TWO CURRENT BOOKS…A CONVERGED POLEMIC…BACK TO BACK READS

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.”

 

 

 

 

LEADERSHIP IN TURBULENT TIMES/ DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN

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).

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE SOUL OF AMERICA/JON MEACHAM

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.

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.