Hillbilly Elegy, a memoir written by J.D. Vance , is a brisk read that has established itself on the New York Times Best Seller List.  The book is a captivating personal story with a broad reach into class distinctions within American society.  Vance extends the hillbilly narrative beyond the hollers of his Kentucky heritage.

I am reminded of two similar memoirs,  Jeannette  Walls’ The Glass Castle  and Tobias Wolff’s  This Boy’s Life.  I would not attempt a ranking here but the status of Wall’s book as a best seller in this genre speaks for itself.  Time will tell if Hillbilly Elegy has similar staying power.

J.D Vance’s personal story is  a narrative of a culture that few American’s know or understand.  It’s impact is broadened because it is contemporary and opens a greater understanding of the polemic in which the country finds itself today.

Narrated with  shocking honesty, Vance’s story took  great courage to tell. It is deserving of your summer reading list.

J.D. Vance is a graduate of Yale Law School and is an Investment Banker in San Francisco.



Christina Baker Kline, author of Orphan Train, has eclipsed that acclaimed novel with her latest, A Piece of the World.   This marvelous work of historical fiction is a priority read adding illuminating context to the story behind America’s most famous painting , Andrew Wyeth’s  Christina’s World.

I have been to the Olsen House  in Cushing on that spit of land on the Maine Coast. However, now that I have read  A Piece of the World, I will eagerly travel there again with a new perspective having met through this wonderful novel, Christina, the woman who Andrew Wyeth immortalized in his painting Christina’s World.

Once you read A Piece of the World you will be drawn into Wyeth’s painting as never before.  When  you visit the farmhouse in Maine the humanity that was once there will become very much among the living.

Also, visit the Wyeth family collection at the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland.





Prescient is my favorite description of Mark Greaney, Jack Ryan/ Tom Clancy novels.

TRUE FAITH AND ALLEGIANCE , although written in 2016 , speaks to 2017  cyber theft, the ISIS crisis, Saudi hidden agendas and terrorism inside the United States.  The book can only be described as another Greaney, Clancy page by page gripping thriller.

The entire Hendley Associates and White House cast is present and even if you have not read the majority of this series, TRUE FAITH AND ALLEGIANCE can work as a stand alone.

It is not summer yet but put this one on your reading list.  It will not disappoint.

You can find overviews of  the majority of  the Tom Clancy series here at gordonsgoodreads.com.


SHATTERED is certainly a read for enthusiasts of political intrigue. SHATTERED is not of the calibre of the late Richard Ben Cramer’s  WHAT IT TAKES or political writers  Caro, Goodwin or Meacham. However, Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes tell an insightful story of the disastrous 2016 Hillary Clinton campaign for the presidency.  The book raises a fundamental question of whether Hillary lost the election at the hand of herself and her organization.

A fundamental paradox raised throughout the book is the modern campaign issue of  analytics  and algorithms versus street level  political acumen and gut feeling.  Just as  the media projections of the 2016 election failed because of too much reliance on polling numbers, the direction of  Clinton’s campaign fell upon the same sword.

The writing in SHATTERED casts a broader picture of the campaign than just the numbers. It tells of infighting, sycophants, personalities, favorites and internal  power struggles.

Why did Hillary fail in  what many considered an easy win against Donald Trump ? SHATTERED  offers some answers.









This well researched work of non-fiction is an important read for those with a keen interest in the great Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce and the attendant story line of Native Americans and the Nez Perce War.  Equally important, Daniel Sharfstein’s THUNDER in the MOUNTAINS  places the story of the Nez Perce in an even broader historical context.

 THUNDER in the MOUNTAINS carefully constructs the protracted efforts by Chief Joseph  and U.S. Army  General Oliver Otis Howard to avoid what became the last of the great Indian Wars of the 1870s.   Following his participation in the Civil War, General Howard was named head of the Freedman’s Bureau and placed in charge of bringing the 4-million newly emancipated slaves under the protection of U.S. Citizenship. Howard, possessed of a substantial  ego , was shattered when much of the blame of the failure of the Freedman’s Bureau was placed at his feet.

Upon his election, President Grant sent Howard  to the Northwest to negotiate with Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce bands that as the last hold outs had refused to give up their native lands and move to government  Indian Reservations.

The author brilliantly defines Chief Joseph’s character and intellect and the melancholy of  chief’s arguments having no bearing on the outcome for the Nez Perce.  “All I ask is that my people be treated as U.S. citizens and have the same rights under the laws to pursue our rightful ownership of our home lands.”

As is my custom in this space I will leave the details of the story and the saga’s tragic ending to the telling of the author and the absorption of his readers. ” I will fight no more forever.”

As you read THUNDER in the MOUNTAINS keep in mind the parallels between emancipation and the disposition of the Native Americans and how badly the U.S. Government failed on both counts. I applaud Sharfstein for the literary manner in which he has merged these monumental epics in American History.

Also by Daniel Sharfstein: The Invisible Line, A Secret History of Race in America

I also highly recommend THE NEZ PERCE INDIANS AND THE OPENING OF THE NORTHWEST  by  Alvin M. Josephy, Jr.










The dust cover  description of Colson Whitehead’s  The UNDERGROUND RAILROAD is clear:  The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman’s ferocious will to escape the horrors  of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation of the history we all share.

Written as a narrative, The UNDERGROUND RAILROAD spares little in its descriptions and depiction of the physical and mental horrors of slavery.  Despite the dystopia, Whitehead  delivers glimmers of hope amidst the despair of each turning page.  Written as a narrative and the recipient of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, The UNDERGROUND RAILROAD spares little in its descriptions and depiction of the physical and mental horrors of slavery.  Despite the dystopia, Whitehead  delivers glimmers of hope amidst the despair of each turning page.

The book adds to the  contemporary narrative of Twelve Years a Slave and  more recently Y’a’a Gyasi’s novel Homecoming.  See my overviews of the aforementioned here at gordonsgoodreads.com.