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.

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

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.

 

 

GIANT OF THE SENATE/FRANKEN/ ROBUST SATIRE FINDS TRUTH

Al Franken  is a wonderful writer and story-teller and GIANT of the SENATE  is a  powerful memoir and a highly recommended read.

GIANT of the SENATE is filled with insight into Franken the individual (SNL), his politics, the legislative process  and skewers many of the political personalities of our time.   Franken has no problem pulling out the daggers shrouded in his unique brand of humor. His use of satire energizes the narrative.

Franken covers all the terrain. Health care, bi-partisanship, immigration, begging for money, running for office and the degrees of comity among senators.  This insightful book is for readers who love politics and Franken’s style makes the lessons enjoyable. Of course, it is a call to arms for Progressives:

” Even if you don’t run for office, in order to be part of determining what our shared future looks like, you have to be willing to give up things like time, energy and money…. You have to endure an overwhelming amount of noise and  nonsense… and the worst part is, you’re not guaranteed a return on your investment…..but I’ll tell you this: I’m glad I’m here. ”

I wholeheartedly agree with Franken that we should strike the word “robust” from political discourse even though I satirically used it in the headline. You’ll see!

Also from Al Franken:  Rush Limbaugh Is A Big Fat Idiot, Lies and Lying Liars Who Tell Them- A Fair and Balanced look at the Right and The Truth (with jokes).

 

 

 

 

THE NORTH POLE/ROBERT E. PEARY


Historians  still ponder the question of whether either explorers Robert E. Peary or Dr. Frederick A. Cook reached the North Pole! It remains a debatable point among scientists and historians  but after reading Peary’s unabridged personal account, The NORTH POLE first published in 1910, I am in no mood to quibble. Peary’s detailed narrative and the presence of his esteemed scientific team is most convincing. The volume includes his own multiple detailed calculations of April 6, 1909 offering his proof of success.

The NORTH POLE is more than a story of the attainment itself but offers insight into the determination of a man who on four previous attempts failed to reach his goal. Then in 1908 at age fifty-two, he again set forth for the Arctic aboard the Roosevelt, a specifically designed ship for approaching the Polar Ice Cap.  The expedition was backed by a group of  wealthy supporters under the banner of the Peary Arctic Club with the full-throated endorsement of President Theodore Roosevelt.

Peary’s detailed narrative offers the reader great  insight into the Inuit natives of northern Greenland. By befriending the Inuits on his previous four sojourns to the north he  acquired the expertise to survive in the Arctic. Attaining the pole would never have been possible without  the knowledge of the Inuit and their dogs.  Four Inuits were with Peary when the prize was won. Dozens of others made up the advance support parties establishing igloo supply camps across nearly 400 miles of  treacherous ice under the most formidable conditions anywhere on planet earth.

The controversy surrounding Peary’s conquering the North Pole remains. You may  draw your own conclusions. However, for the reader of this epic story of man against nature,  standing upon actual true north is almost irrelevant to the complexities and heroism of the journey.

If Arctic exploration is of interest to you I also highly recommend another book on an earlier North Pole attempt, Hampton Sides Into The Kingdom of Ice.  ( See gordonsgoodreads.com) If you travel to Maine and seek further insight into Peary, a trip to Peary’s home on Eagle Island, reached by ferry-boat from Freeport, is a very worthwhile visit. Peary is a Bowdoin College graduate and moved to Maine from Pennsylvania in his youth.  There is also an excellent Peary Museum on the Bowdoin Campus.

Note: While reading The NORTH POLE I found it most helpful to Google a detailed map of  Ellesmere Island and Northern Greenland. A map, which is not included in the book, adds tremendous perspective to Peary’s narrative.

 

 

 

 

 

 

EAST TO THE DAWN/ AMELIA EARHART BIOGRAPHY/A VERY DIFFERENT STORY

Forget for a moment the doomed 1937 round the world flight and all of the continuing speculation that continues to this day.  Set aside temporarily that Earhart was the first woman to solo across the Atlantic. Put in perspective all of her pioneering accomplishments as the world’s most prominent woman in aviation. Then settle in to read this marvelous perspective of a truly remarkable person.

Biographer Susan Butler got the Amelia Earhart story right in 1997 when she completed ten years of research and published EAST to the Dawn, The Life of Amelia Earhart. It was the sixtieth anniversary of Earhart’s fateful last flight. Of course the aviation story is extremely well told but the real story is how Amelia Earhart used her celebrity and incredible energy to universally advance the cause of women during the 1920s and 1930s.

Amelia the social worker, the world-wide lecturer on behalf of women’s rights and the establishment at Perdue University of a permanent foundation designed to advance women in the profession of aviation engineering and development.   One can only imagine her further impact had not her life ended in tragedy somewhere in the Pacific trying desperately to find tiny Howland Island  on the next to last leg of her round the world flight.

Amelia Earhart’s  celebrity was earned.  She came from Atkinson Kansas, the daughter of an alcoholic father  whose many jobs took the family east and west.  Her formal education was thwarted but she persisted, became a social worker and by sheer chance became exposed to aviation. Once hooked she never looked back. All along her rise to unimaginable celebrity she never once forgot that she represented professional career opportunities for all women.

Amelia earned her just celebrity and acclaim as an aviator but had she lived, understanding her as Butler’s book reflects, her contributions to society and women’s advancement would have been far greater than being the first woman to fly around the globe.   Having read Butler’s book I am convinced Amelia Earhart would have  unquestionably made that her lasting legacy.

In 1932 the American Women’s Association presented Margaret Sanger its first annual award.  A year later the second annual award was presented to Amelia. The presentation to Amelia was made by Dr. Lillian Gilbreth, the renowned industrial psychologist.  In her closing remarks, Gilbreth chose these words: Miss Earhart has shown us that all God’s chillun got wings.

This is the 80th anniversary of Amelia Earhart’s last flight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON/DAVID GRANN/THE OSAGE TRAGEDY

David Grann’s extraordinarily researched work of non-fiction, Killers of the Flower Moon, The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, details  yet another contemptible and murderous abuse of  Native Americas.  The killing of many dozens of Osage Indians in Osage County, Oklahoma were conceived and carried out by the white establishment over a period of two murderous  decades.  The motive?  A common theme of greed, in this case stealing from the Osage the mineral rights to the booming oil field discovered on their reservation  in the early 1900s.

When J. Edgar  Hoover  was first named head of what was  later to become the Federal Bureau of Investigation he prioritized the solving of the Osage Indian murders and turned to Texas Ranger Tom White to lead the investigation. The details of this tragedy are shocking. It was a conspiracy the specific purpose of which was to kill Osage and their descendants in order to steal the valuable mineral rights that had made the Osage among the wealthiest per capita people in America.  Local law enforcement was major part of the conspiracy.

Grann spares no detail in uncovering the horror of this injustice.  The accolades he has received from the literary  community speak to the importance of this work. High praise from Jon Krakauer, Erik Larsen, John Grisham and S.C. Gwynne.

David Grann also authored The Lost City of Z and The Devil and Sherlock Holmes.