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1. Augustine : A New Biography
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2. John Adams
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3. John Adams: Party of One
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4. Ataturk: The Biography of the
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5. Inventing A Nation: Washington,
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6. Augustine of Hippo: A Biography,
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7. The Tao of Muhammad Ali
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8. Marie Antoinette : The Journey
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9. John Quincy Adams: (The American
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10. The Book of Saints: A Comprehensive
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11. To the Scaffold: The Life of Marie
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12. The Wicked Queen: The Origins
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13. Confessions of Saint Augustine
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14. The Greatest: Muhammad Ali
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15. Saint Augustine's Conversion
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16. The Letters of John and Abigail
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17. The Soul of a Butterfly : Reflections
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18. John Adams: The American Presidents
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19. John Adams: A Life
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20. Men in Dark Times

1. Augustine : A New Biography
by James J. O'Donnell
list price: $26.95
our price: $17.79
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Asin: 0060535377
Catlog: Book (2005-04-01)
Publisher: Ecco
Sales Rank: 1926
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Book Description

Augustine, sinner and saint, the celebrated theologian who served as bishop of ... Hippo from 396 C.E. until his death in ... 430 C.E., is widely regarded as one of the most influential thinkers in the western world. Augustine: A New Biography tells the story of Augustine from the vantage point of Hippo, where he spent almost forty years as priest and bishop. During Augustine's post-Confessions years he became prominent as a churchman, politician, and writer, and James J. O'Donnell looks back at the events in the Confessions from this period in Augustine's life.

Much of Augustine's writing consists of sermons and letters rich in vivid primary material about the events of his time. Prosperous men converting to Christianity to get ahead, priests covering up their sexual and financial peccadilloes, generals playing coldly calculated games of Roman barbarian geopolitics -- these are the figures who stand out in Augustine's world and who populate O'Donnell's intriguing portrait set against a background of the battle over the future of Christianity. This book reveals much of what Augustine didn't confess.

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2. John Adams
by David McCullough
list price: $35.00
our price: $23.10
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Asin: 0684813637
Catlog: Book (2001-05-22)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Sales Rank: 6626
Average Customer Review: 4.62 out of 5 stars
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Left to his own devices, John Adams might have lived out his days as a Massachusetts country lawyer, devoted to his family and friends. As it was, events swiftly overtook him, and Adams--who, David McCullough writes, was "not a man of the world" and not fond of politics--came to greatness as the second president of the United States, and one of the most distinguished of a generation of revolutionary leaders. He found reason to dislike sectarian wrangling even more in the aftermath of war, when Federalist and anti-Federalist factions vied bitterly for power, introducing scandal into an administration beset by other difficulties--including pirates on the high seas, conflict with France and England, and all the public controversy attendant in building a nation.

Overshadowed by the lustrous presidents Washington and Jefferson, who bracketed his tenure in office, Adams emerges from McCullough's brilliant biography as a truly heroic figure--not only for his significant role in the American Revolution but also for maintaining his personal integrity in its strife-filled aftermath. McCullough spends much of his narrative examining the troubled friendship between Adams and Jefferson, who had in common a love for books and ideas but differed on almost every other imaginable point. Reading his pages, it is easy to imagine the two as alter egos. (Strangely, both died on the same day, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.) But McCullough also considers Adams in his own light, and the portrait that emerges is altogether fascinating. --Gregory McNamee ... Read more

Reviews (536)

5-0 out of 5 stars Never Disappointing
John Adams was a patriot, a devoted husband, father, and friend. This is itself is not too extraordinary. What marks his life, however, is his devotion to the written word. Over the course of his long and fruitful life, Adams was an obsessive letter-writer. Lucky for us! McCullough weaves political and national history with Adams' amazing volume of personal letters, allowing us to view both the relevant history as well as the man behind the history. Indeed, the long dealings with the complex relationship between Adams and Jefferson is wonderful; however, it would be in poor form to single out any one part of the book as extraordinary. It is all extraordinary!
I'll admit that in some parts the book seemed a bit long, but it was never boring, never uninteresting, and never non-entertaining.
After having read McCullough's "Truman," I was very happy to see his latest work. I find his writing style to be lucid and captivating. Try it - you won't be disappointed.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Man Of Sound Moral Principle
My husband and I listened to the audio tape of this book and it was truly time well spent. Each morning, along with our coffee, we had breakfast with John and Abigail Adams. They both made a lasting impression in my mind. David McCullough did a fantastic job of bringing John & Abigail Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Ben Franklin to life. The historical events became more interesting when interjected with the feelings and reflections that the founding fathers had on the various events. The author used excerpts from countless letters that passed between Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, Washington, and other great men, to give us their thoughts in their own words.

John Adams, the man seemed to have been brilliant, pompous, very
likable and extremely exasperating. His personal integrity noted by many people was one of his most prominent features.From a Massachusetts country lawyer, he went on to become a member of the Continental Congress, and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. He secured loans from the Dutch for the fledgling American government, helped to negotiate the peace treaty with Great Britain and, for three years served as our first minister to the Court of Saint James in London. He was our first Vice President serving under George Washington and, of course our second President.

Many pages are devoted to the often troubled relationship between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. They made their peace in the last years of their lives, and the letters that passed between these two American icons, were wonderful. In the end, they shared one final day. They both died on July 4, 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

McCullough even gives us a love story that’s told through the letters and diaries of John and Abigail. The love and sacrifices they made for their country during and after the revolution is something that seems to be unparalleled in any other historic couple. Abigail appeared to be an equal partner in her relationship with John. Because of his appointments and positions, she was on her own and managing their property for months and years at a time, and made many choices and decisions that greatly influenced their lives. She not only helped her husband become the second President of the U. S.,
she also raised a son, John Quincy Adams who became the sixth President of the U. S.

This well researched book gave me the feeling of witnessing the birth of my country. The book’s narrator, Nelson Runger did an excellent job.

5-0 out of 5 stars One of the best biographies I have read...
This book is a very readable book. Unlike some other history books which are dry, this one reads like a novel. I loved how they showed the personal side of a public man. His loving relationship with his wife Abigail is revealed through letters he wrote her. I also loved how the author described John Adams relationship with Thomas Jefferson, down to the little details like when they shared a room in philly one wanted the window open and the other wanted it closed. This book shows that the founding fathers did not live in a vacuum, all alone, responding to each others politics; but that they were freinds with complex relationships. I like how this book lets us see our countries greatest patriots as real people. I highly reccomend this book, there is a sage like quality to it. If this was the kind of reading offered in high school or college, I might have been more interested in history.

4-0 out of 5 stars good beach read
Am 300 pages into this novel. It's very descriptive and really gives you a sense of the person, as well as the other revolutionary characters. You can very clearly picture the obstacles he faced and what type of man he was. I'm thoroughly enjoying it -- and recently heard it may be made into an HBO movie by Tom Hanks.

4-0 out of 5 stars John Adams, Abigail and Jefferson
The book on John Adams by David McCullough is very precise and gives a great overview of the second president of the United STates but also of the country itself. Having been the person defending the Constitution on the Congress floor, being the ambassador in France and The Netherlands (very interesting to read for Dutchmen like myself) to the days of his vice-presidency under George Washington and his own presidency.

Most of the sources are the letters between him and his wife Abigail, one of the foremost women in her time. It deals with politics but also with personal problems like disease in the family and the death of a son due to alcohol.

His relationship with Thomas Jefferson is fascinating; sometimes loving, sometimes hating. They could not get along when they were president and vice-president. In the end through letters they come closer again and freakingly enough they die on the same day, the 4th of July when they were there signing the Declaration of Independence. ... Read more

3. John Adams: Party of One
by James Grant
list price: $30.00
our price: $19.80
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Asin: 0374113149
Catlog: Book (2005-03-16)
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Sales Rank: 1615825
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Book Description

An acute examination of a paradoxical U.S. president.

John Adams was an undiplomatic diplomat and an impolitic politician--a fierce revolutionary yet a detached and reluctant leader of the nation he helped to found. Few American public figures have ever been more devoted to doing the right thing, or more contemptuous of doing the merely popular thing.Yet his Yankee-bred fixation with ethical propriety and fiscal conservatism never stood in the way of his doing what was necessary. Adams hated debt, but as minister to the Netherlands during the Revolution, he was America's premier junk-bond salesman. And though raised a traditional Massachusetts Congregationalist, Adams was instrumental in bringing about the consecration of the first American Episcopal bishops. He was a warm and magnanimous friend and, on occasion, a man who fully vindicated the famous judgment of a rival he detested. Adams, said Benjamin Franklin, "means well for his country, is always an honest man, often a wise one, but, sometimes, and in some things, is absolutely out of his senses."

James Grant examines this complex and often contradictory founding father in the most well-rounded and multi-faceted portrait of Adams to date. Going from his beginnings on a hardscrabble Massachusetts farm to the Continental Congress to the Court of St. James and the White House, Grant traces the words and deeds of one of our most learned but politically star-crossed leaders.

... Read more

4. Ataturk: The Biography of the Founder of Modern Turkey
by Andrew Mango
list price: $23.95
our price: $16.29
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Asin: 158567334X
Catlog: Book (2002-11-01)
Publisher: Overlook Press
Sales Rank: 23766
Average Customer Review: 4.16 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

In this major new biography of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, and the first to appear in English based on Turkish sources, Andrew Mango strips away the myth, to show the complexities of one of the most visionary, influential, and enigmatic statesmen of the century. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was virtually unknown until 1919, when he took the lead in thwarting the victorious Allies' plan to partition the Turkish core of the Ottoman Empire. He divided the Allies, defeated the last Sultan, and secured the territory of the Turkish national state, becoming the first president of the new republic in 1923, fast creating his own legend.

Andrew Mango's revealing portrait of Atatürk throws light on matters of great importance today-resurgent nationalism, religious fundamentalism, and the reality of democracy.
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Reviews (25)

5-0 out of 5 stars The best biography of Ataturk ever written
What a wonderful book. Over the years, I have read three other biographies of Ataturk, and I can honestly say that this one is the best. For those who are unfamiliar with the history of the final days of the Ottoman Empire, and the initial days of the Turkish republic, the book gives a great history lesson, while at the the same time, telling the story of a remarkable life. The book goes into extreme detail with regard to the principle players in Ataturk's life, and gives a summary of the careers of those individuals at the end of the book as well. Mr. Mango has obviously spent many hours researching and interviewing people to compile the facts and information necessary to decribe the life of the greatest leader of the 20th century. I highly recommend it for anyone who is interested in Turkish/Ottoman history. Hopefully someday a proper documentery/movie will be produced so the western world can see what a great man Kemal Ataturk really was.

5-0 out of 5 stars Powerful, Unrivalled Achievement
Certainly, I am not the only Turk who feels indebted to Andrew Mango for his wonderful biography of a man whom the west could know more about. However, before reading this scholarly, thoroughly researched and authoritative book about Ataturk, those who are not familiar with the history of Ottoman Turkey could read as a primer Lord Kinross' "A History of the Ottoman Centuries".

In a gesture of gratitude, the Turkish Parliament in 1927 conferred on Mustafa Kemal the surname Ataturk which means "Father Turk". To this day, Turks revere Mustafa Kemal Ataturk because his vision, courage and leadership eventually saved the country from invasion and extinction as a nation. Ataturk's progressive reforms have allowed Turkey to develop into the modern nation it is today. Even his ardent critics in Turkey enjoy freedom today because of Ataturk's life long dedication and service for his country.

This book is a gem, a rich source of information about the life and times of Kemal Ataturk. Anyone who is interested in further understanding the character of this brilliant soldier, the architect of the Turkish Republic and a rare individual whose spirit is alive and well in Turkey today should read this book.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Man, A Vision, A Country
Andrew Mango first gives his readers an excellent introduction to the declining Ottoman Empire so that they better understand where Mustapha Kemal Atatürk was coming from. The Ottoman Realm, though modernizing slowly, no longer had the means to live up to its ambitions and was shrinking fast under pressure of competing empires and nascent states at the end of the nineteenth century. Furthermore, the Ottoman State was undermined internally by increasingly restive minorities that no longer accepted their subservient condition, as well as, by part of the elite that was dissatisfied with the perceived backwardness and incompetence of the Ottoman ruling class. Born in Salonica in today's Greece around 1880 in a Muslim, Turkish-speaking and middle-class family, Atatürk early on made up his mind to join the westernizing army and thereby discard the external signs of oriental life.

Mango narrates with mastery the steady progress that Atatürk, a successful and popular student, made during his military education. Work was all that mattered to Atatürk. Atatürk became a politically savvy professional soldier while studying hard during his years of military education in Istanbul, the imperial capital. After his admission to the prestigious Staff College at 21, Atatürk kept in touch with his military friends who were assigned elsewhere, a circle that would reveal its greatest usefulness in the accession of Atatürk to the highest post of Modern Turkey two decades later. Because of his subversive political activities, Atatürk was assigned not to Europe but to the Near East after finishing his studies in 1904. Mango does a great job in giving background information, which helps readers understand the environment in which Atatürk was bound to as a soldier while he actively remained involved in politics through his connections in the empire before, during and after WWI. In 1908, the Society of Union and Progress, of which Atatürk became a member, served as the launching path for the Young Turks in their successful military coup. Atatürk understood very fast that the Young Turks, even with the help of Germany later on, were not up to the task to save the empire from its ultimate downfall after the end of WWI. Atatürk was still too junior to play a key role in the new administration. As usual, Atatürk was critical of the new ones on top because he alone deserved to be leader.

From 1911, Atatürk, still an obscure officer, progressively rose to preeminence. Atatürk first tried to quell rebellions in the disintegrating empire before WWI. Atatürk then illustrated his military superiority when he decisively helped ruin the allied venture at Gallipoli in 1915. After a new promotion in 1916, Atatürk, very resentful of the Germans for continuously meddling into military operations from the beginning, spent two agitated years in the Near East where he did what he could to slow down the advance of the allies until the end of WWI. Officers who ultimately played a key role in the War of Independence were placed under his command during these two years. After the armistice in 1918, Atatürk proved to be the most effective of all Ottoman officers who refused the diktats of the victorious allies and thwarted their efforts to carve up the territory of Modern Turkey into pieces. Mango clearly explained how with the help of other nationalist officers, Atatürk turned Anatolia into a redoubt of resistance while accommodating the decadent rule of the sultan in the short term. Atatürk also progressively centralized all military and political levers of power in his hands through shrewd maneuvering. Mango is brutally honest about the enlightened despotism of Atatürk. Modern Turkey needed a strong regime to impose its legitimacy both internally and externally.

It took Atatürk and his army several grueling years before they could finally defeat the Greeks militarily and thereby commanding the grudging respect of the remaining divided allies. The signature of the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 was a personal triumph for Atatürk by making the humiliating Treaty of Sevres of 1920 associated with the discredited old regime almost totally obsolete. As George Curzon, a British imperial statesman, noted at the end of the conference: "Hitherto we have dictated our peace treaties. Now we are negotiating one with an enemy who has an army while we have none, an unheard of position." The Treaty of Lausanne, still in existence, has been the most successful and the most lasting of all the post-war treaties. Atatürk was 42 years old when he became the first president of Modern Turkey. He assumed this position until his premature death in 1938. Mango never bores his audience when he overviews the successful and not-so-successful revolutionary reforms that Atatürk enacted during the successive terms of his presidency. Unsurprisingly, Modern Turks still revere Atatürk for westernizing and modernizing at high speed their country at its creation in 1923.

In present times, the adhesion of Turkey and United Cyprus to the European Union should be a fitting tribute to western-bound Kemalism. In addition, this adhesion should help engineer a historic reconciliation between Greece and Turkey, two key U.S. allies. On top of that, Turkey is called to play a key role as a bridge between the European Union and a would-be Islamic Union. Turkey has been an anchor of stability for over 80 years in the most volatile region of the world and has demonstrated with a growing success how to marry democracy, economic liberalism and Islam with one another. Unsurprisingly, Islamic terrorists have had Turkey on their hitting list for this reason.

2-0 out of 5 stars Interesting subject ruined by inferior narrative ability
This is a very interesting topic that has been under-scrutinized in western sources. Mr. Mango has done excellent research, but the narrative is jumbled and difficult to follow. Most egregiously, the author is the equivalent of a dyslexic grasshopper with ADHD-- he tends to switch subjects frequently, often in the middle of paragraphs.

I have no quibble with his facts, but Mr. Mango has done a worse than average job of presenting a fascinating story. This book was a disappointment and not worth the money spent even at half price.

A smaller complaint has to do with the maps -- more could have been done to show maps in the course of the narrative. A bigger complaint is that Mango (has) (never) (met) (a) (parenthesis) (that) (he) (didn't) (love) (to) (use).

Bottom line: if you're already versed in the subject and are looking for another resource, it's fine. If you're reading it to learn something about Mustafa Kemal for fun/interest, you will be an unpleasant combination of bored and confused.

5-0 out of 5 stars Superb! Ataturk is a fascinating read
I'm a Canadian half-Turk who has been fascinated by Turkish and Balkan history. Though I've read Kinross and some of the primary sources in Turkish, this book is a highly informative and bold account of early 20th century Turkish history with Ataturk as the main character but with many other personas in sharp focus. From the influence due to the rabid and hysterical propaganda of the politicians among the Armenian-American diaspora (note: not the regular people, especially our younger generation), it is hard to debate about these issues and even consider some of the historical characters objectively in the US. Mango does this bravely (not worried about denting his book sales) and in a scholarly fashion, but the book as as engrossing as a masterfully worked novel, so even if you aren't well versed in Turkish history it will be an enjoyable read. This should be a textbook in business school courses, as Ataturk was one of the best managers in recent history. ... Read more

5. Inventing A Nation: Washington, Adams, Jefferson
by Gore Vidal
list price: $22.00
our price: $14.96
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Asin: 0300101716
Catlog: Book (2003-11-01)
Publisher: Yale University Press
Sales Rank: 9443
Average Customer Review: 3.38 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Gore Vidal, one of the master stylists of American literature and one of the most acute observers of American life and history, turns his immense literary and historiographic talent to a portrait of the formidable trio of George Washington, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson.In Fathers of the Republic, Vidal transports the reader into the minds, the living rooms (and bedrooms), the convention halls, and the salons of Washington, Jefferson, Adams, and others. We come to know these men, through Vidal's splendid and percipient prose, in ways we have not up to now-their opinions of each other, their worries about money, their concerns about creating a viable democracy. Vidal brings them to life at the key moments of decision in the birthing of our nation. He also illuminates the force and weight of the documents they wrote, the speeches they delivered, and the institutions of government by which we still live.More than two centuries later, America is still largely governed by the ideas championed by this triumvirate. ... Read more

Reviews (24)

2-0 out of 5 stars Political propaganda disguised as history
You might look at Gore Vidal's Inventing a Nation: Washington, Adams, Jefferson and think you are gazing upon a book of history. Oh, there is an element of history to it - albeit a messy, unorganized one - but Inventing a Nation is really about two things only: Gore Vidal's glorified opinion of himself and his hatred for George W. Bush. Most hate mongers and political pundits would simply come write out and attack the current administration, but Gore Vidal is far too pretentious and smarmy to take the common man's approach to political protest. Perhaps he hoped to cleverly disguise his political screed by masking it in the history of the founding of this great Republic (he does, after all, consider the majority of Americans stupid enough to believe anything they are told), but his gleeful delight at stepping aside every few pages to launch vicious attacks on just about everyone associated with America betrays the true nature of his work.

Let's look at this book as history and see why I personally say that Inventing a Nation is a perfect example of how not to write it. This could have been an informative work, for Vidal sets out to explain just how contentious and vulnerable the new nation was in its earliest days. He quotes extensively from the writings and speeches of prominent Revolutionaries to reveal the sorts of grudges, bitter disagreements, and questionable behavior these men sometimes engaged in. Unfortunately, he never really builds an adequate framework on which to make his presentation. In his eagerness to dish out dirt on our Founding Fathers, he fails to establish the true context of the times (which is ironic, given his unabashed lament over the ignorance of the American people). He also fails to identify a single source for any of his quotations and references; he does not even provide a bibliography of sources consulted. Thus, all of the quotes he throws around are presented in a manner completely devoid of context, and the reader has no easy way of verifying a single thing he reads here. Vidal also jumps around in time and place continuously. We can be with Jefferson the French diplomat one minute and then, quite suddenly, find ourselves examining President Jefferson's purchase of Louisiana. Poor John Adams is thrown around so violently that he would surely sue Vidal for whiplash, were he alive today.

I will admit that Vidal does manage to put together some valid points and arguments, but he continually nullifies the good he has done with bouts of infuriatingly sophomoric insults and name-calling, not to mention numerous departures from the subject at hand to fan the flames of his fiery political manifesto. Vidal manages to insult just about everyone associated with the founding of America, and I get the impression Vidal thinks the whole idea of America was a mistake. He belittles James Madison, or "little Jemmy," as he calls him, for being short. He describes John Adams as a short, fat man of great vanity and self-pity who "waddled into history." He lampoons the Boston Tea Party and the "Disney-like Mount Rushmore," states as fact that the women of the nascent Republic-to-be found King George's hired Hessian mercenaries much more physically attractive than their "scrawny, sallow" proto-American counterparts. He criticizes Jefferson's "immoral" life but has nothing but praise for Benjamin Franklin (mainly because Franklin provides him with a quote he loves to use when attacking the modern politicians he hates so much). Vidal particularly dislikes Jefferson, whom he continually describes as a hypocrite of the highest order. (He does, however, make use of Jefferson to imply that he would have called for secession from the nation over the establishment of the Patriot Act.)

The only memorable aspects of this book are the numerous vitriolic asides, many of which have little to do with the subject at hand. Vidal cannot speak about a certain Supreme Court justice without including the parenthetical remark "thought by many to be a visiting alien." His attacks on the Bush administration are as snide as they are numerous. The most galling of statements, however, are pointed at the American people, and I can't imagine how any American of any political party cannot but be offended here. He refers to the nation as "the United States of Amnesia," speaks of this country's "uneducated, misinformed majority" and sanctimoniously bemoans the fact that most Americans don't even know what the Electoral College is. That's just the tip of the iceberg. It's one thing to disagree with current policy, but to boldly state that Afghanistan had as little to do with the terrorist attack on 9/11 as Canada did is something else. Those who agree with Vidal's politics will praise this book, but I don't think anyone will argue too strenuously that Inventing a Nation is a work of history. Historians may not always be objective, but they must at least attempt to be so. Twisting history in order to push your own agenda is, was, and always will be propaganda. It is unfortunate because this book did have the potential of filling a few gaps in our understanding of the founding of the United States.

4-0 out of 5 stars More Than Just History
I read this book after having the fun of listening to Mr. Vidal discuss it at an event last month at the new National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. I've also taken into account some of the earlier reviews posted here. I agree it's not his best work; I'd save that distinction for LINCOLN and the UNITED STATES essays. However, it is a very thoughtful and funny piece of work. Vidal INTENDS you to think about what he says. There is more to history (at least there should be) than just getting the dates and names right. If you want the life of Washington read D.S. Freeman or J. T. Flexner. If you want John Adams, go to David McCullough. If you want Jefferson, see Joseph Ellis or even Dumas Malone. Those are first-rate biographies. However, what Vidal attempts here (generally successfully) is the second part of history - how does what they did reflect now? What present events suggest we haven't come as far as this founding trio would like? (See his comments on the relationship of Adams' Alien & Sedition Acts to the Bush Patriot Act.) It's funny, elegant, and enlightening. I enjoyed every skewering line.

1-0 out of 5 stars Unscholarly Rant
In this poor excuse for a work of scholarship, Vidal spends his time (and ours) entertaining personal assumptions (see Publishers Weekly review), viewpoints, and pet themes. Why, in the middle of a purported historical work on the Founding Fathers, does he digress into making weak connections with the war in Iraq, his generalizations of contemporary America, and other unrelated, obviously biased dribble? If I want politically charged opinion on the topics of the day, I'll read Op/Ed pieces, or at least something that admits its bias from the onset. If you are looking for an unbiased, focused, and SCHOLARLY substantive work on the topic, read Ellis' Founding Brothers. It won the Pulitzer--because it is everything Inventing a Nation is not.

5-0 out of 5 stars when the People shall become so corrupted ....
Vidal's latest, is a broadside typical of the period he's writing about -- a mixture of historical anecdote, contemporary commentary and unabashed partisan analysis --in other words, a great read! Vidal surveys the period from 1776 to 1800, concentrating on the personalities and writings of Washington, Hamilton, Adams & Jefferson. Along the way, he contrasts 18th century politics and political philosophy with 21st century politics [only, since he sees little reasoned analysis in modern government]. And sometimes he just goes for the quick jab, as when he quotes Adams view of the newly arrived French minister as a comparison with our first unelected president:

>>>>>>>John Adams had known Genet's family in France: he had also known the boy himself. Politely, he received the fiery minister and then wrapped him round with Adamsian analysis of the graveyard sort: "A youth totally destitute of all experience in popular government, popular assemblies, or conventions of any kind: very little accustomed to reflect upon his own or his fellow creatures' hearts; wholly ignorant of the law of nature and nations . . . " Adams did grant him "a declamatory style. . . a flitting, fluttering imagination, an ardor in his temper, and a civil deportment." Thus two centuries ago the witty French had sent us an archetypal personality whose American avatar would one' day be placed in Washington's by now rickety chair.

But Vidal's slyness is only a cover for his real subject -- the creation of a government that could hold democracy at bay without the trappings of a monarchy. The book is not much longer than an old-style New Yorker series, and he summarizes major events like the constitutional convention to provide details of the men involved, as seen by themselves and their peers. Early on he shows the prescience of many of the founders:

>>>>> At eighty-one Franklin was too feeble to address the convention on its handiwork, and so a friend read for him the following words: "I agree to this Constitution with all its faults, if they are such: because I think a General Government necessary for us, and there is no Form of Government but what may be a Blessing to the People if well-administred; and I believe farther that this is likely to be well administred for a Course of Years and can only end in Despotism as other Forms have done before it, when the People shall become so corrupted as to need Despotic Government, being incapable of any other.
Now, two centuries and sixteen years later, Franklin's blunt dark prophecy has come true: popular corruption has indeed given birth to that Despotic Government which he foresaw as in-, evitable at our birth. Unsurprisingly, a third edition of the admirable Benjamin Franklin: His Lift As He Wrote It, by Esmon . Wright, is now on sale (Harvard University Press, 1996) with' significantly-inevitably?, Franklin's somber prediction cut out, thus silencing our only great ancestral voice to predict Enron et seq., not to mention November 2000, and, following that, despotism whose traditional activity, war, now hedges us all around" No wonder that so many academic histories of our republic and its origins tend to gaze fixedly upon the sunny aspects of a history growing ever darker. No wonder they choose to disregard the wise, eerily prescient voice of the authentic Franklin in favor of the jolly fat ventriloquist of common lore, with his simple maxims for simple folk; to ignore his key to our earthly political invention in favor of that lesser key which he attached to a kite in order to attract heavenly fire.

In the afterword Vidal pushes the point home, starting from his discussion of the Alien & Sedition Acts, progenitors of the Patriot Act, he follows Jeffersons careful defense of civil rights with his orchestration of the states counterattack that resulted in the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions. Jefferson had to act cautiously, for, even as Vice President, his mere criticism of the acts of Adams & Hamilton could be a violation of the Sedition Act. [Not so different from today's Bush supporters who declare any dissent being aid and comfort to the enemy.] In this case, the ultimate confrontation was avoided by Jefferson's electoral defeat of Adams and immediate suspension of the 2 acts. But nullification remained an inflammatory concept lurking within the Constitution; exploding in the Civil War 2 generations later. Today, Vidal sees it as perhaps the last defense of the states when the Federal Executive abrogates power.
I've only traced here one of several threads Vidal ties to contemporary issues. Others include Hamilton's creation of the financial system, and Marshall's bold construction of judicial review. Shortness doesn't prevent Vidal from presenting many arguments that are vital to today's national politics. Conservatives kneejerk reactions is amusing since much of the discussion in the book is of ideas any true conservative should hold as core values!

1-0 out of 5 stars Supercilious Ego Trip
This book is all about how smart and witty Vidal thinks he is. Why doesn't he just build an altar to himslef so we can all worship at his feet? Enough already with the same lame stuff. Do not expect any serious insight about the founding fathers. He disguises lack of scholarship and historical understanding with dime-store psychology and tabloid journalism. ... Read more

6. Augustine of Hippo: A Biography, Revised Edition with a New Epilogue
by Peter Robert Lamont Brown, Peter Brown
list price: $19.95
our price: $13.57
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0520227573
Catlog: Book (2000-08-07)
Publisher: University of California Press
Sales Rank: 22652
Average Customer Review: 4.73 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

This classic biography was first published thirty years ago and has since established itself as the standard account of Saint Augustine's life and teaching. The remarkable discovery recently of a considerable number of letters and sermons by Augustine has thrown fresh light on the first and last decades of his experience as a bishop. These circumstantial texts have led Peter Brown to reconsider some of his judgments on Augustine, both as the author of the Confessions and as the elderly bishop preaching and writing in the last years of Roman rule in north Africa. Brown's reflections on the significance of these exciting new documents are contained in two chapters of a substantial Epilogue to his biography (the text of which is unaltered). He also reviews the changes in scholarship about Augustine since the 1960s. A personal as well as a scholarly fascination infuse the book-length epilogue and notes that Brown has added to his acclaimed portrait of the bishop of Hippo. ... Read more

Reviews (15)

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellently portrays Africa as the Mid-West of Ancient Rome
For those who are unfamiliar with Peter Brown, he is one of the most eloquent writers of late antiquity. He writes his biography of St. Augustine--the man who founded the base of medieval Christianity and theology. Brown's book begins at the site of North Africa as it was when occupied by Rome. Brown describes the boyhood home of young Augustine as the stomping grounds for an intelligent, but incorrigible youth. Augustine was indoctrinated into Roman culture by receiving a Pagan education even though he was raised as a uncommitted Christian. Augustine's childhood and teens are reflected by the Saint in his old age as selfish, immoral, and reckless. He gradually gave up his self-indulgences and came to associate them with his Pagan education. He turned to Manicheeism to learn the scientific principles of the universe, but found the religion unfullfilling. He embraced Neo-Platonism, but realized it did not offer the true God. Finally, Augustine reclaimed his Christian heritage while in Milan under the tutalge of St. Ambrose. Augustine found the simplicity, but ambiguous scriptures full of the one answer he wanted in life: the origin of evil.

5-0 out of 5 stars A classic biography of a master theologian
Peter Brown melds the diverging factors to cover the history of a very complex man. By setting Augustine in his time and place he effecively traces the impacts on Augustine's life, which profoundly affect his doctrines. Make no mistake, Brown is writing an acedemic history, not hagiography. The reader should expect a thorough discussion of history, philosophy and or course religion. The evenhanded nature of the work and its beautiful style are a lesson for all other writers of religious biography.

5-0 out of 5 stars An elegant and precise biography of Augustine
It is quite often said that biographies like the one I have in my hands , be them autobiographical or third-party bios, are the "vin rosé" of books, ranking behind the more palatable red or white vintages. For my part, I dont quite agree at all with this assertion, having already read many dense, enjoyable and full of meaning biographies. When crisscrossing biographies as "low-grade" literary accomplishments, critics should remember that one of the two most relevant textbooks from Augustine is his celebrate Confessions, written probably c.397 and listed among the most momentuous texts ever done. Should we follow the expert's advice and scrape it into the trash bin of unimportant works? I don't think so.

Getting back from this digression, I am not at all ashamed to affirm that "Augustine of Hippo - a biography", by Peter Brown, is a pretty elegant account of the life and work of one of the two most important philosophers of Catholicism of all times, the other being St.Thomas Aquinas, the writer of Summa Theological. "Augustine of Hippo" first published in 1967 was recently revised and republished , in 2000, with a new and fascinating epilogue, accouting for the whole new breed of archealogical evidence that cropped up in between the two dates.

The book is not just a factual and competent account of the life of the man Augustine, being also a ponderous sketch of his unsurpassed work and contribution to the erection of the scaffolds and edifice of the Catholic Church, in a time of the decline fortune of paganism and of the Roman Empire itself. "Austine of Hippo" is a dense text, some 500 pages long, and dulcissimus to read, all the subjects and issues related to his life and work, being presented on good schematical order, supported by clear-cut tables and maps. The issues are well-chosen and give a full scope of the somewhat tumultuos life of the philsopher saint, son of Saint Monica, a towering figure over his son, much more so than his father Patricius and his prematurely dead son Adeodatus. Many potentially mind boggling issues like Manichaeism, Neo-Platonism and the Trinity Dogma are written with simplicity, withouth the loss of inner coherence.

As a minor defect, I don't quite agree with the extensive use of page footnotes, which makes the reading of the text somehow tedious.But, despite this irrelevant fault, I can think of no better way of addressing such unsurpassable subject as Saint Augustine and his contribution to world affairs.

5-0 out of 5 stars Scholarly Biography at Its Best
Peter Brown has accomplished what a scholarly biography should: make us feel that we have come to enter the life and mind of the subject of the biography. Brown's chapters are relatively short and thus make reading this long book pleasurable because you can make identifiable progress in your reading. Brown also has copious citations to the works of Augustine for those who wish to track down a quote. In addition, he has added an epilogue that actually corrects the flawed judgments he made in the first edition over thirty years ago (this is a humility rare in academic circles). The epilogue also has a chapter on new writings of Augustine that scholars have uncovered since the first edition of his work. My only wish would have been for more theological exploration of the theme of predestination which is presented in a superficial manner. As a Catholic, I would also have preferred more explicit exploration of Augustine's relations with the popes of his time. But, all in all, Brown has written and updated a great biography that deserves its stature as the definitive biography of Augustine. I heartily recommend it.

4-0 out of 5 stars A ponderous classic and author
As a result of his having ballooned up to 425 pounds because of a serious endocrinologoical problem, Augustine was actually known during his lifetime as "Augustine the Hippo." Out of respect to the great Christian thinker and philosopher, they later reverted to the original version of his name.

But Augustine's obesity problem aside, The City of God is certainly a weighty and profound volume itself, and I'd like to say that in consideration of the philosophical contributions he made in this book, I have no problem throwing my own not inconsiderable bulk behind it. Also, I suspect that Augustine was actually beatified for founding the first weight-control clinic, certainly an important contribution in and of itself. ... Read more

7. The Tao of Muhammad Ali
by Davis Miller
list price: $22.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0446519464
Catlog: Book (1996-11-01)
Publisher: Warner Books Inc
Sales Rank: 187235
Average Customer Review: 4.43 out of 5 stars
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As a boy growing up in North Carolina, Davis Miller was short, skinny, and scared. But he studied martial arts and after graduating from high school fought professionally as a kickboxer. What gave him the courage to change was the example of Muhammad Ali. In this insightful memoir, Miller recalls how a chance meeting with Ali in Louisville, Kentucky, years later led to friendship and to the beginning of Miller's career as a writer. During one of their meetings, Ali asks why Miller has followed him for so long. Miller's response: "Because you're the single largest person I've ever known." ... Read more

Reviews (21)

5-0 out of 5 stars A wonderful behind the scenes look at the true Ali
This book is one of the best books I have read in a long, long time.It is about the true Ali, the part of him that is not reported on by the press but is noticed by his fans, and everyone else. It shows that it is not just his great boxing talent that people love,but also his drive, his way of making people feel important about themselves.It is also about Davis Miller and tells a lot about himself also, but that is certainly not a handicap.It actually adds alot more flavor to the book itself.I highly recommend reading this book.

4-0 out of 5 stars More inspiration than perspiration!
Davis Miller shares the story of his life and the inspiration he has received through his serendipitous encounter(s) with Muhammad Ali. This is a poignant account of a boy's difficult childhood, and the inspiration he receives from his real-life hero, Muhammad Ali. This wonderful book is much less about boxing, and much more about family love. How wonderful it would be to sit in the living room of Muhammad's mother and feel the warmth of her radiating love. The author states that Muhammad Ali would have been a world-class figure even if he had never put on a pair of boxing gloves

5-0 out of 5 stars Exceedingly good fun
Buy both Tao of Muhammed Ali and Zen of Muhammed Ali and Other Obsessions - and all of Davis Miller's other books! They are amongst the most important pieces of literature to have been published in the last 100 years! Simply mind blowing. And incredibly fun.

5-0 out of 5 stars a marvelous book
It is natural for a large Ali fan, as I am, to not easily give an adequate evaluation over a book that I would have surely always bought, no matter how the contents would reveal themselves. But I admit, when this book was first published in Germany, I already waited nearly desperately for the words, which would bring me closer to the "greatest of all times", because D.Miller tells history over Ali as he experienced it. But D.Miller's own story is exactly what keeps me so fascinated with this book today. There are not the statistics over Ali's fights, over his finances or over his marriages that finally failed. This book, it reveals rather "secrets" over the life - the inner life of Ali (particularly after his active career),and also the life of an author who in my opinion places much value on the intrinsic worth of human beings and also gives the reader much concerning himself -- and that is the best part of the book, if the reader only permits it. The fate makes it possible to be able to spend, through the author's experience, real, deep time with Muhammad Ali. It is not time as an ordinary interview is developed, but it is the time like one also with its best friends would spend. Miller recorded all this time with Ali in an affectionate and beautiful way. He describes Ali in Louisville, in the house of his mother, visited and between Rahaman and Mr.Clay senior appears, as Ali and his brother before their mother play like two children ridiculous and again and again. Punches, how affectionately Ali with his own and with all other children of this world goes around and how Ali, sick and 50 years old in an old sport-resounds, beats up a young, strong beginner. Miller accompanies Ali with a meeting with Joe Frazier and Ali says it is wrong to give the pain that he gave Frazier and says he loves Joe Frazier.... During the reading of this book one dips into the mysterious world of the most well-known man of this earth, which the author with his own history connects by his life and thereby hitting a corner of history we share with the author and with Muhammad Ali himself.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Greatest About the Greatest
What a wonderful read! I read this book for a university course in Scotland. This book offers the reader a refreshing approach to the study of the most influential sportsman in history. The reader can share and often empathise with the thoughts of the author as he recounts the growth of his interests in Ali and his eventual meetings with the great man. It's perhaps the closest many of us fans will ever get and provides great insight into the personality of the Greatest. A superb book! ... Read more

8. Marie Antoinette : The Journey
list price: $16.95
our price: $11.53
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0385489498
Catlog: Book (2002-11-12)
Publisher: Anchor
Sales Rank: 20810
Average Customer Review: 4.24 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

France’s beleaguered queen, Marie Antoinette, wrongly accused of uttering the infamous “Let them eat cake,” was the subject of ridicule and curiosity even before her death; she has since been the object of debate and speculation and the fascination so often accorded tragic figures in history. Married in mere girlhood, this essentially lighthearted, privileged, but otherwise unremarkable child was thrust into an unparalleled time and place, and was commanded by circumstance to play a significant role in history. Antonia Fraser’s lavish and engaging portrait of Marie Antoinette, one of the most recognizable women in European history, excites compassion and regard for all aspects of her subject, immersing the reader not only in the coming-of-age of a graceful woman, but also in the unraveling of an era. ... Read more

Reviews (50)

5-0 out of 5 stars Tragic Story of French Revolution's Famous Victim
Lady Antonia Fraser newest biography is a familiar story but she fortunately brings many new facts and forgotten figures to light. By including "The Journey" in her title, Lady Fraser's
main purpose is to convince the reader that Marie Antoinette did
indeed transform herself from the frivolous and disinterested Queen she was purported to be. This the author accomplishes brilliantly and with the historical facts needed to back herself up.
Within the first few pages, Lady Fraser thoroughly trounces that famous and oft-repeated statement attributed to the Queen ("Let them eat cake!")as nothing more than a vicious slur while
acknowledging it as the first of many to do permanent damage to her image and character. Lady Fraser is able to separate rumors
from facts and does so through her inexhaustible research and innumerable sources. The long and painful incarceration of the Royal Family is quite detailed here and sheds new light on not only the ill-treatment of the Queen, but particularly of her son (who died miserably and isolated in captivity).
This is undoubtedly a sad story but one not unique for the victims of the French Revolution: a revolution that ended up
devouring itself and its leaders in the immolation of the Terror.
Lady Fraser certainly makes the case that, like most of the victims of this volatile period, Marie Antoinette was sentenced to death by a pre-arranged "kangaroo court" and was in essence
"murdered" not for what she had done, but for who she had been.
A rather sly reference in the epilogue notes that her chief harasser on the Revolutionary Committee, Jaques Hebert, ended
up in the same graveyard as the former Queen within a few short months: a deserving victim of the chaos and terror that he himself instigated.
All in all, Lady Antonia Fraser has written an outstanding
biography that compares well with her previous work and, in some instances, surpasses it. Thanks to this book, readers and historians alike will be able to obtain a far truer and balanced picture of a much-maligned historical figure. It is certainly a "Journey" worth taking.

3-0 out of 5 stars Not Up to Antonia Fraser's Other Efforts
This book is a total white wash of Marie Antoinette. If you are looking for an unbiased biograph, do not look here. Compared to "Mary Queen of Scots" and "Cromwell", this book was just not up to Ms. Fraser's usual high standards. I could not wait for this book to come out, ran out and bought it and read it immediately. While reading it, I kept wondering, "This is Antonia Fraser?" Ms. Fraser would have written a much better book if she could have seen the good and bad in Marie Antoinette. Yes, she was a pawn of history. Yes, she was a devoted mother. BUT, she was part of that aristocratic world which presumed that certain people were--by reason of birth--better than everyone else. Ultimately she paid a price she really didn't deserve to pay.

Next time I'll wait a bit longer to run out and buy a book by Ms. Fraser.

4-0 out of 5 stars The Austrian woman
Pampered daughter of an Empress, doomed Queen of France, Marie Antoinette is one of the most Romantic figures in world history. Though many denounce her as selfish and stupid, she has her champions who see her as a compassionate woman victimized by historical circumstances. One of these is Antonia Fraser, whose "Marie Antoinette: The Journey" (2001) may well be one of the most sympathetic portraits ever written of a monarch, aside from "official biographies". (But then, the author handled Mary, Queen of Scots the same way.) Beginning with her childhood as an Archduchess in Vienna, daughter of the doting but stern Maria Theresa, the book follows Maria Antonia's journey into France as the fiancée of the hapless Dauphin, becoming the sparkling Marie Antoinette. Extraordinarily popular (at first), she usually displayed the finest discretion and kindness, despite her haughty attitude towards the Comtesse du Barry (who, incidently, was to share her fate). So many of the nasty rumors circulated about her were most likely untrue, including the "Let them eat cake" story, which Antonia Fraser says was first attributed to the wife of Louis XIV in the 17th Century. The libelles accusing Marie Antoinette of cruelty and promiscuity only prove that trashy publications are not confined to our era. Her attachment to Count Axel Fersen is recounted unblushingly, and it becomes particularly touching in 1791, when the dashing Swede tried to to help the Queen get her family out of France. Probably the most complicated and incriminating episode in Marie Antoinette's life was the Diamond Necklace Affair (Napoleon said it more than anything else led her to the guillotine), and Antonia Fraser describes its intricacies carefully -- emphasizing, bien sûr, the Queen's innocence. Oddly enough, of the many portraits of Marie Antoinette, few show her displaying a necklace at all, much less anything resembling the rivière of the scandal. For a woman supposedly so enamored of jewels, she didn't seem to wear many. (There are more than 50 illustrations, most of them color plates.) The book is nearly 500 pages long, but the descriptions of court life and an increasingly dangerous political situation make for easy reading. Despite her husband's respect and the adoration of her children, Marie Antoinette will always have her detractors. But this biography shows that the Queen's final torments, as well as the judicial travesties enacted against her, more than compensate for any mistakes she may have made during her luxurious journey to disaster.

4-0 out of 5 stars Read It and Weep
I began reading this wonderful biography of Marie Antoinette while planning a trip to France and although the book is long, and at times rather tedious, it did not dissapoint my intrigue with this historically tragic figure.

Antonia Fraser has written what seems to be about as accurate a biography as possible. Many horrible stories have been told about Marie Antoinette and this book covers those as well as many more that I never knew. Like most people my introduction to Marie Antoinette was with her "Let them eat cake..." speech and her over-extravagant life style. It seemed almost understandable that she was beheaded based on such misrepresentation. In reality the story reads much more tragically once you get to know a bit about her life and how it all ended.

Imagine being a precocious but innocent young girl raised up like property to be sold to the highest royal bidder. Then at 14 being sent away from your friends and family to become the wife of another royal child. Marie Antoinette left Austria and had to adapt to becomming a future queen of France within only a few short years. The French, during those times, being notoriously inclined to think of Austrian women as unflattering and unfeminine oafs. But young Marie pulled it all off and successfully became the star of France. Her husband Louis XVI was more interested in hunting and gadgets than creating a future French dynasty with Marie. So it isn't a wonder that she fills up her life with all the riches of royality. Her life is a sad saga from beginning to end despite her royality and wealth. The final chapters of this book are unimaginable to fathom. She is taken from her family once again, thrown in a small cell, stripped of any royal privileges and left to contemplate her own demise.

Imagine becomming all you never dreamed of, hearing the crowd cheer the beheading of your husband, listening to the coerced testimony of your only son stating the abuses he suffered by your own hands, seeing the head of your friend paraded on a stake past your cell window, hemorrhaging from stress and exhaustion and then having to walk up a platform towards your death with a roaring crowd surrounding you.....few of us could stand it, but Marie Antoinette did. Her story is a great read but in order to get Marie's true essence one must walk the halls of Versailles and then sit in contemplation near her cell in the La Conciergerie.....this extraordinarily strong woman lives on in infamy and her spirit reigns supreme.

4-0 out of 5 stars Very good biography on Marie Antoninette
Marie Antoninette proves to be a highly readable and nicely research biography. Antonia Fraser made it pretty clear that this Queen of France was probably one of the most misunderstood and most falsely maligned personalities of the French Revolution, accused by her enemies from being a lesbian to a drunkard. While Marie Antoniette was a person of many weaknesses, the author made it clear that outside of her undereducated and immature mind, her spendthrift ways which probably wasn't good for France, Marie Antoniette was none of the things that she was accused of being. Actually in reading this book, I was bit surprised how ordinary and somewhat boring her life was until the last six years before her death.

But here's lies the weakness of the book. The book really doesn't go that deep into Marie Antoniette's life during that crucial period. I have read more detail accounts of her life in other books that dealt strictly with the French Revolution then I have in this biography. The book was very good in informing the reader of the pre-French Revolution period of Marie Antoninette's life but faltered afterward. Maybe Antonia Fraser should have stop in 1789 since she really didn't have much to add that wasn't written before by other authors. (Of course, if she did that, it won't be a "complete biography".)

Overall though, this book is well worth any reader's time to read if you have such interest in the life and time of Marie Antoninette. For those who don't read much on the French Revolution, its an excellent choice! Author's effort to rehabilitate Marie Antoninette's reputation proves to be pretty successful and with certain justice, long overdue. ... Read more

9. John Quincy Adams: (The American Presidents Series)
by Robert V. Remini, Arthur M. Schlesinger
list price: $20.00
our price: $13.60
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0805069399
Catlog: Book (2002-08-20)
Publisher: Times Books
Sales Rank: 75394
Average Customer Review: 3.75 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

A vivid portrait of a man whose pre- and post-presidential careers overshadowed his presidency.

Chosen by the House of Representatives after an inconclusive election against Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams often failed to mesh with the ethos of his era, pushing unsuccessfully for a strong, consolidated national government. Historian Robert V. Remini recounts how in the years before his presidency Adams was a shrewd, influential diplomat, and later, as a dynamic secretary of state under President James Monroe, he solidified many basic aspects of American foreign policy, including the Monroe Doctrine. Undoubtedly his greatest triumph was the negotiation of the Transcontinental Treaty, through which Spain acknowledged Florida to be part of the United States. After his term in office, he earned the nickname "Old Man Eloquent" for his passionate antislavery speeches.
... Read more

Reviews (12)

4-0 out of 5 stars JQA - The Overview
John Quincy Adams is remembered today (if at all) as the first son to follow in his father's footsteps to the presidency. Adams, or "JQA" as historian/author Robert Remini refers to him, had a brilliant diplomatic and political career--albiet under his father's long shadow--before becoming president in a disputed election (the other similarity he shares with the current occupant of The White House). Among his other major accomplishments, Adams the second negotiated the end of the war of 1812 and as Secretary of State formulated the priciples that would later become known as The Monroe Doctrine. Unfortunately, Admas's skills as a diplomat were of little help during his largely unsuccessful presidency, in which he was overshadowed from the beginning by the popular Andrew Jackson, who bitterly opposed almost every move he made. The split between the two would revive America's two party system after over a decade of dormancy.

Remini documents all of the major events of JQA's life, from the "corrupt bargain" with Henry Clay that propelled Adams to the presidency to his unhappy personal life. For all of his brilliance, Adams was a tormented man, brutalized emotionally by his domineering mother (the otherwise revered Abigail) as well as by his failure to secure the hand of the one true love of his life. The equally overbearing upbringing he fostered upon his own sons resulted in tragedy for two of them.

The sense the reader gets from Remini's book is that JQA was one of the more fascinating and tragic figures ever to become president. Unfortunately, at only a brief 155 pages of narrative the book only scratches the surface of the man. Still, Remini is a first rate writer and historian, and his easily readable prose makes this a very accessible work of history.

Overall, a breezy historical account documenting the life of an often overlooked president.

5-0 out of 5 stars John Who? Adams
John Quincy Adams was the sixth President of the United States, but much less well known than his father John Adams, the second President of the USA.

In this splendid biography, Robert Remini has provided us with a concise volume detailing the life of John Quincy Adams. Within this book, it is easily seen why JQA is rated as "below average" as a President, but highly regarded as an international diplomat.

Remini has done a spectactular job in describing the whole life of John Quincy Adams, and helps us to understand why Adams' life is being reclassified as more successful than previously recognized, despite the fact that his Presidency was a failure.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone that is looking for a basic understanding of Adams the man, not just as the President.

3-0 out of 5 stars an error about an error
Referring to Marshall Newman's review. The Macaulay that JQA read and Remini mentions was Catherine Macaulay (1731-1791), an historian and a distant relative of T.B. Macaulay (1800-1859).

2-0 out of 5 stars Not History's Favorite.
This is one of the few, possibly the only, early American President I am aware of who is consistently treated poorly by historians. It is almost like there is some unspoken conspiracy to paint the man as some kind of slacker. The closest we can come to this kind of consensual disapproval is how the American press treated Gerald Ford's athleticism. In Ford's case, this former center for the University of Michigan football team, an excellent recreational skier and a man who consistently shot golf in the low 70's was treated as an uncoordinated clod, who could not put one foot in front of another. Something similar is going on with the depiction of JQA.

Independent of his parents in Europe for 6 years, much of that time by his own choice, his biographers treat him as a mama's boy. That's right, the same man who undertook his first diplomatic mission for the United States at age 14! And it goes down hill from there.

Incredible successes as Secretary of State under James Monroe are glossed over, a Presidential vision for America that was the equal of Washington, Adams (his father), Jefferson, Madison and Monroe's combined, formulator of the Monroe Doctrine, extender of the Continental limits of the United States from sea to sea, ardent abolitionist who fought the Gag Rule in the House of Representatives for 9 years (that's right, he defends our most fundamental of freedoms, freedom of speech, and during a 9 year Congressional battle, defeats those who would have suppressed this freedom within our own Congress), founder of the Smithsonian, the list of this man's unbelievable accomplishments goes on and on.

Professor Remini should be embarrassed for this mediocre effort. Was JQA stiff, prickly and unyielding? Of course he was. Was he obstinate, arrogant and difficult? Again JQA is guilty. But after his outstanding works on Jackson, Webster, and Clay for Professor Remini to simply repeat Nagel's poor work and not take the time and opportunity to fairly and accurately report on this man's life accomplishments has got to be some form of academic bankruptcy. This book is only 155 pages long. And those pages are small. That should tell you something. Save your money.

3-0 out of 5 stars Too much Freud at the begining.
Full disclosure. John Quincy Adams is one of my heroes. I eagerly grabbed this book but almost didn't finish it. The strong later chapters which effectively describe the Adams election, administration and later time in congress are paid for by a load of psycoanalisys of Abagail Adams, John Quincy to the point where the reader just wants to say ENOUGH!

When the writer calls Adams is a poor father and follows it up with a description of him informing his sons they should work hard, avoid drinking, and follow religion I must conclude that he doesn't want me raising children either. When he lambasts Adams for wanting to raise his sone the way he was raised saying that he should know better, he ignores that the method used produced one of the greatest statemen in the history of this country.

Later on it gets better the author rightly hits Adams as a poor pol but extols the virtues of his honesty and single minded devotion to what he believed was right. His chapters on Adams vision and his fight against the gag rule are great reading as are all chapters from the point that Adams serves in the Monroe administration.

The author's bias' are plain and the lens that he sees Adams life is apparent to any reader, but that lens can't cloud the life of the man, it can only make reading this story an annoyance for a time.

I suggest going right to 1816 and reading from there. The book is worth reading but it was enough to convince me that I would avoid this author in the future. ... Read more

10. The Book of Saints: A Comprehensive Biographical Dictionary
by Basil Dom Watkins, St. Augustine's Abbey
list price: $55.00
our price: $55.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0826413781
Catlog: Book (2002-06-01)
Publisher: Continuum International Publishing Group
Sales Rank: 70964
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Book Description

This is the first comprehensive dictionary of saints in any language for seventy years. The last edition of this book, the sixth, published in 1970, included very few entries for those recently beatified and canonized and almost none for those honored by Pope John Paul II. Unlike other books of saints which are selective--based on locale, gender, art-historical interest, or spiritual appeal--this one is rigorously comprehensive and historically objective. It includes entries for all those who have been formally canonized or beatified to date, or have had their local veneration approved by the church as a whole, or have been listed in the old Roman martyrology. It also includes the more prominent of those local saints who have been venerated in the distant past, before the process of canonization was formalized, who are no longer liturgically honored anywhere, but who feature in historical records. ... Read more

11. To the Scaffold: The Life of Marie Antoinette
by Carolly Erickson
list price: $30.75
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0688073018
Catlog: Book (1991-03-01)
Publisher: William Morrow & Co
Sales Rank: 546005
Average Customer Review: 4.43 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

One of history's most misunderstood figures, Marie Antoinette represents the extravagance and the decadence of pre-Revolution France. Yet there was an innocence about Antoinette, thrust as a child into the chillingly formal French court.

Married to the maladroit, ill-mannered Dauphin, Antoinette found pleasure in costly entertainments and garments. She spent lavishly while her overtaxed and increasingly hostile subjects blamed her for France's plight. In time Antoinette matured into a courageous Queen, and when their enemies finally closed in, Antoinette followed her inept husband to the guillotine in one last act of bravery.

In To the Scaffold, Carolly Erickson provides an estimation of a lost Queen that is psychologically acute, richly detailed, and deeply moving.
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Reviews (7)

3-0 out of 5 stars Good Breeding & Bad Timing
Personally, I would have preferred to have been a cobbler as to have been born into royalty. The Parisian shoemaker may not have biographies written about him, but he probably had far less stressful life and kept his neck intact.

Poor Marie was the daughter of Maria Theresa, Archduchess of Austria, Holy Roman Empress, and queen of Hungary and Bohemia...quite an impressive resume and a distant maternal figure who shuffled Marie off to wed the loutish Louis XVI when she was a mere 15. Until she arrived in France, she'd never even laid eyes on him.

A story ensues that is so deranged and tragic that, at it's end, you'll tap-dance with joy that you live in the 21st century.

This book was informative and not bad but the style of writing was a little less than inspiring and somewhat flat.

5-0 out of 5 stars Viva La Antoinette!
"To the Scaffild" meant "To the Guillotine". It is a brilliant account of French revolution, with two heroines, one Lady Liberty and the other its victim Marie Antoinette. Oxford American Dictionary defines guillotine as "a machine with a heavy blade used for beheading criminals in France". criminals? Luois XVI and his unfortunate wife Marie- Antoinette were definetely not criminals To the Scaffold", of course meant "to the guillotine". It is a brilliant account of French revolution. They were the unluckiest royal couple in all of history to get engulfed in a maelstrom of events beyond their control. They were of noble hearts and displayed tremendous courage against severe odds and went to the guillotine with heads high. The famine, bad weather, bankrupt treasury, countless corrupt officials at Versailles, and a inept, brooding Louis in charge. He was weak, lacked leadership and looked to his wife for advise. Antoinette was smart, intelligent but did not know how to govern. She did spend lavishly, foolishly and may have been the true culprit in bringing down the monarchy. But hey, that's what queens are supposed to do. She was so young, innocent, unaware of the treachery at Versailles. She had to learn on the job with no help from the dauphin, who was clumsy, shy, impotent and of weak mind. They were doomed.

Louis always believed that the revolutionaries were a minority and people at large loved him and all would be well in the end. Later on as events unfolded they reasoned Austria and Prussia would come to their rescue. That was their undoing, as Parisiners would never let foreigners invade their beloved city and annihilate them. They had to get rid of Louis. His old confidant, a black smith, betrayd him as the national guard found incriminating evidence of plots against the revolution, hidden in a safe. They marched him to guillotine.

Innuendoes, rumors did Antoinette in as she was always hated by the populace.... She was called [the] worst names, accused of incest, deprived of her children, and was sentenced to die on trumped of charges of treason.

The revolution germinated the day Louis XIV, the sun king, uttered the words, "Le Etas, Ce' moi". Ultimately his great great grand son paid the price. If other countries had intervened in time in the late 1790, the slaughter could have been averted. There would have been no Napolean, the whole history of the world would have been completely different. Edmund Burke so aptly said at that time "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing".

Great Read. Highly recommend it for all history buffs.

5-0 out of 5 stars An in-depth account on the life of Marie Antoinette
"To the Scaffold" was one of the first biographies that I read on Marie Antoinette, and I must say that it was also one of the most enjoyable.

Erickson thoroughly covers Marie Antoinette's life from her youth in Austria to her last tumultuous days. As well, there are little additions about life in Versailles, and on the Paris streets.

One definite asset that this biography possesses is that one does not need much prior information about the Revolution to understand it. Different political ideologies, thoughts, and actions are carefully explained, yet the general flow of the book generally does not sway too far from Antoinette. This biography was also enjoyable to read because of the numerous (and sometimes amusing) quotations used, as well as the in-depth account of Antoinette's last days.

The only noticeable fault that I found was the tendency of the author to take sides. For example, it is said (with evidence provided in the footnotes) that Marie Antoinette and Fersen most definitely had an affair. This is, in my opinion, still a debatable topic.

Nonetheless, I highly recommend this biography to everyone. Novices to the revolution will find it an invaluable starting point, and the more knowledgeable will greatly enjoy the quotations and first-hand accounts recorded.

4-0 out of 5 stars Let 'em Eat Biscotti
Erickson paints a picture of a spoiled but sympathetic Antoinette, more historically accurate than the popular misconception of an insensitive elitist.

As always, Erickson writes entertaining non-fiction. This appears to be out of print at the moment, but grab it and any other Erickson titles as fast as you can.

4-0 out of 5 stars Good But Unfocused Biography
In Carolly Erickson's biography of Marie Antoinette, "To the Scaffold", the author presents a wonderful picture of an often maligned historical enigma. We see Marie's origins as one of the many daughters of Maria Theresa of Austria (one of the most formidable rulers of all time), her arranged marriage to the future King Louis XVI of France (a man more comfortable in the woodshop than the palace), her fifteen years as Queen of France, and the revolution that portrayed her as silly and evil. Erickson evokes the atmosphere of pre-revolution France well, and little snippets of the excess and immorality of the French upper class was informative (apparently incest was common with fathers and daughters). However, I don't feel that I know much more about Marie than before I read the book. Almost half the book deals with others in her life or the political scene. Also given short attention is the Swedish nobleman who was Marie's long-term lover. It would also have been nice to have a wrap-up of the royal children and the others who played so prominently in Marie's life -- they are simply abandoned, and the book ends abruptly. On one level, this is very effective -- after all, with Marie's death the world she knew ended -- but so many digressions are in the rest of the book, a better ending would have been nice. ... Read more

12. The Wicked Queen: The Origins of the Myth of Marie-Antoinette
by Chantal Thomas
list price: $50.00
our price: $50.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0942299396
Catlog: Book (1999-05-14)
Publisher: Zone Books
Sales Rank: 986476
Average Customer Review: 3.25 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

In The Wicked Queen, Chantal Thomas presents the history of the mythification of one of the most infamous queens in all history, whose execution still fascinates us today. Almost as soon as Marie-Antoinette, archduchess of Austria, was brought to France as the bride of Louis XVI in 1771, she was smothered in images. In a monarchy increasingly under assault, the charm and horror of her feminine body and her political power as a foreign intruder turned Marie-Antoinette into an alien other. Marie-Antoinette's mythification, argues Thomas, must be interpreted as the misogynist demonization of women's power and authority in revolutionary France.

In a series of pamphlets written from the 1770s until her death in 1793, Marie-Antoinette is portrayed as a spendthrift, a libertine, an orgiastic lesbian, and a poisoner and infant murderess. In her analyses of these pamphlets, seven of which appear here in translation for the first time, Thomas reconstructs how the mounting hallucinatory and libelous discourse culminated in the inevitable destruction of what had become the counterrevolutionary symbol par excellence. The Wicked Queen exposes the elaborate process by which the myth of Marie-Antoinette emerged as a crucial element in the successful staging of the French Revolution.
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Reviews (8)

5-0 out of 5 stars Marie Antoinette out of Context
Unfortunately publishers feel that a book on Marie Antoinette will sell every couple years, so like clockwork we see an avalanche of pro royalist, sympathetic, out of context garbage. Most of them repeat the same legends...They base their accounts of the flight to Varennes on Carlyle and talk about her martydom...With the exception of Le Notre not one of her biographers has also done a biography of one of the leaders of the Revolution. Most demonstrate an alarming lack of understanding of basic events such as the the Bread March on Verseilles, September Massacres, the Necklace Affair or even how official Court appointment were made.

This is the first book in sometime that has put Marie Antoinette back into the context of her time...unfortunately for Royalist Mythology she was commonly referred to as the Austrian .... By her actions she precipitated the Revolution...she was provocative and weak...a flammable combination.

As for the reader who's sensibilities are offended by the "riding the penis" obviously haven't seen the several thousand cartoons of time that are available...the one you refer to IS should see the ones where she is dressed like a nun....You should also read the pamphlets sold at the Palais Royale...

While Hebert did indeed make things up in her indictment, it is hard to get around the fact that she has to shoulder a lot of responsibility for the revolution...

I recommend this book as one of the best books on Marie Antoinette in last 20 has also prompted me to seek out the author.

I think the book is well researched, devoid of sentimentality and attempts to place Marie Antoinette back into the context of the tapestry of her times.

Michael La Vean
Fellow, International Napoleonic Society

1-0 out of 5 stars Garbage!
The author should study her history and get the facts!
This book was a joke. I was rather furious and more than disappointed. Marie Antoinette's name was drug through the mud over 200 years ago based on hearsay and false accusations.

Isn't it time she is given the credit due her by now?
Read your facts author!

2-0 out of 5 stars An amateurish account
This book was a disappointment. I ...was very interested. I am a 'fan' of Marie Antoinette and have been fascinated with her life since reading Castelot's biography of her.

This book however, though it has some interesting pamphlets of historical interest, is more like a scrapbook. The writing is poor and has no direction. The pamphlets reproduced in the book are mostly pornographic lyrics and droll poetry of the Queen. The worst of which is Marie Antoinette riding an erected penis as if it were an ostrich.

If you want to learn about the Queen, her children, or the French Revolution, this is not the book to find it in. If you are very familiar with the Queen's life, this may offer you a little insight as to the people's attitude at the time, but that's it. I read it once, and it has been on the shelf since.

For a truly amazing book about Marie Antoinette, I suggest 'The Fatal Friendship'.

1-0 out of 5 stars Pointless...
Another book regarding Marie Antoinette, hmmmm, the Queen must be experiencing a revival of popularity? Too bad she isn't here to enjoy it (sarcasm). I'd first like to comment that I was shocked when I read the publisher's review of this book. Friends, Marie Antoinette was not betrothed to Louis XV, but his grandson, Louis XVI. She did not come to France in 1771, but 1770. How embarrassed you should be! How poorly you serve both author and subject! As to that author, Chantal Thomas: while it is indeed unique to devote an entire book on the pamphlets and propaganda used as an attack on the monarchy through the reputation of the Queen, I hardly think it necessary. The subject matter makes an interesting college thesis, nothing more. The slander and hatred directed at Marie Antoinette, its effects on the monarchy's demise, blah, blah, blah, have been adequately covered by numerous authors, notably Simon Schama in his wonderful account of the French Revolution, "Citizens".

Stanley Loomis, Andre Castelot, and many more biographers of the Queen have all made clear the nature and consequences of "The Pamphlets". I resent when an author is lauded with praise for a "discovery" that was hardly their's! The pamphlets are kept in a special room of the Archives called "l'enfer", a name which aptly describes its contents. I have a laundry list of biographers and scholars who have made use of the same documents kept there just as Thomas has. These printed attacks on the Queen and their importance in any understanding of Marie Antoinette or the French Revolution have long been recognized. Really. Printing a few examples of this filth and belaboring the point does not a scholar make. It's a pity that publishers and authors don't read these consumer reviews... Please, wake me from my sleep when something truly new, and relevatory is published about Marie Antoinette.

3-0 out of 5 stars Porn with a pretty cover!
I have long been obsessed with Marie Antoinette. I am, in fact, writing a book set in the court of Louis XVI. You can imagine my delight when I was informed about the pending release of Ms. Thomas's book. I had hoped her book would provide many examples of libel against the queen. I was hoping this book would detail who wrote what and when. I found this book to be an excuse to print a lot of nasty words. Ms. Thomas's views, while educated, were tired and repeated over and over again. Nothing in this book was thought-provoking or fresh. It did not illuminate or entertain. Very little was devoted to the effects of the words against the queen. How did this effect MA emotionally, physically? What did it do to the marriage of the King and Queen? What were the long-term impacts of these libelous ditty's? How did they effect journalism as we know it today? How did they contribute to the Revolution? All in all, a disappointment. ... Read more

13. Confessions of Saint Augustine (Image Book)
by St. Augustine, John Kenneth Ryan (Translator)
list price: $10.95
our price: $8.21
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0385029551
Catlog: Book (1960-09-01)
Publisher: Image
Sales Rank: 20770
Average Customer Review: 4.39 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

One of the most influential religious books in the Christian tradition recalls crucial events and episodes in the author's life: his mid-fourth-century origins in rural Algeria; the rise to a lavish lifestyle at the imperial court in Milan; his struggle with sexual desires; eventual renunciation of secular ambitions and marriage; and recovery of his Catholic faith. A detailed classic that will be important to students of religion, religious scholars, and anyone interested in the impact made by one of the most significant figures in the development of Christian thought.
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Reviews (79)

5-0 out of 5 stars A Commendable Storyline Ending In Triumph
As a big fan of Augustine's writing I give this book five stars. The way that he has interwoven his thoughts, feelings, and personal experiences with the humble eloquence of repentance will have you as the reader very exuberant. In reading this work you will learn more of Augustine's life, the spiritual turmoil he faced, and how he came to knowledge of the truth in a most triumphant manner. Although, that's not all that you will find interesting in the Confessions. In fact once Augustine converts to Catholicism and discovers the mystery of the faith, he then proceeds to fill in the blanks philisophically were he had once been left in error. Finally Augustine ponders on the book of Genesis and discourses a respectable point of view on the creation of heaven and earth. Oh Yeah! I forgot to explain how Augustine corresponds the subject matter of this book with a profound emphasis on the Holy Scriptures. So I recommend this masterpiece to anyo ne who has a love for great Latin literature, or to all that wish to read the prestige of Christian writings.

5-0 out of 5 stars Tolle Lege!
I recently reread "The Confessions of St. Augustine" after many years and am glad that I did. This book, which is often called the first autobiography, is really not an autobiography in the sense that we use the term. It is Augustine's Confession to God, from which we glean many details about Augustine's life.

In this we learn of Augustine's family, his early life, his search for truth and, throughout the book, his teachings on theology. Here we see him move to the gradually larger world, from Tagaste, to Carthage, to Rome, to Milan, where he finally finds Truth. He is then ready to return to his native Africa, his preparation completed for the work which would make him one of the greatest, Christian theologians of all time.

In much of the early book, Augustine tells us of his rejections of God's call. Seeking truth and honors, he searched through many sources and sought out many teachers. He sought wisdom from pagan and Manichean philosophers. His disappointment with the highly touted Manichean bishop, Faustus, whose speech was pleasing but whose answers failed to soothe Augustine's soul, caused him to turn to Catholicism.

Learning from the respected bishop, Ambrose, Augustine came to recognize the truth of Christianity, but his slavery to a non-Christian life style long prevented him from following the call of God. This persisted until one day he heard the child's song "Tolle Lege, Tolle, Lege" (the title of my high school newspaper), "Take it and read." Taking this as a divine command to read the first passage of scripture to meet his eyes, he opened the book to the passage, "Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying: but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh in concupiscence." Needing to read no further, his conversion occurred and he was ready for the great work which lay before him.

Throughout much of the book, we are treated to Augustine's teachings on a variety of religious topics. We obtain his guidance on the nature of God, God's relationship with and expectations of man, as well as norms for the interpretation of scripture. This is the book for anyone with an interest in Christian theology or St. Augustine personally. Tolle Lege!

4-0 out of 5 stars A sui generis autobiography.
Saint Augustine of Hippo was born in 354 A.D. in the city of Thagaste, in the Roman North African province of Numidia, near nowadays Algiers. He died in 430, witnessing both the Fall of the glorious Roman Empire to the invasion of the Vandals in North África, and the immediate following of his ideas by maverick African Catholicism, ideas for which he fought all his life in the most passionate way. He was a giant in its own right, being the prodigal son of the feverishly Catholic Saint Monica and of Patricius, a nondescript and abusing father who was to be thrown out by Augustine to the corners in his many works, the same fate destined to his prematurely dead son Adeodatus (Latin for "Given to God"), his elder brother and his concubine, the woman he lived with for many years, according with the local tradition of the times, and whom he sloughed of in the most unabashed way. It is only in the Confessions that he seems to scourge himself on this issue, wryly acknowledging the evil done.

He was one of the most prolific writers of all times, and the mature man who wrote Confessions in his mid-life is a sharp counterpoint to the points-of-views adopted by him in his early life, when he avidly followed Manichaeism against the will of his devoted mother. He had traveled intensively trough the foremost cities of the Roman Empire and had many patronizing influent men, and ended up, one thinks, against his will, as priest and later bishop of the city of Hippo, near Thagaste, where he had the responsibility of counterbalance the powerfull influence the Donatist (after Donatus) sect exerted upon his flock, who argued that human perfection was possible and attainable in this very life and the chaff elements of the Church having to be erased in the most cruel and quick ways by bands of brigands that descended from the mountains to attack whomever opposed their doctrine. But, that was not the last time he had to combat ideas different from his, and we see Augustine again holding the sword with fierceness against resurgent Paganism and in his final days, against Pelagianism and Julian Eclanus. It is strange that such a combative man died a natural dead, escaping the atrocities inflicted by the Vandals of Genseric upon his many friends and followers.

In Augustine's view, to earn the eternal salvation, one had to confess all his past sins in the most unabashed and vocal way, and that is precisely the purpose of Confessions, to lay down all his many past sins, in order to be among the few who would be chosen by God Almight to enter upon the Eternal Kingdom. The book, originally written in Latin by a man who had little familiarity with the infuential Greek language, introduces a new style into the Literature of the time and is judged as one of the most influential autobiographies ever written . Along with his magnificent City of God, it erected the scaffolds of early Catholicism, and must be listed among one of the 100 most literary works of all times.

3-0 out of 5 stars Mixed Feelings
Overall I would say it is a good read. I think I learned a lot and I don't regret reading it--it is a classic.

I found Augustine's account of his childhood, his exposure to the Manichees, and his search for truth to be really interesting.

However, toward the end of my reading I found things to get a bit tedious. I found his discussions on the human memory and his overwhelmingly long discourse on Genesis 1:1 to be tedious and somewhat awkward. I also find his allegorical interpretation of the creation to be somewhat far fetched.

5-0 out of 5 stars For All Who Seek
Let me begin by saying that this book should be read by anyone seeking to live a better life, whether you are Christian or not, St. Augustine's representation of himself and his personal struggles are so human that they are easily accesible to people's of all faiths. That being said, don't expect to come to this book and not be challenged. This book is also the best introduction to St. Augustine and his theology so if you wish to read any of his other works, start with this one.

In my opinion, this book is really two books in one, and should be treated as such. The first book is composed of the first nine chapters and forms the autobiographical portion of the Confessioons, and the tenth through thirteenth chapters make up a concise overview of St. Augustine's basic theological views.

The first part is by far the easier to read, and depend on you are searching for by reading this book, this may be all you really need to read. St. Augustine sets out candidly for his readers the story of his life; the faith of his mother that initially so disgusted him and eventually aided in his conversion, his lusts and youthful errors, and his final dramatic conversion in the garden. Some claim that many of St. Augustine's gruelling criticisms of himself are exagerations ment as examples to his parishioners (he was the Bishop of Hippo) but irregardless the cincerity and spiritual earnestness of St. Augustine's writing shines through every page. It is amazing to think that someone who lived over 1500 years ago is so much the same as men today.

The second part is the most intellectual of the two and this is the one that contains most of the theology of the work, and while I will say that this section may not be for everyone (but after reading his autobiography I hope you will feel compelled to read this) this section should NOT be read without first reading the more spiritual autobiography. St. Augustine here provides an outline for such celebrated principles as the everlasting now, and such difficult questions as was God compelled to create the world. While he does not mention much of one of his other very famous an important theological principles here (i.e. predestination) this is still the best introduction his entire cannon of theology that is available.

I'd like to say a few words on the Vintage Spiritual Classic s edition. This is a handsome well-priced paperback volume that offers a good easily readable modern english translation. I shopped around when looking for an edition of this book, and while there are some editions that offer more notes, this is the only edition that offers refferences to the scriptual passages St. Augustine is referring to. It also contains an invaluable concise introduction and timeline to St. Augustine's life and the environment in which he lived.

If you liked this, and you have good reading stamina, chack out his other major work "City of God". ... Read more

14. The Greatest: Muhammad Ali
by Walter Dean Myers
list price: $4.99
our price: $4.99
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0590543431
Catlog: Book (2002-01-01)
Publisher: Scholastic Signature
Sales Rank: 70684
Average Customer Review: 4.33 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Award-winning author Walter Dean Myers presents the amazing story of Muhammad Ali¹s childhood, his rise as a champion, his politics, and his battles against Parkinson¹s disease. Packed with dramatic black-and-white photos, this critically acclaimed biography is the perfect choice for both young adult sports fans and fans of Walter Dean Myers in general. ... Read more

Reviews (12)

4-0 out of 5 stars Determination + Talent = Champion
Muhammed Ali may not have been the biggest, meanest boxer of all time, but he definitely has to be one of the most determined athletes ever to set foot in a ring. That is why Myers, like Ali himself, refers to the boxer as "the greatest." Through easy reading, Walter Dean Myers paints a picture of what life was life for working class blacks in the near South (Louisville, KY) in the 1950's. He describes the fighters who came before Ali (the heroes like Joe Louis and Archie Moore), and goes into detail in describing both the person and the boxing style of Ali's opponents--Floyd Patterson, Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier, George Foreman and others). Of course, Myers also details the mental strategies and physical competency of Ali. It is here that the reader realizes that much of Ali's game was fought outside the ring, with not only his next opponent, but with the press, the public, and the government. The subject of the war in Viet Nam, the military draft, the Nation of Islam, the skewing of the military to induct more minorities, and the subject of 'conscientious objection' are all handled in an introductory fashion, which will give young readers a sense of the social history of the period without the ho-hum of a history book. Walter Dean Myers' book, The Greatest, also dissects the boxing industry, where young talent is often beaten to a senseless pulp for the sake of audiences, public approval and a very few dollars. I have already recommended this book to several students who think a career in professional athletics could be within their grasp. Myers does an excellent job of conveying the fact that the young boxer from Louisville was the greatest in his determination to win, not because of his physical ability, but because of his mental agility. The one negative trait of Muhammed Ali which Myers noted was the way he insulted his opponents. His vicious slurring of his competitors, especially some of the black fighters, set the stage for the trash-talking which is now rampant in sports, professional and amateur, alike. He may have been first in a long list of other traits, but this one is nothing to be proud of. It was the beginning of a very negative type of competitive spirit which has now permeated sports, school, music, and the very fiber of today's society. This book will intrigue a variety of students in middle school. It is easy to read, with enough black and white photographs and large page margins to attract even reluctant readers. The book includes an Index (very small print); a list of Photo Credits; a Bibliography; and a Fight Chronology. It is a good introduction to what actually goes on in professional athletics, and appropriate for students, grade 5 and up.

5-0 out of 5 stars THE GREATEST MUHAMMAD ALI
The book"THE GREATEST MUHAMMAD ALI" is one of the best books ihave ever read. When I first read this book I coudn't put it down. this book only took me a week to read and also you get information you never herd of like I never knew that Muhammad Ali's real name is Cassius Clay. When Muhammad was young he used to get beat up and his bike was stolen. After he got beat up he started taking boxing lessions. He lost most of his boxing matches when he was young. In the book you lean about others like Joe Louis and Sugar Ray Robinson Ali never misted a practus. The reason I liked the book is because I took boxing lessons and now Iknow how to protect myself if I need to. Also you get good information on the boxers Ali's life. In the book they say that Ali has skills of most of thebest fighters that ever lived.Reading this book helped me change the way I look at things like the way I treat people andto be tough competitor at sports I play. It also helped me see how his life was as a African American boxer. I'm glad I found this awesome book to read because it made me want to be a boxer.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Great book
This story is a portrayal of a young boy named Cassius Clay who grows into one of the greatest boxer's of all time. Walter Dean Myers presents the amazing story of Ali's life and his rise as a champion, his politics, and his battle against Parkinson's disease. It is a story of determination, energy, pride, and strength. From a daring young boxer with disease, Myers covers Ali's life with prowess and honesty. Ali's accomplishments, both in and out of the ring, present him as a man of principal, willing to take risks to achieve his goals.
Ali was a young man with a lot of boxing talent who grew up in Louisville, Kentucky. Raised by his grandmother, Ali possessed a work ethic of none other. Although Ali was a great fighter, racism and disouragement made it hard for Ali to achieve his goals.
If tou choose to read The Greatest you will experience fast paced action, crisp writing, photographic events and personalities, and vivid fight scenes. Ali followed his heart and became a symbol respected by all races, religions, and ideologies. Ali was the world heavyweight champion four times and may be the greatest boxer ever to step foot in the ring.
Delving into the civil rights and the Nation of Islam, Concientios objector status during the Vietnam war, and the danger of boxing. Myers presents a man of courage and inspiration. The story gets in depth with Ali's fight against Parkinson's disease and how he fought in the ring. "Float like a butterfly and sting like a bee" was Ali's famous line. He was well known for his cocky attitude and he was also the center of attention.
Ali's story is a great one, thus, that is why he is the greatest. I would reccommend this story for anyone to read, it is really a great book.

5-0 out of 5 stars Perfect For A 13 Year Old & Under
This is a perfect book for a kid 14 or 13 years old and younger - it's a fantastic introduction to Muhammad Ali - I just bought it for my friends son - he's 12 - not that familiar with Muhammad Ali - just a basic knowledge of the myth and legend - he knows "Float Like a Butterfly - Sting Like A Bee!"

This is a great way to show a youngster that in addition to being the Greatest Of All Time that he was (and is) one of the most influential, courages and important figure of the 1960's and up -

It gently shows and explains the race issues of the 60's without overwhelming a child or blasting it in their face - it's very difficult for a kid these days to understand that as little as 40 years ago (which is actually life times to a kid) that if you were black then you had to sit at the back of the bus - or couldn't drink from certain water fountains or had to "know you're place" and how Muhammad Ali shattered that mold - I'm hoping that this actually creates a dialogue with parent and child - anyway - it shows Muhammad as the Champ both in and out of the ring.

The book goes over some of the famous fights and rivalry's - from Liston to Frazier - once again I found myself excited about the blow by blows of these fights - no matter how many times I read it I'm just awe struck about the Rumble in the Jungle -

I highly recommend this for any child as a great introduction to The Greatest Of All Time - Muhammad Ali!

3-0 out of 5 stars Not the Best
The Greatest Muhammad Ali written by "Walter Dean Myers" tells you about how it was for a black man to grow up in the racism and be successful. He did so well all over the world that he got respect from the white crowd. It tells you all the struggles he had while he was fighting and how he went from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali; also how he took it when he got Parkinson's disease. This man was a phenomenon in boxing and you learn that by reading this book. I would not buy the book but get it for a little while from the library. ... Read more

15. Saint Augustine's Conversion
by Garry Wills, Augustine
list price: $23.95
our price: $14.37
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Asin: 0670033529
Catlog: Book (2004-11-25)
Publisher: Viking Books
Sales Rank: 97953
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Book Description

As relevant today as it was when it was originally written sixteen hundred yearsago,Augustine’s Confessiones continues to influence contemporary religion,language, and thought. Reading with fresh, keen eyes, Pulitzer Prize-winningauthorGarry Wills has brought his superb gifts of analysis and insight to bear on thisclassic ofWestern tradition in a series of ambitious and critically acclaimed translationsandinterpretations. In Saint Augustine’s Conversion, Augustine’s story drawsto itsdramatic conclusion in what Wills calls the "hinge" chapter of the bishop’sconfessionalopus. With an illuminating introduction and extensive notes throughout, Willsprovides arichly rewarding and inventive interpretation of Augustine’s seminal work for anewgeneration of readers. ... Read more

16. The Letters of John and Abigail Adams
by John Adams, Frank Shuffleton, Abigail Adams
list price: $15.00
our price: $10.20
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Asin: 0142437115
Catlog: Book (2004-01-01)
Publisher: Penguin Books
Sales Rank: 45989
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Book Description

The Letters of John and Abigail Adams provides an insightful record of American life before, during, and after the Revolution; the letters also reveal the intellectually and emotionally fulfilling relationship between John and Abigail that lasted fifty-four years and withstood historical upheavals, long periods apart, and personal tragedies. Covering key moments in American history-the Continental Congress, the drafting of the Declaration of Independence, the Revolutionary War, and John Adams's diplomatic missions to Europe-the letters reveal the concerns of a couple living during a period of explosive change, from smallpox and British warships to raising children, paying taxes, the state of women, and the emerging concepts of American democracy. ... Read more

17. The Soul of a Butterfly : Reflections on Life's Journey
by Muhammad Ali, Hana Yasmeen Ali
list price: $22.00
our price: $14.96
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Asin: 0743255690
Catlog: Book (2004-11)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Sales Rank: 3137
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Book Description

"During my boxing career, you did not see the real Muhammad Ali. You just saw a little boxing. You saw only a part of me. After I retired from boxing my true work began. I have embarked on a journey of love."

So Muhammad Ali begins this spiritual memoir, his description of the values that have shaped and sustained him and that continue to guide his life. In The Soul of a Butterfly the great champion takes readers on a spiritual journey through the seasons of life, from childhood to the present, and shares the beliefs that have served him well.

After fighting some of the fiercest bouts in boxing history against Joe Frazier and George Foreman, today Muhammad Ali faces his most powerful foe -- outside the boxing ring. Like many people, he battles an illness that limits his physical abilities, but as he says, "I have gained more than I have lost....I have never had a more powerful voice than I have now." Ali reflects on his faith in God and the strength it gave him during his greatest challenge, when he lost the prime years of his boxing career because he would not compromise his beliefs. He describes how his study of true Islam has helped him accept the changes in his life and has brought him to a greater awareness of life's true purpose. As a United Nations "Messenger of Peace," he has traveled widely, and he describes his 2002 mission to Afghanistan to heighten public awareness of that country's desperate situation, as well as his more recent meeting with the Dalai Lama.

Ali's reflections on topics ranging from moral courage to belief in God to respect for those who differ from us will inspire and enlighten all who read them. Written with the assistance of his daughter Hana, The Soul of a Butterfly is a compassionate and heartfelt book that will provide comfort for our troubled times. ... Read more

18. John Adams: The American Presidents Series
by John Patrick Diggins, Arthur M. Schlesinger
list price: $20.00
our price: $13.60
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Asin: 0805069372
Catlog: Book (2003-06-11)
Publisher: Times Books
Sales Rank: 273924
Average Customer Review: 5 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

A revealing look at the true beginning of American politics

Until recently rescued by David McCullough, John Adams has always been overshadowed by Washington and Jefferson. Volatile, impulsive, irritable, and self-pitying, Adams seemed temperamentally unsuited for the presidency. Yet in many ways he was the perfect successor to Washington in terms of ability, experience, and popularity.

Possessed of a far-ranging intelligence, Adams took office amid the birth of the government and multiple crises. Besides maintaining neutrality and regaining peace, his administration created the Department of the Navy, put the army on a surer footing, and left a solvent treasury. One of his shrewdest acts was surely the appointment of moderate Federalist John Marshall as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Though he was a Federalist, he sought to work outside the still-forming party system. In the end, this would be Adams’s greatest failing and most useful lesson to later leaders.
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Reviews (1)

5-0 out of 5 stars Great short analytical "biography"
To start with and to avoid disappointment for those looking for something other than what this is, some of the trade reviews are just plain wrong: this is not a biography focusing on Adams childhood and youth. In fact, it isn't really a biography at all. What it is is a short, to the point but nevertheless fairly deep analysis of Adams' political thought with a particular emphasis on the politics of his presidential administration. It is written from a very positive view point (one shared by David McCullough) and from a view point that is quite hostile to Thomas Jefferson. As such it is an invaluable read for anyone interested in the development of presidential politics in America as well as anyone seeking the "rest of the story" regarding Adams, Jefferson, and their relationship. ... Read more

19. John Adams: A Life
by John Ferling, John Ferling
list price: $20.00
our price: $20.00
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Asin: 0805045767
Catlog: Book (1996-06-01)
Publisher: Owl Books (NY)
Sales Rank: 162525
Average Customer Review: 4.93 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

John Ferling's masterful John Adams:A Life is the most comprehensive single-volume biography of the man who succeeded George Washington in the presidency and shepherded the fragile new nation through the most dangerous of times. Drawing on extensive research, Ferling depicts a reluctant revolutionary, a leader who was deeply troubled by the warfare that he helped to make, and a fiercely independent statesman.
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Reviews (30)

4-0 out of 5 stars John Adams: A Life
This is an excellent biography, following Adams from birth to death in one volume, and detailing both the positive and the negative aspects of the man clearly and fairly. I've been fascinated by Adams ever since seeing the movie "1776", which gives a marvellous "based on fact" dramatization of the writing and signing of the Declaration of Independence, and this book gave me a more thorough, more strictly factual look at the man. I wasn't disappointed on that score; he's just as interesting without the dramatic liberties taken by the movie.

My only quibble with this book is that the editing, at least in the edition that I have, is rather poor. There are numerous errors in grammatical structure and word choice, the kind of errors that I have become accustomed to in mass market paperbacks but refuse to accept in a scholarly historical work. Things like "he requested that the Congress name his successor be named in his place" and "...the British ... was ready" and "the New England sates" (rather than "States") and "the House of Representative" (even back then, there was more than one representative in the House) and "the dreary weather proved not be a herald of the months ahead" and many others. I understand that mistakes happen, and don't demand perfection. But there are just too many of this kind of error in this book for me to say that it is well-written; probably two dozen, if I had to guess.

Overall, this is a worthwhile biography of a fascinating president. Hopefully, future editions will clean up the writing a bit more.

5-0 out of 5 stars The definitive work
This book remains the best biography of our second president. Ferling manages to properly place Adams in the top tier of American Presidents, but at the same time recognizing his significant character flaws, including his occasional bouts of "insensibility" and his sometimes embarassing love for pomp and circumstance as when he would wear a sword at ceremonial events as President).

But the bulk of this biography charts the many roles that Adams played -- lawyer, delegate, ambassador, author, Vice-President and President -- and in each role, his decisions seemed to come down on the side of what he thought was right, no matter the personal consequences. His life was courageously lived, and he remains a titan in American history.

5-0 out of 5 stars A great Man, an equally great work on history!
The first book I read about the times surrounding the American Revolution was "John Adams A Life" by John Ferling. It had the effect of tuning me in to the enormous impact the Adams had during that time. David McCullough has written an equally glorious work on the man who many are unaware of his historical relevance. There is no other American - no other patriot- with the exception of George Washington, who did more toward winning the Revolution and establishing our republican form of government than John Adams. I will go on record as saying that I believe Adams impact on the success of the revolution to be unparalleled. Yes, even George Washington's contribution cannot supplant Adams' role in history. Although Washington's work in the battlefield approaches genius, the key to the victory was Adams' diligent and selfless role in bringing the budding nation's leaders together for the common cause. Without his leadership, the likelihood of victory in the war would have been much more difficult for Washington. Although Adams was admittedly overly concerned with his place in history, his actions were selfless and directed to a single noble cause. Adams could very well have authored the Declaration of Independance but deferred to Jefferson as he knew that his value on the floor of the Continental Congress was much more important. His oratory skills were far superior to Jeffersons and they both knew it. Moreover, much of the verbage in the document came from Adams pen. Adams was a man with many personal flaws, but what makes him so interesting to study is his awareness of these flaws and his honesty in his personal documentation. Reading Jefferson's writings on the contrary seem to be made for the public. Jefferson was also one to avoid conflict while Adams had no fear. If the CC was filled with men like Jefferson, the revolution would surely have been relegated to the next generation. It is unfortunate that Jefferson has received more repute than Adams and hopefully books such as these will change this. Adams wrote to his beloved wife Abagail, "Yesterday the greatest Question was decided, which ever was debated in America, and a greater perhaps, never was or will be decided among Men". He may have been correct, but this question would not have been decided if not for his leadership. He also wrote "Mausoleums, statues, monuments will never be erected to me". Hopefullly this statement is not correct and the nation will more fully give him his appropraite due.

5-0 out of 5 stars The definitive biography
I read Ferling's biography of Adams after reading McCullough's John Adams. I was a bit disappointed with a few aspects, and thought reading Ferling would round out my knowledge of our second president. I wasn't disappointed. Ferling's masterly and scholarly work provides an outstanding insight into Adams, his activities, his motivations, and his relationship with his wife Abigail. In particular, Ferling pulls no punches in describing some of Adams' rather significant character flaws, particularly his burning ambition (and his subsequent abandonment of his family in pursuit of it). Richly footnoted, the work still remains THE biography of Adams, despite McCullough's recent work and its NY Times bestseller status.

5-0 out of 5 stars Atlas of Independence Given Just Due
John Adams' life is thoroughly examined in this rich, well researched and ably written biography by John Ferling.

Adams, known at the 'Atlas of Independence,' is less well known than Washington, Jefferson and Franklin, his Revolutionary contemporaries. He is also less revered. Ferling spends several hundred pages laying out the life and achievements of a man who was also crucial to our fight for independence and the survival of our Republic.

Adams was a prodigious diary keeper, and also a mostly honest one, if we are to judge honesty by self criticism and the ability to write about one's own perceived short-comings. This first-person material is a tremendous asset to compiling the President's life story, and one that Ferling puts to good use. The book uses ample quotes to reveal Adam's feelings about personalities and events of his day. Ferling has studied the diaries thoroughly, as shown by his ability to draw on portions from different times in Adam's life to illustrate points or show how Adams changed his views over time. The danger with such a diary based biography is that the diaries can become the book. Ferling does not make this mistake. His ample writing skills utilizes the diaries to illustrate his story and argue his interpretations of his subject's life and actions.

Also useful to the author is that Adams enjoyed a fascinating life. He touched all the great (and not so great) Revolutionary personalities, served for years as a foreign diplomat, was present at the birth of our Government and served as president. Also remarkable, was his relationship with Abigail, an unusual colonial wife who was educated, opinionated and enjoyed a marriage as very nearly an equal partner (highly unusual in those days). Their correspondence and relationship sustained Adams and show how she helped ground this great man of American nationhood.

How does Ferling judge Adams? His assessment is that Adams belongs among the greats of the American founding. This book's thorough telling of Adams's public life to make a pretty good case for Ferlings argument.

There are many fascinating aspects I found in the story. Adams tremendous dislike of Franklin is telling as to their different styles as well as Adams's thirst for approbation. His long and difficult relationship with Jefferson, culminating in their famous correspondence is another gem. Also interesting, is Adams's actions during his presidency when he stood alone against his party and long term political interests in keeping us out of war with France. It was a crucial decision that perhaps saved our Republic, given the potential for the European powers to divvy up a weak America should they have decided to play their rivalries here.

Adams lived a fascinating life and was a thoroughly interesting personality. Kudos to Ferling for bringing the story to a new generation. ... Read more

20. Men in Dark Times
by Hannah Arendt
list price: $16.00
our price: $10.88
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Asin: 0156588900
Catlog: Book (1970-03-25)
Publisher: Harvest Books
Sales Rank: 150368
Average Customer Review: 4 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Essays on Karl Jaspers, Rosa Luxemburg, Pope John XXIII, Isak Dinesen, Bertolt Brecht, Randall Jarrell, and others whose lives and work illuminated the early part of the century. Index.
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Reviews (1)

4-0 out of 5 stars Hannah Arendt's Political Biographies
Men in Dark Times is a collection of biographical essays Arendt wrote over a period of 15 years (1955-1968), all of which were published elsewhere, and collected here under this title. She has choosen to collct her portraits of cultural and political figures who worked and were caught up in world affairs in the first half of the twentieth-century, figures such as Rosa Luxemburg, Karl Jaspers, Isak Dinesen, Walter Benjamin, and Bertolt Brecht. The oppening essay, "On Humanity in Dark Times: Thoughts about Lessing," focuses on the thought of the eighteenth-century German philosopher, and she uses his thoughts on friendship, on the political and civic aspects of friendship, the ways in which philosophical and political works are formed through civic friendship, to tie all of the personae discussed in the book together. She sees them all as struggling to produce in an era racked by political upheavel. As always, she writes with a highly astute critical eye and a sharp tongue. It is one of her more polemical works, and is sure to make one re-evaulate how we look not only at the lives and works of those she tells us about, but also about ourselves. ... Read more

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