olive Gilbert in 1850, was reprinted in 1875 with additional notes by Mrs. Francis W. Titus. The most recent publication which is the subject of this post was published by Ebony Classics in 1970.
Sojourner Truth was born into slavery in Upstate New York in 1825. Slavery at the large farms along the Hudson was common in that period. She was one of thirteen children and most of her siblings were sold by the age of ten. She herself had five owners, and her five children were also enslaved, one of whom she managed to retrieve. That story is a riveting part of the narrative.
This remarkable woman through her own determination and with no education became an extraordinary force in the antislavery and early women’s movement. Standing six feet tall and wearing a turban she spoke the language of enslaved people and often delivered her message through poetry and song. She had become such a force by the time of her death in 1883 that this “ high priestess of righteousness and equality “ had earned private audiences with both Presidents Lincoln and Grant. Historians place Sojourner’s influence only behind that of Harriet Tubman. She knew the “ hell of slavery” and spoke for the millions of women who had no voice. She said of her meeting with Lincoln, ” As I was taking my leave, he arose and took my hand, and said he would be pleased to have me call again. I felt that I was in the presence of a friend, and now I thank God from the bottom of my heart that I always have advocated for his cause.”
Don’t miss the significance of the title “ BOOK OF LIFE.” This is a rare personal glimpse into a world that can only be elucidated by one who lived it. You may well feel Sojourner’s presence.
By searching this site you will see that I have read all of Grisham’s novels. My point is that THE RECKONING, comes closest to my imagining that the book may well be based upon a true story. In fact in the Acknowledgements, Grisham hints that the story comes from a memorable tale and suggests that anyone who might have knowledge of the actual circumstances contact him.
John Grisham, the wonderful storyteller, sets THE RECKONING in the cotton fields of northern Mississippi. He establishes a decades old planter class nuclear family living on a plantation that has a “Gone With The Wind,” flavor. All is well until suddenly the reader is transplanted to the horrendous Bataan Death March during World War II. The detail is so vivid and well researched that Grisham becomes a historical novelist similar to the work of Jeff Shaara. ( search this site).
The story returns to Mississippi with Grisham twists to the end that keep the reader’s eye glued to the very last page.
You will want to add THE RECKONING to your Grisham list. His most recent book, THE INNOCENT MAN, is in fact his first work on non-fiction. No surprise after reading THE RECKONING.
Nathaniel Philbrick’s IN THE HURRICANE’S EYE paints a definitive picture of George Washington’s 1780 victory at Yorktown, Virginia. It was the battle coordinated with the French Navy that almost didn’t occur but inexorably led to final victory in America’s Revolution.
Philbrick is masterful in combing through the myriad of detail and negotiation that finally coordinated the French naval forces and the American Continental Army to rout the British at Yorktown. Ironically, It was a naval victory without a single American ship. IN THE HURRICANE’S EYE also details the relatively unknown story of the brilliant efforts of Continental Army General Nathaniel Greene battling Lord Cornwallis to an exhausting draw in the hills of North Carolina.
Just as in his book Mayflower, Philbrick is the master story-teller , combining an enormous amount of historical data into a cohesive and human narrative. His insight into the mind of George Washington is brilliant. IN THE HURRICANE’S EYE is a most worthy addition to your American Revolution reading list. A battle waged two hundred thirty-nine years ago and still so much to learn. Philbrick makes it a great tale. Narrative non-fiction at its best.
Other volumes by Philbrick concerning the American Revolution: Bunker Hill: A City, a Siege, a Revolution and Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold and the Fate of the American Revolution.
I could not have chosen a more opportune time to select two new books, The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis and FEAR by Bob Woodward.
The Fifth Risk dissects the destruction by the Trump Administration of critical government departments responsible for the day-to-day seamless management of the affairs of government. The Woodward book, FEAR, discusses the dysfunction within the Trump White House.
The take away of these two books unfortunately is a cliché, “No one is home.”
Lewis and Woodward are established journalists.The books are not “tell all ” but well researched and sourced. The consensus on the chaos in government and the serious threats posed to the nation by these respected journalists makes the disclosures even more disturbing.
The timing of the release of The Fifth Risk and FEAR is prescient. They are “current events.”
Doris Kearn’s Goodwin’s excellence as a presidential historian makes her eminently qualified for this sweeping analysis of the commonality of the leadership attributes of Lincoln, TR, FDR and LBJ. LEADERSHIP IN TURBULENT TIMES is an insightful read particularly against the backdrop of the Trump administration.
The book creates a longing for the greatness and generational accomplishments of these historic presidential icons. Goodwin’s perspective derives from years of intimate presidential research that is evidenced so acutely in her writing that you can imagine her knowing all of these them personally. That was specifically the case of Lyndon Johnson. A side note on LBJ. Goodwin gives him no slack on Vietnam but the utmost of accolades for his leadership on civil rights, voting rights and Medicare.
Even if you have not read Goodwin’s other presidential books you will find that her craftsmanship makes LEADERSHIP IN TURBULENT TIMES a complete read. For those who have followed her work the book is even more compelling.
Doris Kearns Goodwin: Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream, No Ordinary Time, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, Team of Rivals, The Bully Pulpit. ( For overviews of the aforementioned search gordonsgoodreads).
Jon Meacham has the academic prowess to place complicated issues into perspective through solid historical research. Meacham has accomplished this once again in his new book THE SOUL OF AMERICA. He removes a little worry and considerable angst from those who are gravely concerned about Washington, D.C. and President Trump. This is an important read for all concerned American Citizens.
THE SOUL OF AMERICA is extremely well structured and I have chosen two paragraphs in hopes that I may entice you to read this work.
“Yes, much of the nation’s fate lies in the hands of the president, but the voters have the ultimate authority. The country has to awaken every now and then to the fact that the people are responsible for the government they get. And when they elect a man to the presidency who doesn’t take care of the job, they’ve got nobody to blame but themselves.” ( Harry S. Truman, post presidential notes. )
” We have managed , however, to survive the crisis and vicissitudes of history. Our brightest hours are almost never as bright as we like to think; our glummest moments are rarely irredeemable as they feel at the time. How, then, in an hour of anxiety about the future of the country, at a time when a president of the United States appears determined to undermine the rule of law, a free press, and the sense of hope essential to American life, can those with deep concerns about the nation’s future enlist on the side of the angels?” (Jon Meacham)
After reading the perspective drawn from the pages of the SOUL OF AMERICA, I am betting that our “better angels” will enter the arena and prevail.