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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.