FRIENDS DIVIDED/ADAMS AND JEFFERSON

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.

IN THE HURRICANE’S EYE/ NATHANIEL PHILBRICK

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 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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).

 

 

 

 

TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT/ HEMINGWAY

Playing catch-up on some of my overlooked Hemingway reads.  To Have and Have Not is quick and worthwhile.  A classic example of the use of dialogue as the story telling vehicle.  Set in the Florida Keys and Cuba, so much a part of the Hemingway lifestyle. Little wonder he tells the story  so well. Smuggling is not a good business or a lifestyle with a future.  Few happy endings.

Enjoy this short fiction.  No more than a lengthy one or two sitting read.

Search gordonsgoodreads for other Hemingway classics. It is the most sought after subject on this blog.