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    $48.48 list($76.95)
    1. American Sphinx: The Character
    $35.00 $2.69
    2. On Writing : A Memoir Of The Craft
    $18.20 list($29.95)
    3. It's Not About the Bike: My Journey
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    4. Alexander Hamilton
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    8. River-Horse:Across America By
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    9. Flyboys: A True Story of Courage
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    19. Flags of Our Fathers
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    20. Benjamin Franklin : An American

    1. American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson
    by Joseph J. Ellis, Susan O'Malley
    list price: $76.95
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 0786114754
    Catlog: Book (1999-11-01)
    Publisher: Blackstone Audiobooks
    Sales Rank: 134797
    Average Customer Review: 3.92 out of 5 stars
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    Book Description

    For a man who insisted that life on the public stage was not what he had in mind, Thomas Jefferson certainly spent a great deal of time in the spotlight--and not only during his active political career. After 1809, his longed-for retirement was compromised by a steady stream of guests and tourists who made of his estate at Monticello a virtual hotel, as well as by more than one thousand letters per year, most from strangers, which he insisted on answering personally. In his twilight years Jefferson was already taking on the luster of a national icon, which was polished off by his auspicious death (on July 4, 1896); and in the subsequent seventeen decades of his celebrity--now verging, thanks to virulent revisionists and television documentaries, on notoriety--has been inflated beyond recognition of the original person.

    For the historian Joseph J. Ellis, the experience of writing about Jefferson was "as if a pathologist, just about to begin an autopsy, has discovered that the body on the operating table was still breathing." In American Sphinx, Ellis sifts the facts shrewdly from the legends and the rumors, treading a path between vilification and hero worship in order to formulate a plausible portrait of the man who still today "hover[s] over the political scene like one of those dirigibles cruising above a crowded football stadium, flashing words of inspiration to both teams." For, at the grass roots, Jefferson is no longer liberal or conservative, agrarian or industrialist, pro- or anti-slavery, privileged or populist. He is all things to all people. His own obliviousness to incompatible convictions within himself (which left him deaf to most forms of irony) has leaked out into the world at large--a world determined to idolize him despite his foibles.

    From Ellis we learn that Jefferson sang incessantly under his breath; that he delivered only two public speeches in eight years as president, while spending ten hours a day at his writing desk; that sometimes his political sensibilities collided with his domestic agenda, as when he ordered an expensive piano from London during a boycott (and pledged to "keep it in storage"). We see him relishing such projects as the nailery at Monticello that allowed him to interact with his slaves more palatably, as pseudo-employer to pseudo-employees. We grow convinced that he preferred to meet his lovers in the rarefied region of his mind rather than in the actual bedchamber. We watch him exhibiting both great depth and great shallowness, combining massive learning with extraordinary naïveté, piercing insights with self-deception on the grandest scale. We understand why we should neither beatify him nor consign him to the rubbish heap of history, though we are by no means required to stop loving him. He is Thomas Jefferson, after all--our very own sphinx.
    ... Read more

    Reviews (88)

    4-0 out of 5 stars Must Read for TJ and US Revolution History Fans
    Joseph Ellis projects an interesting analysis of the illusive Thomas Jefferson in "American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson." Brilliant but contradictory, most historians glorified the author of the Declaration of Independence for nearly 200 years. Recently, with the emergence of John Adams as an equally accepted visionary Founder, the strange and conflicting sides of Jefferson have been given equal attention to those that reflect the genius from Monticello, Virginia.

    More than any other American historical figure, Jefferson was incredibly aware of his future role in history, and thereby his legacy. Much of the documented historical record, both that written by him and that written to him, reflect the facts that he chose what future generations would see. Ellis breaks down five periods of Jefferson's life: (1) the period around the writing of the Declaration, (2) the years in Paris as American envoy, (3) the years in semi-seclusion during the second Washington administration, (4) his first Presidential term, (5) and his years in retirement the decade prior to his death. The main premises of Ellis' work are that Jefferson was elusive in description, contradictory in philosophy, and often devious in action.

    After reading Founding Brothers by Joseph Ellis (see my review dated 7/23/01) I had enormous expectations for his previously penned biography of Thomas Jefferson. It is a good scholarly account, but falls short of the enormously readable "Founding Brothers" work that won the Pulitzer Prize. Ellis teases you by revealing the many two-faced aspects of Jefferson's character, but shies away from drawing the conclusions that Jefferson's personality was bizarre. The third President was generally a person who could make himself believe anything he wanted, that his position and beliefs were always righteous, as long as it helped him get or preserve what he wanted.

    Ellis does reveal the many aspects that prove Jefferson such a contradiction. Those include his inability to speak in public compared to the tremendous talent as a writer and analyst. The fact that he betrayed one of his most loyal and devoted friends for decades (John Adams), to secure the goals of the Virginians in the roots of the Founding, also speak loudly to his complex nature. What most people do not realize was that though he was extremely reticent that our country not become encumbered to a national financial consolidation, he was among the most atrocious of debtors and virtually ruined his family through decades of irresponsible personal spending. Finally, everyone now knows his amazingly illogical position regarding slavery, and the facts proven by modern DNA mapping techniques that demonstrate that he fathered children by his slave Sally Hemings.

    I rate this book most accurately at 4.00 out of 5.00 stars. It is a must read for devotees of the Revolutionary period, and for those interested in Jefferson or John Adams. Ellis could have rated higher by really getting in depth in the many complex facets of Jefferson's personality, ability the author demonstrates better in other works. The book is worth reading and valuable for reference work.

    3-0 out of 5 stars Dry, but overall interesting
    This book took me about four months to read. I kept picking other books up and forgetting about this one. So it is not addictively readable, to say the least. In fact, it was difficult for me to read more than 15 pages at a time. I would find my attention wandering or my mind falling asleep.

    Dryness and drab writing aside, the book in the end was interesting. It is not a conventional biography. Unlike historians such as David McCulloch, Joseph Ellis digs deep into the story and into the character of Thomas Jefferson. It does not follow Jefferson from birth to death, chronicling life events. Instead, Ellis picks seminal points of Jefferson's life: his move to Paris, the Constitutional Convention, his stint as President, and his retirement to Monticello, and then examines Jefferson's attitudes, actions, and writings from these time periods to create a picture of the man. It answers the question "Who was Thomas Jefferson?" more thoroughly than any biography I have ever read.

    Ellis's Jefferson is not hugely likeable, but is very human. Ellis certainly succeeds in knocking Jefferson fro his hallowed pedastal, but only in making him human and fully fleshed, which in the end only can do Jefferson justice.

    After finishing this book (finally), I feel I have a pretty clear picture of Jefferson and his legacy, which makes me feel this read was very worthwhile.

    5-0 out of 5 stars a better understanding
    I imagine that in order to spend months and years researching and writing about an historical figure you must admire that person immensely, otherwise it would be terribly difficult to retain any interest. In most biographies, this usually translates into a deification of the subject. Not so in Joseph J. Ellis' AMERICAN SPHINX: THE CHARACTER OF THOMAS JEFFERSON.

    I'll confess that Jefferson has not always been one of my favorite founding fathers. I have always thought of him as duplicitous, racist, anachronistic in his thinking, vain, and cowardly in a way. As a New Yorker, I've always been irked by his bad-mouthing of the city, and by his insistence that the capitol of the new nation be moved from here to Washington, D.C. [Good riddance, by the way. We did just fine without being the capitol city, thank you very much ;-) ] And as I am a devout admirer of Alexander Hamilton... need I say more?

    After reading Ellis' other great book, FOUNDING BROTHERS, I began to get a more rounded look at Jefferson, one that shed a little more light on the human forces that may have been working on him. Then I read McCullough's brilliant biography of Jefferson's close friend (at times), John Adams. This led me to read this biography, and I am glad I did. I finally was given a better understanding of the sage of Monticello. Ellis does an admirable job of conveying an honest and balanced view of the chief author of the Declaration of Independence, without resorting to hero-worship, as do most biographers. At times, the writing was very moving, especially as Jefferson's loved ones began dying around him. I'm still not crazy about the guy, but I have a better appreciation of him.

    Ellis' writing is brisk, loaded with telling anecdotes, and never attempts to impress the reader with the research he has done. Other biographers would do well to follow Joseph Ellis' example. And lovers of American History would do well to read this book.

    4-0 out of 5 stars Thomas Jefferson Survives
    If you've read about the Founding Fathers, you can't help but notice that Thomas Jefferson has an eerie elusive quality that the others just don't seem to possess. You can figure out Ben Franklin, George Washington, James Madison, etc.. Jefferson, however, seems to be someone who you can't quite pin down or so easily lay claim to by today's standards. As was once said of William James, "He's just like a blob of mercury, you cannot put a mental finger upon him." It probably has something to do with, as Ellis states in the book, the fact that he was far more inclined to rhetoric and theory than he was to the tedious gears of hand-on politics.

    I was expecting this book to cross the line in relation to dragging Jefferson into the present and beating him up a bit, but it kept within reasonable boundaries without either unrealistic hero worship or a foolish attempt at character assasination. Very readable and informative.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Sterling Silver
    "American Sphinx" by Joseph P. Ellis is sterling silver. It dissects the character of Thomas Jefferson in a wonderfully readable presentation of America's third President. No wonder this book was a prize winning work on history when it first came out. I recommend your making sure you don't miss this one.

    I also recommend you go on to read Norman Thomas Remick's "West Point: Thomas Jefferson: Character Leadership Education" for something different both about, and from, Thomas Jefferson. ... Read more


    2. On Writing : A Memoir Of The Craft
    list price: $35.00
    our price: $35.00
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 0671582364
    Catlog: Book (2000-10-01)
    Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
    Sales Rank: 381991
    Average Customer Review: 4.61 out of 5 stars
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    Book Description

    Read by the Author

    "If you don't have the time to read, you don't have the time or the tools to write."


    On Writing begins with a mesmerizing account of King's childhood and his early focus on writing to tell a story. A series of vivid memories from adolescence, college, and the struggling years that led up to his first novel, Carrie, offer a fresh and often funny perspective on the formation of a writer.

    King then turns to the tools of his trade, examining crucial aspects of the wriiter's art and life, offering practical and inspiring advice on everything from plot and character development to work habits and rejection.

    King was in the middle of writing this book when he was nearly killed in a widely reported accident. On Writing culminates with a profoundly moving account of how his need to write spurred him toward recovery, and brought him back to his life. ... Read more

    Reviews (540)

    5-0 out of 5 stars Ideas behind the words
    "The story is the most important part of the story" could accurately sum up Stephen Kings book on writing.

    The first half of the book is autobiographical. Stephen takes us through his childhood, discussing key events in his development as a person and a writer. This sets the context for the experiences he later writes about.

    The second half is the "On Writing" part, where he gives advice to aspiring fiction writers. He covers technical aspects (be concise) as well as tips on the creative process (don't sweat the plot, create situations and be true to what the characters would do in them). He describes the process of writing as "finding a fossil" - the fossil of the story is out there, use the most subtle tools out there to share the fossil.

    At the end, Steve covers his current status and recovery from a near death experience at the hands of an errant van driver. Perhaps this is the most touching part of the story.

    This book does capture some very useful nuggets of information, and will be especially useful to avid king readers. In that sense, it isn't just a trade book for writers. Enjoy!

    5-0 out of 5 stars Inspiring and practical book for writers
    I read this book - my first by Stephen King - after noticing a lot of favorable reviews, and I really liked it. This book has been highly recommended in many different forums for young, aspiring writers, and I can see the reason why.

    While the first half of the book is autobiographical, dealing with events that made Stephen King the type of writer he is; the second half deals almost exclusively with King's insights and suggestions on the craft of writing - from vocabulary, grammar, editing, etc., to the nuances of dialogue, description, and narration. Unlike many books dealing with the art of writing, this book has a friendlier, almost intimate approach, and King uses numerous examples from his own work and that of other writers to illustrate his points. Two of the best pieces of advice in this book are: "Write with your door closed, re-write with your door open", and "If you don't have the time to read, you don't have the time or the tools to write".

    This is a very inspiring and motivating book for anyone interested in writing. King himself never stopped writing, no matter what the circumstances - the abject poverty of the early part of his life, or the excruciating pain as a result of the life threatening accident - and that is the biggest lesson in this book for writers.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Like a school book, but way more fun!
    Stephen King's On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, is probably the best advice book you're goin to get.
    It has three parts:
    (1)An account on his younger life, and why he thinks he came to be the type of writer she is today.
    (2)The second part is an absolutely fantastic account on writing. He runs you through Plot Development, Character development, different types of plot eg: Story/Situation, advice on Literary Agents, submitting short-stories to magazines etc etc etc...
    (3)And the last 60 pages or so is an account on the horrifying accident he had in 1999 in Maine. He walks through it in detail.

    As an aspiring writer myself, I found this book classic. When I think back to before, when I didnt read it - and was writing myself - If found that I really needed it.

    So, for anyone who wants to know the low-down on becoming a successful writer, buy the book; for anyone who is a fan this is a must, you will read exciteing stories about his childhood and later life, and read the explicit chapter on his horrible accident.
    King, at his best. :-)(-:

    5-0 out of 5 stars Book Review: Stephen King ¿ On Writing
    Book Review: Stephen King - On Writing

    I enjoyed the first half of the book for the humorous lighthearted approaches Steve takes to his life. One inspiring moment would not leave my mind. I wish that I had one in my own life as significant. As a young boy Steve copied the works of his favorite comic and showed the result to his mother. "Write one of your own, Stevie," she said. WOW! Obviously the seed of a writer was already planted but what fertilizer was that moment in Stephen King's life. Permission to write came at a very significant age. So many writers struggle to give themselves permission to write. A comment like this reminds me how influential a parent is to their child. Imagine what may have become of Steve had his mother been a different woman.

    Other enjoyable moments involved poison ivy, a rather naughty school distribution and Steve's bleak telling of his drug and alcohol abuse. With the latter I sat wondering at Stephen's courage. Not just to relate these facts openly and honestly to his readers, but also to step beyond his dependency and hope, perhaps pray, that his writing did not come from the altered state. Some of his readers would see Steve in a darker light when realizing he is a former addict. I know that my image of Stephen changed. I saw in him honor, courage and a great strength to overcome. I admire him for stepping through the fear I can only imagine he must have felt and coming past it into real living. May we all learn from his experience.

    When I reached the middle of Stephen King's "On Writing: A Memoir", I could not help but notice the very distinct change of voice between the first section and the second. I wondered how the light hearted man, who wrote about living life even through some very hard moments, could possibly be the same man who wrote in stilted lament. I read feeling rather resentful of the attitude I felt coming from the pages. I wondered how he dared imply that the way he did things was the only way to do them. I was particularly flummoxed at the parts where Steve speaks of plot and how no writer should ever use plot, story is the key element. I agree, story is key, but my current novel is laid out perfectly on a large board with every little plot nuance decided. Of course since I am suffering a serious writer's block with that novel perhaps Steve has merit when he speaks of plotting and the damage it can do to story.

    Beyond that single disagreement I found Steve spoke to the readers of "On Writing" with integral truth. He spoke fact, but somehow in the second half of the book there seemed a lot less joy. It is only when I reached the postscript I realized why the two halves of one book seemed so different. You may notice the significance of change yourself when you read this book and you will find as I did that there is an rather extreme reasoning for it. Right where the voice changed is the eighteen months where Steve had been recuperating after being hit by a Dodge van. This life-changing event very obviously changed his sense of self and ultimately his voice, his writing.

    The second half of the book involves a lot of helpful advice, but personally I felt that a writer would find the first half much more inspiring. The second half answers questions you might have, but the answers are only helpful if you write in the same way Steve writes. Every writer does things their own way and while you can take his words and mince them in your own mind and heart into something of your own, if you attempt to copy his routine exactly you will loose your self. He admits this also and I thank him for once again being so honest. The second half of the book offers a great deal to aspiring writers but I feel the first half offered twice that again.

    Overall this book is a wonderful read for all writers and entertaining for non-writers. I freely admit that I have never read another of Stephen King's books but having read this one I am itching to read some of his fiction. He has a fluid hand that is a delight to read. I did find the profanity scattered across the book grating, but he has a section where he speaks of that also. It says a lot about who Stephen is and how he was raised. The entire book opens him up for readers to really know him, and that is a true connection of minds that shouts the truth he shares of writer's telepathy.

    Despite all he has suffered in life Stephen comes out a stronger man. In "On Writing" he offers aspiring writers a wealth of advice the most significant being, "Read a lot, Write a lot." You can only learn your subject by immersing yourself in it and as with all artistic desire to reach perfection the Carnegie hall anecdote comes to mine, "Practice, practice, practice". Thank you, Stephen King, for sharing yourself with me. I am a better person and hopefully a better writer because of your candor.

    Rebecca Laffar-Smith

    5-0 out of 5 stars Helpful and Entertaining
    I read this book while in the middle of editing a book for publication. It reminded me of many things I had either forgotten (from my days of working with the Chicago Manual of Style or The Elements of Style) and suddenly, my red pen used A LOT more ink.

    A highly entertaining read, I recommend for all serious writers. Take a few tips from a true master of the craft.

    From the author of I'm Living Your Dream Life and The Things I Wish I'd Said, McKenna Publishing Group ... Read more


    3. It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life
    by Lance Armstrong, Oliver Wyman
    list price: $29.95
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 1565114493
    Catlog: Book (2000-09-01)
    Publisher: Highbridge Audio
    Sales Rank: 37858
    Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars
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    Book Description

    This is the story of the Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year's journey through triumph, tragedy, transformation, and transcendance. It is the story of Lance Armstrong, the world-famous cyclist, and his fight against cancer. ... Read more

    Reviews (521)

    5-0 out of 5 stars It's Hard Not to be Inspired by this Story
    Say what you want about Lance Armstrong but if you read this book it's hard to consider him anything but an inspiration.

    Last summer I was in Austin, Texas during the end of the Tour de France attending the Texas Age Group Swimming Championships my younger brother was competing in. That city loves Lance and there wasn't a person in the streets who wasn't eager to talk about the Tour; yellow banners supporting him were more common than Texas flags, and anyone who knows Texas knows that that's saying a lot! Following that experience I knew I had to read this book and I wasn't disappointed in the least.

    Having read the book, I can't regard Lance Armstrong as anything less than a miracle. He didn't survive cancer - he conquered it. He proved that a cancer diagnosis doesn't have to mean an end to anything unless you allow it to. This book is a very blunt and unapologetic account of his life before, during, and after his diagnosis and treatment. He's not the nicest guy ever, he's not the humblest guy ever, he's just a guy (who may or may not be the greatest cyclist in the world, it's not my sport, someone else will debate that).

    If Lance Armstrong had never competed in another race again, his survival would still have been incredible. But he did compete, and he's sure to be a legend.

    5-0 out of 5 stars No, It's Not About the Bike or Cancer. It's Pure Lance.
    I know I'll catch it for this review. The book itself gets 5 stars from me. I enjoyed the read, I shed a few tears and I kept hoping that somewhere it would eventually turn Lance Armstrong into one of my heros. It never did. In fact, I pray to God I never meet Lance Armstrong and never get in his path, and I pray anyone who ever has to does survives the encounter. Sally Jenkins gets kudos on pulling off what was a difficult task. How to write his biography and story with him watching over her and to tell the truth. She did it. She pulled it off by writing between the lines like no other. She is truly the hero here. Make no mistake, the book is good, the hero is not. He is, without a doubt the single most arrogant and egotistical person I've ever read about in my life. I wanted him to be my hero so bad too. I have just gotten into cycling and was looking forward to having someone to watch, follow and emulate. Lance is not that guy. You'll read things that will blow you away. How he fully expected his French sponsor to pay him his 5 million dollar contract even when he was taking chemo and was not riding for them, they even offered to give him a contract, just not 5 million and he was outraged. He freaked on might having to sell his $300,000 worth of furniture and "art" to pay for his treatment. Why oh why have all forsaken poor Lance he wonders. Supposedly a boy that grew up on the wrong side of the tracks in Plano, Tx, but give me a break, there is no "wrong side" of the tracks in Plano. Even though he was only raised by his mother, it's obvious people took care of Lance. Riding his expensive cycles that were given to him out of the goodness of one man's heart, and then he doesn't speak to this guy for years on end. I could continue, but I think the world needs to read this book to learn about this. Lance's story is not over, he still hasn't learned what he probably was meant to learn. I do not suggest buying this book for someone with cancer or a teenager. It's not inspiring in the least, no one can afford what Lance had to get him through his terrible cancer ordeal. And, if a teen reads this, he or she will expect the world to give them everything on a silver platter just like Lance expects. One curious note I can't yet figure out. Never once does Lance tell the world he didn't check himself monthly for testicular cancer and that if he had, he could have caught it before it spread to his brain and lungs and recovery would have been comparably easy. With many pages devoted to pictures of he, his wife, his baby and mother not one single page printed a diagram on how to check yourself for testicular cancer. Seems a hero would have had that thought first and foremost in his head, especially since testicular cancer never has gotten the same PR as checking for breast cancer. I might read his other books. Maybe he's learned something along the way, but that is highly doubtful.

    3-0 out of 5 stars A new focus for Armstrong..
    I value Lance Armstrong's story, he is a driven and talented athlete who has had to battle through a life threatening illness. The story is incredible but you wish that Lance wouldn't be so in love with his own story!
    Humility is the virtue that Lance needs most. Maybe that could be his next focus. I'm sure if he put his mind to it, he could tone down his ego. He accomplishes every thing he puts his mind too..... maybe improve his writing as well....

    4-0 out of 5 stars It's not about the bike: It is about the being the best!
    I am a beginner runner. I picked up this book because I wanted to know more about Lance Armstrong. This book has taught me how much mental and physical training are required to be the best, consistently. I have enjoyed reading this book because of the humor, the clear and direct expression of ideas, and Lance's candor in his failures and triumphs. I am sure I will pick it up and read it again periodically.

    5-0 out of 5 stars The Bike is Not Important
    There's nothing I can say that hasn't been said. A fantastic book about an interesting character that has little to do with sports and more to do with the human spirit. This book details Lance's early life as he addresses his cocky, immature nature that quickly goes out the window when he begins his cancer battle. Lance is alive because his is famous. His cancer was so aggressive and mature that IMO what saved him is the unsolicited email from the doctor at Vanderbilt that eventually led him to the doctors at Indiana University. I like sports and would never have read a book just about cancer survival but this book was so highly recommended and for good reason.

    The book finishes with Lance mentally battling to get back on the bike and on to greater glory. There is much to learn here also but the one downer would be listening to him describing his ideal marriage when of course it has already broken up.

    I CANNOT RECOMMEND THIS BOOK HIGHER. You will not be disappointed. And yes, you will start following the Tour de France. ... Read more


    4. Alexander Hamilton
    by Ron Chernow, Scott Brick
    list price: $59.95
    our price: $47.96
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 0142800449
    Catlog: Book (2004-04-01)
    Publisher: Penguin Audiobooks
    Sales Rank: 24893
    Average Customer Review: 4.65 out of 5 stars
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    Book Description

    From National Book Award winner Ron Chernow, a landmark biography of Alexander Hamilton, the Founding Father who galvanized, inspired, scandalized, and shaped the newborn nation.

    Ron Chernow, whom the New York Times called "as elegant an architect of monumental histories as we've seen in decades," now brings to startling life the man who was arguably the most important figure in American history, who never attained the presidency, but who had a far more lasting impact than many who did.

    An illegitimate, largely self-taught orphan from the Caribbean, Hamilton rose with stunning speed to become George Washington's aide-de-camp, a member of the Constitutional Convention, coauthor of The Federalist Papers, leader of the Federalist party, and the country's first Treasury secretary. With masterful storytelling skills, Chernow presents the whole sweep of Hamilton's turbulent life: his exotic, brutal upbringing; his brilliant military, legal, and financial exploits; his titanic feuds with Jefferson, Madison, Adams, and Monroe; his illicit romances; and his famous death in a duel with Aaron Burr in July 1804.

    For the first time, Chernow captures the personal life of this handsome, witty, and perennially controversial genius and explores his poignant relations with his wife Eliza, their eight children, and numberless friends. This engrossing narrative will dispel forever the stereotype of the Founding Fathers as wooden figures and show that, for all their greatness, they were fiery, passionate, often flawed human beings.

    Alexander Hamilton was one of the seminal figures in our history. His richly dramatic saga, rendered in Chernow's vivid prose, is nothing less than a riveting account of America's founding, from the Revolutionary War to the rise of the first federal government.
    ... Read more

    Reviews (51)

    5-0 out of 5 stars One of American History's Shining Stars
    There have NOT been enough biographies of Alexander Hamilton, and Ron Chernow has restored this often maligned founding father into his deserved spotlight. The marvelous opening passage describes the longings of Hamilton's widow, Elizabeth, for her husband who had died nearly 50 years previously. This romantic image sets the tone for this brilliant book, as it explores the heart as well as the mind of Alexander Hamilton.

    For those who do not know, Hamilton was not merely a capitalist and economist who happened to die in a duel with Aaron Burr. True, he was the founder of The Bank of New York and was America's first Secretary of the Treasury. But Hamilton was also a tireless abolitionist, a brilliant lawyer and writer, General Washington's right-hand-man, a war hero, founder of the New York Post, and a swash-buckling romantic. Taken on their own, these achievements are amazing enough, but given the enormous obstacles and tragedies he had to overcome during his youth, it's just mindboggling. To take it a step further, he accomplished all this in just 49 years, which was his age at the time of his death.

    A life as full, as dramatic, as IMPORTANT as Alexander Hamilton's deserves volumes. Ron Chernow's extensive biography is a long book but, even so, the amazing life he is describing requires such length. And, to Chernow's credit, the book achieves just the right balance of admiration and criticism, romanticism and realism, speculation and fact. Hamilton's life swung between often contradictory ideas and emotions, and Chernow presents them all to us, rather than sticking with one overriding image. ALEXANDER HAMILTON by Ron Chernow is perhaps the most important book written about the nascent years of our country since Ellis' FOUNDING BROTHERS, which would make an excellent companion to this book. I would also strongly recommend McCullough's JOHN ADAMS, as well.

    5-0 out of 5 stars The Most Important American Figure Never to Become President
    During the 1980s, during the period when Bank of New York launched its hostile take-over of Irving Bank, the following anecdote circulated.

    As Alexander Hamilton was getting into the boat to be rowed across the Hudson River to Weehawken where he was scheduled to duel Aaron Burr, he turned to his aide and said, "Don't do anything until I return."

    The story concluded, unfortunately, the aide and all of his successors took Hamilton at his word.

    The anecdote, though funny at the time of the take-over, could not have a weaker historical foundation. Ron Chernow's biography relates the details of an illegitimate, largely self-taught orphan who rose to become George Washington's key aide-de-camp, battlefield hero, Constitutional Convention delegate, co-author of The Federalist Papers, Federalist Party head and the country's first Treasury Secretary.

    Hamilton was a rare revolutionary: fearless warrior, master administrator and blazing administrator. No other moment in American history could have better employed Hamilton's abundant talents and energy.

    As Treasury Secretary, the country benefited from his abilities as a thinker, doer, skilled executive and political theorist. He was a system builder who devised and implemented interrelated policies.

    As in the Revolution, Hamilton and Washington complemented each other. Washington wanted to remain above the partisan fray. He was gifted with superb judgment. When presented with options, he almost always made the correct choice. His detached style left room for assertiveness. Especially in financial matters, Hamilton stepped into the breach.
    Washington was sensitive to criticism, yet learned to control his emotions. Hamilton, on the other hand, was often acted without tact and was naturally provocative.

    Perhaps the main reason Hamilton accomplished so much was Washington agreed with his vision of 13 colonies welded into a single, respected nation. Chernow presents a well-written and nuanced portrait that arguably is the most important figure in American history that never attained the presidency. Though his foreign birth denied him the ultimate prize, his accomplishments produced a far more lasting impact than many who claimed it.

    5-0 out of 5 stars True Founding Interests
    The best all around depiction of a pivotal charecter in the founding of our country. With all of Mr Hamiltons accomplishments and pitfalls of character. Hamilton created almost single-handedly the modern capitalist society in addition to making huge implications into the manner which our government took shape that so many Americans take for granted. I would encourage anyone interested in the formation of the American experiment and a capitalist society read this book.

    5-0 out of 5 stars A Phenomenal Life
    After Ronald Reagan died, I recall a TV commentator saying that there was a movement to replace Hamilton with Reagan on the $10 bill. Paraphrasing, "Hamilton was an easy target because he lacks a 'constituency'". Chernow's outstanding biography not only demonstrates why Hamilton is on the bill, but that his constituency should be all Americans. Of the "Founding Fathers", it is Hamilton who, if he could come back today, would be generally pleased at the United States he would find; his vision of capitalism, free markets and a central government has come to fruition.

    The book details his youth growing up in the West Indies of questionable legitimacy, emigrating to the "Colonies", receiving an education, serving on Washington's staff in the Revolutionary War, his authorship of the Federalist Papers, his role in the Constitutional Convention, first Secretary of the Treasury, prolific writer, lawyer. His was a truly a phenomenal life. Chernow remarks that "No immigrant did more for the United States than Hamilton." After completing this book you can't help but "second" that statement.

    The book paints vivid portraits of Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Adams and Burr as well as the political climate. The role of his family and particularly his wife are well chronicled along with his faults. This book adds to the number of outstanding biographies that are being written about this period of our history. Back to Reagan, who quoted Hamilton on numerous occasions, I think if he had a say in who should be on the Ten, he like me would vote for Hamilton.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Stunning
    This is the best biography I have read in years. After the wonderful biographies out recently about Franklin and Adams, it was a thrill to learn about Alexander Hamilton, who has been so maligned and sidestepped by history. Buy this book. It is beautifully written, will hold your interest, and you will come away--as I did--with a new take on the founding of this country. ... Read more


    5. John Adams
    by David McCullough
    list price: $39.95
    our price: $26.37
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 0743504747
    Catlog: Book (2001-05-01)
    Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
    Sales Rank: 19632
    Average Customer Review: 4.62 out of 5 stars
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    Book Description

    In this powerful, epic biography, David McCullough unfolds the adventurous life-journey of John Adams, the brilliant, fiercely independent, often irascible, always honest Yankee patriot who spared nothing in his zeal for the American Revolution; who thought, wrote, and spoke out for the "Great Cause" come what might, who traveled far and wide in all seasons and often at extreme risk; who rose to become the second President of the United States and saved the country from blundering into an unnecessary war; who was rightly celebrated for his integrity, and regarded by some as "out of his senses"; and whose marriage to the wise and valiant Abigail Adams is one of the moving love stories in American history.

    Much about John Adam's life will come as a surprise to many. His rocky relationship with friend and eventual archrival Thomas Jefferson, his courageous voyage on the frigate Boston in the winter of 1778 and his later trek over the Pyrenees are exploits few would have dared and that few listeners will ever forget.

    Like his masterful, Pulitzer Prize-winning biography Truman, David McCullough's John Adams has the sweep and vitality of a great novel. This is history on a grand scale -- an audiobook about politics and war and social issues, but also about human nature, love, religious faith, virtue, ambition, friendship and betrayal, and the far-reaching consequences of noble ideas. Above all, it is an enthralling, often surprising story of one of the most important and fascinating Americans who ever lived. ... Read more

    Reviews (536)

    5-0 out of 5 stars A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS
    Using many sources, but basically drawing on the extensive collection of the Adams Papers housed in the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston, David McCullough has written a fascinating biography of John Adams. Unlike conventional biographies, the text covers his immediate family devoting considerable detail to his wife, Abigail, which makes for a balanced narration. This is a biography of John Adams and not a history of the Revolution and the post revolution era so that incidents, actions, etc. not closely related to John Adams are given minimum coverage making for a contiguous account that is not distracted by events (though important) in which Adams was not involved. By quoting from their numerous letters, journals and diaries, this is a highly personal account revealing Adams and Abigail's thoughts and feelings.

    The narration of Adams activities in France, Great Britain, Holland and Belgium is fascinating. This is a subject that is only briefly covered in most survey courses of American history so that the casual reader of history will find the text well worth reading. The intrigues and manipulative politicians in Europe made for a serious challenge to John Adams' abilities and for the future of the new nation. In many respects, the European attitudes the text outlines in Adams era are still present today regarding America.

    The text notes that Adams recognized the critical role of a navy for gaining and then maintaining independence. The author states "That he pressed doggedly for a greater part in the war by the French navy would stand as one of his own proudest efforts, and with reason given what happened at Yorktown." During his presidency he initiated a program of navy ship construction and persuaded Congress to authorize funds to equip and man three frigates constructed during Washington's administration, but never equipped for service. These became the three famous frigates CONSTITUTION, UNITED STATES and CONSTELLATION. He further recommended to President Jefferson the establishment of a Naval Academy to which Jefferson agreed. The founding of the US Navy was one of Adams greatest accomplishments.

    McCullough provides an excellent account of Adams' relationship with Jefferson. Jefferson is not pictured in the typical honorable schoolboy image, but rather the text gives a balance account of Jefferson who did not always follow the highest ethical principals especially regarding political

    rivals. The author notes that Adams never knew when Jefferson, his Vice President, might be working secretly to undercut or thwart him, for Jefferson's abiding flaw, Adams had concluded, was "want of sincerity". Most interesting is the text's narration of the 1791 public controversy over Jefferson's endorsement of Thomas Paine's pamphlet THE RIGHTS OF MAN. Jefferson had endorsed the pamphlet and in private correspondence ascribed to Adams "the political heresies that have spring up among us" and then blamed the pamphlet printer for his endorsement. In 1809 at the urging of his friend Benjamin Rush, Adams wrote Jefferson, their friendship was renewed and remained strong through the rest of their lives.

    The text tells of Adams less than high opinion of Benjamin Franklin who Adams considered lazy. In Adams written documents, the image of Franklin as a wholly honorable statesman/scientist is brought into question. However, Adams still had high praise for Franklin stating that if he had done nothing else then invent the lightning rod he had done the world a great service.

    The text also narrates many situations which were a harbinger of the American Civil War noting the strong differences between New England and the South principally with Jefferson's Virginia. The author quotes Adams who wrote " I know it is high treason to express a doubt of the perpetual duration of our vast American empire, but a struggles between the states over slavery might rend this mighty fabric in twain."

    In his easy to read narration, the author describes the political world in early America. This account is most intriguing since if only the names and the dates are changed, politics and government today is the same as in Adams age. For example. McCullough writes "Colonel Smith was in Washington. Having failed at nearly everything he ever tried, he had lately been elected to Congress" and Adams is quoted as stating "I would to God there were more ambition in the country....ambition of that laudable kind, to excel." In another example, the text notes that "The more Adams thought about the future of his country, the more convinced he became that it rested on education and wrote "The education of a nation instead of being confined to a few schools and universities for the instruction of the few, must become the national care and expense for the formation of the many." Today, politicians are debating the same topic.

    To be sure John Adams had his faults and the author does not try to ignore his shortcomings in this biography. His support of the Alien and Sedition Acts was most reprehensible.Perhaps his greatest fault was that he was hard headed; however, this was tempered by Adams integrity. In today's "me first" and "what's in it for me" society, it is pleasant to read the biography of a person (even a whole family) which put public service above self interest. The reader may not agree with McCullough, but will never find the book dull reading.

    5-0 out of 5 stars A nice alternative to the "scholarly" bios
    I have nothing against academics who write books (though they sometimes forget that an audience should *want* to keep reading), and I sometimes enjoy the details and minutiae some such authors deliver.

    In the case of David McCullough's John Adams, however, I think the pathologically-serious academic/historian crowd has tellingly overreacted to the "popular" tone of the book. Oh, horrors -- McCullough wants to make history and historical figures accessible to the masses!

    I greatly enjoyed the look into Adams' relationship and correspondence with Abigail, who played a much larger role in early American politics than most people realized. I also found the on-again-off-again friendship between Adams & Jefferson described in a much more compelling manner than in most other similar bios I've read. Granted, it seemed at times to be more of a pro-Adams apologetic than an objective recounting of facts, but I understood that going into the book. Part of the attraction here is that McCullough humanizes Adams (and Abigail, and other figures) for the reader; even though you know the outcome of the story, you still find yourself "rooting" for Adams during critical passages!

    It's a huge book, but I tore through it because McCullough made it so easy to read. We all had to memorize names and dates in history class, but here it is presented in such a way that you will *want* to learn more. Congratulations to David McCullough for another grand-slam effort!

    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


    6. My Life So Far
    list price: $34.95
    our price: $23.07
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 0739319833
    Catlog: Book (2005-04-05)
    Publisher: RH Audio Voices
    Sales Rank: 158281
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    Amazon.com

    One of the most recognizable women of our time, America knows Jane Fonda as actress, activist, feminist, wife, and workout guru. In her extraordinary memoir, Fonda divides her life into three acts: her childhood, early films, and first marriage make up act one; her growing career in film, marriage to Ted Turner, and involvement in the Vietnam War belong to act two; and the third act belongs to the future, in which she hopes to "begin living consciously," and inspire others who can learn from her experiences. Fonda reveals intimate details and universal truths that she hopes "can provide a lens through which others can see their lives and how they can live them a little differently."

    Exclusive Letter from Jane Fonda

    Stay in Shape: The Jane Fonda Collection
    New Workouts

    The Complete Personal Trainer Series

    The Complete Workout and Stress Reduction Program

    Fun House Fitness: Fitness for the Whole Family

    Jane Fonda: The Essential DVDs

    Barbarella

    On Golden Pond

    Nine to Five

    Coming Home

    Klute

    See more Fonda DVDs ... Read more


    7. Assassination Vacation
    list price: $26.00
    our price: $17.16
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 0743540042
    Catlog: Book (2005-04-01)
    Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
    Sales Rank: 809956
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    8. River-Horse:Across America By Boat
    by William Least Heat-Moon
    list price: $112.00
    our price: $112.00
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 0736647538
    Catlog: Book (1999-09-28)
    Publisher: Books on Tape
    Sales Rank: 1626004
    Average Customer Review: 3.46 out of 5 stars
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    Book Description

    In RIVER-HORSE, the preeminent chronicler of American back roads -- who has given us the classics BLUE HIGHWAYS and PRAIRYERTH -- recounts his singular voyage on American waters from sea to sea. Along the route, he offers a lyrical and ceaselessly fascinating shipboard perspective on the country's rivers, lakes, canals, and towns. Brimming with history, drama, humor, and wisdom, RIVER-HORSE belongs in the pantheon of American travel literature. In his most ambitious journey ever, Heat-Moon sets off aboard a small boat he named Nikawa ("river horse" in Osage) from the Atlantic at New York Harbor in hopes of entering the Pacific near Astoria, Oregon. He and his companion, Pilotis, struggle to cover some five thousand watery miles -- more than any other cross-country river traveler has ever managed -- often following in the wakes of our most famous explorers, from Henry Hudson to Lewis and Clark. En route, the voyagers confront massive floods, submerged rocks, dangerous weather, and their own doubts about whether they can complete the trip. But the hard days yield up incomparable pleasures: strangers generous with help and eccentric tales, landscapes unchanged since Sacagawea saw them, riverscapes flowing with a lively past, and the growing belief that efforts to protect our lands and waters are beginning to pay off. And, throughout its course, the expedition enjoys coincidences so breathtaking as to suggest the intervention of a divine and witty Providence. Teeming with humanity and high adventure, Heat-Moon's account is an unsentimental and original arteriogram of our nation at the edge of the millennium. Masterly in its own right, RIVER-HORSE, when taken with BLUE HIGHWAYS and PRAIRYERTH, forms the capstone of a peerless and timeless trilogy. ... Read more

    Reviews (76)

    3-0 out of 5 stars Travelogue, not odyssey
    Travel narratives are my favorite genre, and Heat-Moon's classic, Blue Highways, certainly belongs on my short list. I was really looking forward to River-Horse--another sweep across America, by a perceptive and thoughtful writer and observer. The book has been a disappointment, and though it is worth reading, it is not of the level that I expected from the author.

    I think the main weakness of the book is that there is hardly any human interaction. The brief encounters the author has with folks along the route really do make them seem like stock characters rather than interesting individuals. The author's wonderful introspection, which enriched Blue Highways so much, just isn't here. At one point along the Ohio River the author has a conversation in a cafe, and rather than relating that conversation, hints that he is saving it to use in a future novel. I felt cheated at that point--here I am, in this book, wanting this adventure to be rich and illuminating. What the reader is left with is a series of historical anecdotes, descriptions of bridges and banks, with occasional comments from his mate Pilotis, a composite of several people (again, an interesting idea, but I found myself wondering at any given section of the trip just who was with WLHM).

    I really wanted this book to be good, not another Blue Highways, but good all the same, and it just fell short.

    4-0 out of 5 stars American Zen
    The third chronicle of his continuing travels of this country, River Horse, William Least Heat Moon's takes us once again along the less traveled path, seeking what is genuine in the American experience. A good writer makes us see the world differently. Whether wandering along a blue highway, trodding along the eastern edge of the great plains, or fighting bars, sawyers and snags upriver, Least Heat Moon turns his trained eye to the things that don't register on our radar as we trudge through our busy days. If you want a reminder of how to smell the roses, read one of his books.

    In River Horse, Least Heat Moon continues to demonstrate his mastery of the travelogue form, as he plucks the flowers from between the thorns of the American experience. His prose is flawless. It also seems he wants us to learn more about our language; he sent me to the dictionary more than once, looking up Superior Person's words such as: adventitious, ambulant, cormorant, divagation, execrate, indurate, jactitation, omphalos, and striated. Only my OED had the definition for "fulginous."

    This book is more personal, and more overtly political than his previous work. Corporate America, especially in the West has its tentacles into the political machine and is strangling our land and our waterways. The back of the book has addresses to contact environmental and preservation organizations. Including them is the author's call to action. The warm references to Lewis & Clark confused me, though, as they were the pathfinders for the Corporate raiders of the environment.

    Moon's strengths lie in moving slowly and looking closely at his subject. River Horse suffers from a deadline, imposed by nature, man, and the author's ambition. I liked Blue Highways more, and Prairyerth much more, partly because of their unhurried pace. I read his books to get back in touch with the details out there in the American experience, the deadlines await me here in the office.

    1-0 out of 5 stars Preachy & Dull
    Overall the book is pretty dull. In order to liven up sections Heat=Moon tries to get us worried about whether or not he'll hit his timeline or even sink the boat. After a few of these exagerrated concerns are told the remaining ones are not at all believable.

    Every few pages he also likes to remind us how bad Americans are at keeping our environment spotless and wild. This coming from a man cruising the rivers in a twin engine boat, and on shallower parts even puts a motor on his canoe. This, also coming from a man who would not have gotten past New York if it wasn't for the Erie Canal. Preaching, during a book like this, is normal and expected. He just takes it over the top and by the end of the book I was rooting for another dam to be built.

    Finally, there are too many stories about himself and how he was feeling and not enough anecdotes about people he met along the way. It's those colorful stories that usually make travel books likes these interesting.

    3-0 out of 5 stars No "Blue Highways"
    "River-Horse" is an OK summer read, but it's written by a Heat-Moon who's changed in the last twenty years, about a different sort of a journey. His motivation has changed from curiosity and wanderlust to a kind of grim obsession with executing a plan. Instead of a shoestring voyage of self-discovery and nation-discovery after the end of his first marriage, the transcontinental boat trip of "River-Horse" is conceived as a well-financed grind so hard that broke up his second. Heat-Moon's connectedness with the small towns he visited is what made "Blue Highways" such a wonderful book, but in "River-Horse" those connections are all but lost. "Pilotus" could have been seven interesting people, but instead is rendered as a somewhat pretentious and preachy amalgam. Sadly, I think "Blue Highways" was a flash in the pan, and the present Heat-Moon will never again charm us in the same way that the past one did.

    2-0 out of 5 stars Neat idea, sunk by water-logged prose
    The idea behind this book is fascinating: is it possible to go coast-to-coast by water? What do you find along the way? How has riverside America changed in the interstate highway world?
    Alas, this book is almost unreadable. The writing is pretentious, stilted and overwrought; unnecessary literary devices (most notably the "Pilotis" schtick other reviewers have complained about) bog down the narrative, and the boat is barely onto the Erie Canal when you vaguely hope it will sink. I'm rooting for Bill Bryson or (better yet) Calvin Trillin or (even better) Ian Frazier to take this voyage sometime. ... Read more


    9. Flyboys: A True Story of Courage
    by James Bradley
    list price: $39.98
    our price: $26.39
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 1586215698
    Catlog: Book (2003-09)
    Publisher: Time Warner Audiobooks
    Sales Rank: 110399
    Average Customer Review: 3.19 out of 5 stars
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    Book Description

    Flyboys is the true story of young American airmen who were shot down over Chichi Jima. Eight of these young men were captured by Japanese troops and taken prisoner. Another was rescued by an American submarine and went on to become president. The reality of what happened to the eight prisoners has remained a secret for almost 60 years. After the war, the American and Japanese governments conspired to cover up the shocking truth. Not even the families of the airmen were informed what had happened to their sons. It has remained a mystery—until now. Critics called James Bradley's last book "the best book on battle ever written." Flyboys is even better: more ambitious, more powerful, and more moving. On the island of Chichi Jima those young men would face the ultimate test. Their story—a tale of courage and daring, of war and of death, of men and of hope—will make you proud, and it will break your heart. ... Read more

    Reviews (141)

    5-0 out of 5 stars Thought Provoking Book About War.
    If you are looking for a feel good American heroes book this is not it. "Flyboys" is a very worthwhile and thought provoking book. There are times when it causes the reader to feel uncomfortable as it describes large scale and individual atrocities including cannibalism and mass murder performed by the Japanese that are very distressing to read about. Many of the previous patriotic reviewers I believe found it difficult to face the descriptions of the small and large scale violent and destructive American behavior even though it was dwarfed by the Japanese behavior.

    The author remained remarkably non judgmental in his descriptions. He tries to put in context the violent behavior, although not to excuse it, by supplying relevant cutural and historic background.

    The book invites us to examine the contrast between war time and peacetime humanity. Which is really us? Is war time meanness just kept below the surface during times of peace? It reminds us that when hundreds of thousands of lives are lost, that these are the lives of valuable individuals whether American or others. It emphasizes the remarkable heroism and perhaps the naivete of our servicemen particularly our "Flyboys." They were heroes especially because they completely understood the risks they were taking and proceeded out of choice because they were needed. George Bush Sr., as one of them , is featured as a sensitive and lucky(to be alive)hero.

    The Japanese soldiers were brutalized by their officers and were required to follow orders without question. One gets concerned about group think and herd mentality. How independent are human beliefs and actions? Do we actually choose them or are we mostly a product of the society in which we were raised? We must intuitively know that it is wrong to bayonet a restrained man with a sharpened bamboo pole with the purpose of of causing pain, prior to beheading him while still alive, The officers who ordered this behavior earn our contempt. They force soldiers to carry out their orders as if they were slaves.

    The Japanese "Spirit Warrier" believed that all orders originated with their Emperor who they believed descended from the Sun Goddess. In a way they were following their faith. Is it right to unquestioningly follow a religious leader or a religious belief ie Jihad,or perhaps to believe that followers of our culture are more worthwhile than the followers of other cultures. We must have known as Americans in the 19th century that slavery was wrong and that women should have the right to vote but it took us a long time to correct these injustices. Were we not deserving of contempt for thoughtlessly following the group think?

    This is a history of WWII in the Pacific told mainly through a small group of people involved with the battle for the island of Chichi Jima by an author who is a truth seeking patriotic American whose father was incidentally a flag raiser at Iwo Jima. It raises our awareness of the horrors of war. It ends with some optimism and descriptions of forgiveness or at least understanding by memebers of both sides. There is even some real humanity displayed as Private Iwatake, who developed a personal relationshop with a subsequently beheaded cannibalized "Flyboy" named Warren Earl Vaughn, when phoned by the author, doing his research, answers the phone with, "Hello, this is Warren." He had changed his name to honor his dead prisoner.

    4-0 out of 5 stars Has its faults, but important nevertheless...
    I read about 20 of the earlier reviews of "Flyboys" as I struggled through the book this past week. Some of the negative comments are deserved, such as referring to the late Gen. Curtis LeMay as "Curtis" in half or more of the references to him. This is bizarre and distracting. Whether a result of careless editing or author-torial stubborness, it does not work. Also, I agree that the term "Flyboys" as a collective description of pilots, gunners and radiomen is over-used. I also agree that the book perhaps tries to cover too much history and abandons its cover story for too many pages at a time. Some condensing and reorganization would have enhanced its power. That said, many of the other negative comments seem to be unfair. Yes, Mr. Bradley dwells on America's mistreatment of Indians and Filipinos at length, including prisoners of war. Yes, he gives disgusting details of how our napalm drops on Japanese cities destroyed civilians indiscriminately. But he is not making up those facts. And to emphasize how easily combat and its stresses can make soldiers willing to do horrible deeds is not exactly the same thing as excusing the acts. I have read my share of WW II books, as I near 60 years of age, and "Flyboys" is the first one which sensibly explains how the Japanese fighter rationalized not only his willingness to die in already-lost battles, but his contempt for those from other cultures who chose to be prisoners of war instead. To explain the Japanese viewpoint, again, is not to excuse the acts. Nor is it unpatriotic.

    "Flyboys" describes disgusting acts of brutality and cannibalism, and is ultimately a very sad tale. It is not a work that should be tackled by readers who are emotionally fragile. As most people reading this review will already know, Mr. Bradley's dad was one of the Iwo Jima flag-raisers, wounded physically by Japanese soldiers in that fight, and wounded in some ways psychologically by the whole of his wartime service. The fact that his son went off to study in Japan, and developed much respect for the residents there, must have been painful and puzzling for the father. But I don't think any intelligent reader of Bradley's earlier book, "Flags of Our Fathers" or of "Flyboys" can question the younger Bradley's respect for our troops or our country. One of our strengths as a representative democracy is that we can love our nation for having humane ideals even if we are imperfect in living up to them every minute. And we can learn from injustices committed in our names by our government or military agents, and change our ways.

    I stuck with "Flyboys" right to the end, flaws and all, and I'm glad I did. It gets more powerful as it goes on, and it does finish the story of the eight Chichi Jima American POW's as much as it could be completed, so long after their 1945 deaths. We live in a time when we may be facing 30 years or more of sporadic war with terrorists and the countries which fund and hide them. To read a book which makes war and its (initially) unintended horrors seem like a step to be accepted only with the greatest caution is not a bad thing right now. While Mr. Bradley is not the smoothest historian/writer on the block, he shows promise. In some ways this book is better than "Flags of Our Fathers" despite its problems of style, language and organization. For sure, it is more important than the previous book, because the Iwo Jima battle story had already been well-covered in earlier works. Former President George Bush came close to being a prisoner on Chichi Jima, and plays a small part in this book. If he cooperated, and if he thinks Jim Bradley has done a service to the country with his research into the horrors of war in the Pacific from both sides, I won't argue with him. He was there, I was not. I'm glad I read "Flyboys" but unlike "Flags of Our Fathers" which I've read three times since it was first published, I won't be reading it twice. Its medicine is too strong for a second dose.

    3-0 out of 5 stars Strays way off course
    I am very offended in the tone that book takes in regard to comparing Japan's Chinese campaign with our final offensives in Germany and Japan. With all of the well written reviews I do not have much to add except to say that Japan was dead in the water and would have fought to the last man, woman and child. I also think that the nuclear bombs definately did create a new level of war and by doing so expedited the surrender. I am tired of people trying to apologize for America, the fact remains if they did not engage us then they would not have faced our wrath. The Chinese on the other hand recieved the barbaric wrath of Japan without so much as provoking them. I suppose we are supposed to draw a parallel in our manifest destiny or turn of the century Phillipine campaigns that were both in a very different era. By taking away all of Japans budget to make war America gave them a head start on creating a modern economy unparalleled in the world.

    This book gets three stars for having some nice solid sections when it stays on task and does not get to preachy. If it wasn't for that I would have flunked it. The author has talent though and the read is pretty good being that is so severly flawed.

    3-0 out of 5 stars Not sure what to make of this book
    First off, I find it surprising that this story was not told sooner, as it involved a future U.S. president (I suppose much of the information was not available until recently). I give Bradley credit for telling the story of the airmen who gave their lives in service to our country, but I'm not sure what to make of Bradley's commentary on U.S. policy before and during World War II. It's true that atrocities happen in war, and the actions of our military should not be whitewashed. It seems wrong to me, however, to try to draw moral equivalency between the aggressors, and those who fight that aggression at great cost to themselves so that others may enjoy freedom. I also reject Bradley's suggestions that all atrocities committed by the Japanese were a direct result of earlier U.S. actions, however wrong those actions may have been (Bradley's description of the Japanese corruption of the Samauri code seems to contradict his own assertions regarding this point). I rate "Flyboys" 3 stars for telling a story that should have been told earlier, but I have reservations about the revisionist history in the book.

    2-0 out of 5 stars Very disappointing, misleading title
    A few months ago, I overheard an argument by two people over this book, so I figured I would read it myself to see what it was really like. I must say I was very disappointed. The first few chapters are not even about World War II. The title is misleading, for it is not really about "Flyboys", and the author uses it as a platform to condemn the use of airpower. Unfortunately, civilians were killed in bombing raids, but it should be remembered that it was the Germans and the Japanese who started this war. The author also sees very little, if any, difference, between the Americans and Japanese, yet he overlooks who rebuilt Japan. If Japan had defeated the US, would they have rebuilt our cities? I highly doubt. There are better books about World War II in the Pacific, and certainly better books that portray the courage of the American Fighting Man. ... Read more


    10. My Life
    list price: $35.00
    our price: $23.80
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 0739317059
    Catlog: Book (2004-06)
    Publisher: Random House Audio
    Sales Rank: 2784
    Average Customer Review: 3.19 out of 5 stars
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    Amazon.com

    An exhaustive, soul-searching memoir, Bill Clinton's My Life is a refreshingly candid look at the former president as a son, brother, teacher, father, husband, and public figure. Clinton painstakingly outlines the history behind his greatest successes and failures, including his dedication to educational and economic reform, his war against a "vast right-wing operation" determined to destroy him, and the "morally indefensible" acts for which he was nearly impeached. My Life is autobiography as therapy--a personal history written by a man trying to face and banish his private demons.

    Clinton approaches the story of his youth with gusto, sharing tales of giant watermelons, nine-pound tumors, a charging ram, famous mobsters and jazz musicians, and a BB gun standoff. He offers an equally energetic portrait of American history, pop culture, and the evolving political landscape, covering the historical events that shaped his early years (namely the deaths of Martin Luther King Jr. and JFK) and the events that shaped his presidency (Waco, Bosnia, Somalia). What makes My Life remarkable as a political memoir is how thoroughly it is infused with Clinton's unassuming, charmingly pithy voice:

    I learned a lot from the stories my uncle, aunts, and grandparents told me: that no one is perfect but most people are good; that people can't be judged only by their worst or weakest moments; that harsh judgments can make hypocrites of us all; that a lot of life is just showing up and hanging on; that laughter is often the best, and sometimes the only, response to pain.

    However, that same voice might tire readers as Clinton applies his penchant for minute details to a distractible laundry list of events, from his youth through the years of his presidency. Not wanting to forget a single detail that might help account for his actions, Clinton overdoes it--do we really need to know the name of his childhood barber? But when Clinton sticks to the meat of his story--recollections about Mother, his abusive stepfather, Hillary, the campaign trail, and Kenneth Starr--the veracity of emotion and Kitchen Confidential-type revelations about "what it is like to be President" make My Life impossible to put down.

    To Clinton, "politics is a contact sport," and while he claims that My Life is not intended to make excuses or assign blame, it does portray him as a fighter whose strategy is to "take the first hit, then counterpunch as hard as I could." While My Life is primarily a stroll through Clinton's memories, it is also a scathing rebuke--a retaliation against his detractors, including Kenneth Starr, whose "mindless search for scandal" protected the guilty while "persecuting the innocent" and distracted his Administration from pressing international matters (including strikes on al Qaeda). Counterpunch indeed.

    At its core, My Life is a charming and intriguing if flawed book by an equally intriguing and flawed man who had his worst failures and humiliations made public. Ultimately, the man who left office in the shadow of scandal offers an honest and open account of his life, allowing readers to witness his struggle to "drain the most out of every moment" while maintaining the character with which he was raised. It is a remarkably intimate, persuasive look at the boy he was, the President he became, and man he is today. --Daphne Durham ... Read more

    Reviews (463)

    2-0 out of 5 stars Arrived with a Thud, turned into a Dud.
    If you remember the 1988 convention speech where Clinton was nearly booed off the stage for taking too long or the state-of-the-union where he droned for over 90 minutes, you may recall the feeling you'll get somewhere around page 250 of this tome ... "when will it end?"

    This particular work of mostly self-aggrandizing fiction suffers from being so self-absorbed and so badly edited it totally detracts from the nuggets of humanity and historical interest in the text. It's the "Heaven's Gate" of Presidential memoirs. That Liberals are dutifully reading this and watching the exposed liar Michael Moore (...) this summer says much about their fanatic religious devotion to their faith. Faith requires suffering!

    The memoir still whitewashes much wrt Clinton's 'scandalabra', even while admitting to the bare minimum to keep it credible to the faithful. So we get Monica semi- mea culpa, but what about Genifer Flowers (she claimed a 13 year affair), or his pardon of Marc Rich? Or for that matter *important stuff* like how the Chinese managed to funnel illegal funds to his campaign in 96? Maybe its too much to expect an exhumation of his skeleton closet, but he manages to say so much yet reveal so little in so many pages. And he's entitled to his own opinions about other folks, but his view on Starr and the constitutional issues and process involved in the impeachment show he is trying to re-write history and doesnt understand Starr's appropriate role and actions. He doesnt get it - it was about lying under oath.

    Dont read this. Read the Marinass bio and read Rich Lowry's "Legacy" and somewhere in the middle of their accounts is what really happened.

    Lastly, read U.S. Grant's memoirs, the best Presidential memiors, writeen before Presidential memoirs were excercises in self-justification. They have all the economy and sparseness in style, bright narrative, and objective viewpoint that Clinton's memoirs lack. And he recount events far more important, like how the Civil War was won by the Union side, than details of Clinton's campaign events.

    4-0 out of 5 stars An Easy, Pleasant Read
    I approached the book as though it was written -- not by a former Democratic President -- but a man with amazing life experiences. The insight the author provided on the workings of the executive branch of our government, along with international events were just icing on the cake for me.

    The writing is very easy to read; the story flows smoothly. All in all, I enjoy the voice that is projected from the author's composition.

    I found it interesting that on page 811, when Clinton was introspective about his affair with Monica, his revelation is that he is vulnerable to making selfish and self-destructive personal mistakes when he is exhausted, angry, or feeling isolated. This mirrors the 12-step recovery motto of HALT (hungry, angry, lonely, tired), which recognize our vulnerabilities to succumb to our addictions.

    I must say that Clinton's description of sleeping on a couch for two months following his admission to Hillary regarding Ms. Lewinsky was hard to believe. Perhaps he was placing himself in the doghouse, making use of the couch adjacent to their bedroom, but still -- there were so many other bedrooms in the White House. Aside from that, I'm glad Clinton disclosed that he and Hillary participated in weekly couples counseling for a year.

    My favorite parts of the book cover Clinton's reflections on family, friends, and associates who passed away. This is where he shared personal thoughts on the affect these people had on him, and how he mourned their deaths.

    5-0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating Look At The Most Controversial President
    A Fascinating Look At The Most Controversial President

    This book will intrigue anyone who cares about America. You get an insider's view from the divisive man himslef. You'll also learn the struggles all presidents must face, and the role the media played in helping and hurting Clinton.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Heartfelt Willie!!
    In 2001, William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton exited the White House after becoming the first two-term Democratic president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Instead of praise for surmounting numerous and incredible life obstacles, his rags-to-riches personal life story actually had the right wing seriously enraged enough to attempt a sham impeachment and conviction on anything (and EVERYTHING) they thought up. The reception discrepancy between his personal history and presidential administration is painstakingly explored in the personal autobiography---with no detail spared. I am not fortunate enough to live near a city where Clinton undertook book promotion tours, but this title's price vs. length and quality is well worth those televised all-night camp outs.

    Eschewing a ghost-writer, Clinton personally poured his heart and mind about personal and potentially difficult subjects which former presidents (of all ideologies) shielded themselves from. Choosing the less-utilized "open disclosure" route is a refreshing contribution to American public policymaking. It is also one which more public officials should follow.

    Rather than seeing diversity as an election strategy, Clinton genuinely appreciates social justice movements which attempt to make the world radically different from his Arkansas boyhood. In the television era's early days, then-Governor Orval Fabus tried to maintain segregation 'standing in front of the schoolhouse door' to Little Rock's Central High School (pp. 38-39) Undoubtedly this incident's horror (and fears that all southerners were presumed to agree with Faubus) helped solidify determination to pursue a radically contrasting racial public policy legacy (pp. 559-560). In turn, Clinton's early decision explains why I and many other people love him today.

    Repeatedly, Clinton draws upon his witness to the 1957 Little Rock action as one motivator for public service (the other of course is meeting President Kennedy at a D.C. Boys Town Summit). Because I am also growing up in a conservative southern town, I am comforted things do change; a young Republican who openly cheered during the announcement of President Kennedy's assassination later became a Democrat, social worker, and one of Clinton's biggest political supporters (p. 65). The bigger person recognizes when it is time to mend the oft-mentioned political fences. During his Arkansas Governorship Clinton demonstrated the nation only maximum potential when all demographics are empowered to participate in the American dream.

    I also enjoyed reading personal family anecdotes---including those which are probably still painful to share with audiences. In fifth grade, he learned that people who rented out motels for long periods of time did abortions (p. 29) because the procedure was illegal in the state. He also describes the incidents where stepfather Roger beat the family---until young Bill grew big enough to fight back (pp. 45-51). The vivid descriptions provide both literary action and a solemn reminder the world is better because abortion is legalized, and domestic violence is no longer a 'family affair'. As a child of divorce, I am also reassured that an American President went through several of the same experiences me and many of my friends experienced. When he talks about families, Clinton is personally aware there are many different types of families and the rightwing has never spoken for everybody (pp. 633-636)

    As the first president to be in the delivery room during his child's birth (p. 273), Clinton brought unprecedented sensitivity to the Oval Office. Because the lives of American voters are more egalitarian, this empathy is a definite asset in the post-cold war era From his own personal experiences, Clinton easily understands that good and strong families come in all compositions (pp. 426-427). I was also intrigued to learn that Clinton did not personally/politically have a problem with Hillary's last name (p. 296). Finally, "women's issues" like the Equal Rights Amendment (p. 257) stand on their own merit as something which is genuinely important to HIM.

    Certainly people have to take self-initiative for their private life, but Clinton's centrist Democratic theory (dating from Robert F. Kennedy's 1968 presidential campaign) says that government is still obligated to ensure the people trying to help themselves and their communities can actually do so (p. 122). This approach explains why he signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 ---overhauling the depression-era welfare system, while also rejecting the complete dismantlement passionately championed by Republican opponents. Aware that welfare payments had varied by state and women were not getting rich anywhere, Clinton also knew the current system had intentionally built-in incentives for women to stay at home instead of work. Welfare was initially developed so low-income women would not 'deviate from 'traditional' homemaker roles and could also stay at home with their children like many other women of the time. Clinton purposefully attempted to allocate enough money and resources for childcare so low-income women would not find themselves in a horrid catch-22 situation of wanting to work but not being able to find affordable, safe, and reliable daycare for their children (pp. 720-721).

    Before entering elected office, Clinton taught college classes at the University of Arkansas and the professorial enthusiasm (pp. 204-205) required for that task is especially obvious today as the lessons he taught to and learned from the students are recalled. I can easily imagine myself as a student in the class while he is racing up and down the auditorium steps exhorting us to become even more involved in the larger world (p. 203). Because they cannot realistically be confined to a classroom, such individuals were predestined to have a tremendous impact on the larger world.

    By showing a less serious side of the Clintons which is not always discernable from the media, the enclosed photos reinforce this aforementioned environment. Conceding that his personal actions damaged the family (p. 800, p. 811), he avoids a holier-than-thou attitude which ruined many other political careers. Clinton succeeds at the American Dream because he already knows and easily accepts his imperfection. He is so personable that even when I disagreed with Clinton's policies, myself and others always knew that he would not attack dissenters on trumped up charges. Instead, Clinton's enduring personal patience (he appears far more patient than he has given himself credit for) and boundless optimism for the nation consistently shine throughout this book. By nature, genuine sentiment cannot be slick.

    This book is a mandatory purchase for the Clinton fan---or anybody preferring a time when the United States president was respected for unflagging civility in the face of adversarial circumstances that had grounding lesser politicians from all levels of government. Unfortunately, like Hillary's autobiography (2002), the author's relative chronological youth in relation to his numerous public accomplishments means that another edition or volume will eventually be required for adequately chronicling all of the national/international contributions. Even at 957 pages, fitting all important information into one volume is impossible. I look forward to purchasing future editions of this biography.

    5-0 out of 5 stars You either love him or hate him
    Very intimate account of his life, with an undertone for the personal pain he his bearing. Great read for someone starting life and who wants to know how to chart the course of his or her life regardless of their family/childhood limitations. ... Read more


    11. FDR: Nothing to Fear
    by Franklin D. Roosevelt, Speechworks
    list price: $15.95
    our price: $13.56
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 1885959060
    Catlog: Book (1995-08)
    Publisher: Jerden Records
    Sales Rank: 54034
    Average Customer Review: 4 out of 5 stars
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    Book Description

    Featuring highlights of 15 Major Speeches given by FDR.Includes his riveting take-charge Inaugural Address, the Declaration of War, memorable fireside chats, the war-time Christmas-Eve message, the solemn D-Day Prayer and more. ... Read more

    Reviews (1)

    4-0 out of 5 stars Great Book!
    This is a great book. FDR may be a favorite of yours or not, regardless his speeches desereve to be read. FDR was an inspirational speaker who moved the masses with his words. He has left us with many timeless and priceless quotes that can be found in the speeches featured in this book. I would highly recommend this book to any one looking for a boost in confidence. FDR's words make you feel like anything is possible. Remember "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself". ... Read more


    12. Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China (Abridged)
    by Jung Chang
    list price: $24.99
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 0886463610
    Catlog: Book (1993-09-01)
    Publisher: DH Audio
    Sales Rank: 703636
    Average Customer Review: 4.66 out of 5 stars
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    Book Description

    Blending the intimacy of memoir and the panoramic sweep of eyewitness history, Wild Swans has become a bestselling classic in thirty languages, with more than ten million copies sold. The story of three generations in twentieth-century China, it is an engrossing record of Mao's impact on China, an unusual window on the female experience in the modern world, and an inspiring tale of courage and love.

    Jung Chang describes the life of her grandmother, a warlord's concubine; her mother's struggles as a young idealistic Communist; and her parents' experience as members of the Communist elite and their ordeal during the Cultural Revolution. Chang was a Red Guard briefly at the age of fourteen, then worked as a peasant, a "barefoot doctor," a steelworker, and an electrician.As the story of each generation unfolds, Chang captures in gripping, moving -- and ultimately uplifting -- detail the cycles of violent drama visited on her own family and millions of others caught in the whirlwind of history. ... Read more

    Reviews (234)

    4-0 out of 5 stars An entertaining and educational account of Communist China
    Wild Swans is a riveting story of the lives of three women in 20th century China. It delineates the lives of a concubine grandmother, a communist spy mother, and a student daughter. This was an extremely comprehensive book containing not only the life stories of three generations of a family, but also the stories of their relatives, relations, and of historical occurrences. It gives an extraordinary first hand account of China's history spanning from imperialist China to the rise of communism, and through the Cultural Revolution.

    Jung Chang does a very good job of describing and explaining the history of China and the changes that occurred, including details down to what kinds of foods people ate during certain time periods. She gives descriptive images of shocking oppression and violence, which had been everyday occurrences in China. Although these descriptions initially prevented me from putting the book down, near the end, the violence does become somewhat repetitive and tiresome (yet you can't blame the author because constant violence was part of China's history).

    Overall, I think this was a very fascinating book. The author successfully gives a detailed description of the history, recounting tales of the various things different families went through, while also telling the dramatic stories of her relatives. She does a good job of describing what people went through during the changes in Communist China and after reading this book, I have gained a very clear understanding of what happened during the time and why it happened. This was a very entertaining book which I also learned a great deal from.

    4-0 out of 5 stars A Complete Yet Engaging Historical Account
    I was given Wild Swans to read prior to a summer trip to Beijing. Being a high school student, I was not only daunted by the heft of the book, but by the extensive historical chronology and family tree in the introduction as well. I was also unsure as to whether the story would be a Chinese-generation plot along the lines of Amy Tan or whether it would be more of a strict historical recount of China in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Despite my apprehensions, I decided to go ahead and read it, and I have been thoroughly delighted with the results of my endeavor.
    Wild Swans is what I would term a "human-interest history," meaning that the dry historical aspect of the book is tempered by the human emotion surrounding the individual events. Jung Chang uses the female leaders of each generation to provide a thoughtful outlook on the traditions and culture of China. For me, the best way to gain a true feel for the attitudes of a specific time period is to hear a personal account. This is the book's most salient quality. Chang makes the most of the little details that encompass the environment of the characters and uses the thoughts and feelings of her family to convey key concepts pertaining to Chinese morals and behaviors.
    The concise language of the book also helps to promote these historical images and gives the book a quick tempo. Each anecdote is told in the same, somewhat removed manner, even Chang's own experiences. While some might find this an impersonal tactic, I felt that it allowed the tragedies of the story to shine by basing them purely on their own facets. Any extraneous writing would have clouded the sheer pain involved in a number of the events, and Chang's distance allows the reader to recreate the scene and absorb the historical depth behind it. Chang's own academic experience provides a particularly striking cultural contrast to typical Western thought processes and teachings.
    Of course, there are some minor flaws in the book. Chang tends to gloss over her father's upbringing and adolescence and lingers on her grandmother's trials during her youth and during the Communist takeover, resulting in some unbalanced character depictions. Chang's privileged lifestyle prior to and then under the Communists also provides a lopsided view as to the true reign of Mao and the general state of China during the early Communist years. However, bias is to be expected whenever dealing with a personal account, and these deficiencies become lost in the greater framework of the book.
    I have learned more from this book about Chinese history than I could have ever hoped to acquire from a guidebook or textbook. I highly recommend this book to anyone planning to travel to China in the near future or for anyone who is looking for an informative, yet entertaining, story of a family in China over the years.

    5-0 out of 5 stars a classic
    this is a beautiful book. maybe even my favorite of many classics.

    it is the story of three women, strong and united with a determination that will get them through the hardships of China from the early nineteen hundrens to the present. optimism and love for each other and their family, as well as tears and sadness, get them through their lives as well as the tyrannical reign of Mao, a powerful dictator of China.

    i am partly struck with wanting to share this book with you, and invite you to read it, (though it is certainly not children's fiction, but mature, adult fact) or to keep it like the treasure it is to me and i'm sure many others. if you do read it, covet it. is a bargain for what you get in return.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent historical account
    This book does something that most people don't get around to doing when they say this or that about China: Provide historical detail. Specifically of interest:

    1. The reason that the Kuomintang was not successful in China was constant corruption. Some people have suggested that Chinese people love tyrants (Jasper Becker, "The Chinese") and this is the explanation of why they rejected what would have been a democratic government for an authoritarian government. This is partially true, but the Kuomintang blew any chance that it had at legitimacy with its rampant corruption.

    2. That the Communist Party became popular because they promised to not be like the corrupt and crooked Kuomintang. Her father is an example of one of the wide-eyed idealists that really believed in his cause at the beginning and was left a broken man when he saw what actually became of this grand vision. People at Western universities are always attacking the West and praising the Communist ideology/ governent allocation of resources, and they haven't a faintest idea of the actual RESULTS of the intended programs. Nor do they understand the incentive structures that led to those results.

    3. Historical accounts of the great famine. I can't believe that this very afternoon, there are still people trying to talk away this historical event in China and say that it was just a statistical illusion. This is the second author that I've read that gives historical accounts of people eating their children.

    4. Demonstrating how the cult of Mao was created and maintained, as well as what were his motives in the various campaigns (Cultural Revolution/ The Great Leap Forward) that swept the country during his reign. Another author (Anhua Gao) has also noted that Mao generated a lot of morass in the country because the weaker the country, the easier it was to control. But her detail is not comparable to the author of this book. She showed the self-denunciation meetings and the stages of his campaigns to keep the country divided and fighting against itself. It may be another 200 years before China shakes off the residual results of his rule (such as overpopulation and then the resulting sex imbalance that has come about because of population control), but here in this is an example of WHAT happened, and HOW it happened.

    5. Showing the highly ritualized behavior of Chinese people in things such as foot binding, etc. A lot of people may come to China and wonder where people here get their ideas from and why they are prisoner of them. This author demonstrates that it's been that way for a *long* time. And it may never change.

    It's hard to recommend this book enough times for someone who wants *actual results* of what happens in the context of a Communist Revolution, as opposed to the vague ramblings of something like the Communist Manifesto or state-sheltered academics in Western universities.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Outsanding
    (Aug 2003 release) Being interested in Chinese culture for sometime, I finally found a book that has given me something other than state sponsored history facts. I came across this book by accident. I began reading at the bookstore on Saturday evening and wasn't able to put it down until going to work on Monday morning. This book made me laugh, cry and scared the **** out of me in some places. It has definitely given me a wider perspective on the Chinese people and its culture. I'm looking forward to the release of Jung Chang's next book on Mao due out this year. ... Read more


    13. The Man Who Listens to Horses
    by MONTY ROBERTS
    list price: $18.00
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 0679460446
    Catlog: Book (1997-08-05)
    Publisher: Random House Audio
    Sales Rank: 75157
    Average Customer Review: 4.34 out of 5 stars
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    Book Description

    Monty Roberts is part James Herriott, part Bill Gates, and part John Wayne. And his story is one you will never forget.

    Monty Roberts is a real-life horse whisperer--an American original whose gentle training methods reveal the depth of communication possible between man and animal. He can take a wild, high-strung horse who has never been handled and persuade that horse to accept a bridle, saddle, and rider in thirty minutes.

    Monty's powers may seem like magic, but his amazing "horse senseis based on a lifetime of experience. He started riding at the age of two, and at the age of thirteen went alone in the high deserts of Nevada to study mustangs in the wild. In The Man Who Listens to Horses, Roberts tells about his early days as a rodeo rider, his problems with his violent, horse-trainer father, his friendship with James Dean, and the invitation that changed his life--to demonstrate his methods to the Queen of England.

    From his groundbreaking work with horses, Monty now takes his understanding of nonverbal communication and applies it to human relationships as well. He has shown that between parent and child, employer and employee, and abuser and abused, there are forms of communication far stronger than the spoken word--forms accessible to all who will learn to listen. He's shared his insights with more than 250 corporations, including General Motors, IBM, Disney, and Merrill Lynch; now listeners can learn from Monty first-hand.

    "Wild horses should not drag you away from finding out more about Monty Roberts."
    --The Independent
    ... Read more

    Reviews (173)

    5-0 out of 5 stars Interesting and Informative
    As a horse crazy teenager, I will read any horse book I can get my hands on. So when I recived this book I dove right in. As I got further and further into the book it got harder to tear myself away from it. I thought it was increadible that he could earn the trust of a wild mustang and have it ready to ride in 30 to 45 min. The way he and the horse communicate is just amazing. The horse listens to him and he listens back. My favorite thing he does is that he does not use violence to break in the horses. When some people use violence to break in the horses, the horse might then interpurt that that person means he is going to get hurt. I can't stand to see horses in pain so what I think Monty Roberts is diong is wonderful. I just wish that there are more trainers like him in the world.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Inspiring story of horses, humans, and search for harmony
    This is the amazing life story of Monty Roberts. Monty has been called a modern day horse whisperer, although the language he uses with horses has nothing to do with whispering-except, perhaps, for its subtlety and gentleness. Monty learned the language he calls Equus from a band of wild horses that he observed as a youth in the American West. While the book isn't about Monty's methods per se, it is about Monty's life and therefore about how his methods were shaped. Monty can, using a round pen and the language of Equus, achieve what he calls "join-up" with a green, unschooled (and even difficult) horse and within a half hour have that horse under saddle and calmly carrying its first rider. All this with absolutely no use of force or harsh means. Monty has used join-up to "fix" countless "problem horses" whose worst problems were typically their human handlers.

    The book does include a brief appendix as a guide for "join-up." In it, Monty advises, "Hold in your mind the idea that the horse can do no wrong; that any action taken by the horse-especially the young unstarted horse-was most likely influenced by you. We can do little to teach the horse; we can only create an environment in which he can learn... If we refuse to believe that the horse can communicate, pain can be used to train him somewhat effectively. But pain is needless and terribly limiting."

    This is a book for everyone, including those unafflicted by "horse fever." You are treated to encounters with such legends as James Dean and Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II and completely riveted by events one can hardly believe were not conjured by a Hollywood scriptwriter. Here is an inspiring story of hope with a message of peace and understanding. As a child and as an adult, Monty has come face to face with and experienced the brutality that can occur in the world. Monty is living proof that the cycle of violence can not only be broken, but that people can learn to live in harmony with each other and with our fellow creatures. I highly recommend this tribute to the human and equine spirit for horse lovers, students of the human condition and those just looking for a great read. My gratitude to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth for encouraging Monty to write it down!

    4-0 out of 5 stars Great Gift for Horse Lovers and Riders
    Monty Roberts has done the horse world a great service by sharing his non-violent training methods with us. His love of horses leaps off of every page as he describes the old training ways of his father and the conflicts and punishment he endured to continue with his training methods using horse language and body language. This is a pleasure to read and a learning tool to teach all of us who work with horses how to understand their fears and gain their trust.

    3-0 out of 5 stars A Man of Knowledge- Not Magic
    Monty Roberts, no doubt, is a man of great horsemanship and understanding of the equine world, but he is not alone. Long before Roberts studied the equestrian arts and wild herds, Natives learned the language of "horse" and passed it on to Spanish conquistadors. Even someone with basic horsemanship could learn the body language and commmunicate. I have experimented with something very similar to "join up" just by sending my horse around the round pen. So whether you are Monty Roberts or not, you can still communicate with horses.

    However, this book was a nice refresher course for my friend who has missed out on interaction with horses for several years. She got a lot from it, and being the type of rider who shows up and rides, she learned to respect her horse and build a dominance and a relationship that worked in unison. I would recommend this book to someone with very little to moderate horse experience and have not yet learned the values of horse and man communication.

    The deer section is quite cool, though! It's not everyday you hear of a horse trainer talking (or shall I say listening...) to a deer!

    Yours Truly,
    Anna
    The Equestrian Critique

    5-0 out of 5 stars A great trainer, a great technique, and a great book!
    This is a fascinating autobiography of one of the most sought-after horse trainers in the world. Monty Roberts takes us from his childhood, growing up on a ranch in California, all the way up through the years right before the book was first published in 1996. He learned to ride at a very young age and was quite successful on the rodeo circuit and in reined cow horse competitions. But what really gave him his ambition to develop a method of communicating with horses was the abuse with which he saw his father treat horses, and the the abuse he himself received from his father. Convinced that there must be a better way to train horses, he observed the behavior of mustangs, and ultimately came up with a technique he calls 'join-up'.

    'Join-up' involves working with a horse in a round pen, first encouraging the horse to flee around the perimeter by making steady eye contact and assuming an imposing stance. The handler then watches for three tell-tale signs that the horse wishes to communicate - first the horse will lock his inside ear on the handler, then begin licking and chewing, and finally lower his head near the ground as he travels around the pen. Once the horse has given these signals, the handler takes his/her eyes off the horse and shifts away from from the animal. At this point the horse will usually come up behind the handler and stand very close, allowing the handler to touch him. Then the horse can be saddled, bridled, and at last, mounted and ridden. (This is a very truncated explanation - the book goes into much more detail.)

    Of course Roberts was not the first to use methods like these. Some other reviewers here have complained about this fact, accusing him of taking undue credit. But Roberts himself admits this in his book. He points out that there were trainers in previous centuries that tried (and had success with) similar methods, but that for whatever reason these methods did not take a firm hold on the general equestrian population. So yes, Roberts does do a lot of self-promotion here (another thing some have complained about), but this is because he's attempting to spread the word about his method of training. He is using the book first and foremost to sell his technique, but this is because he wishes to make the training experience a better one for horses.

    This book takes us through Roberts' journey of learning, and all the trials and triumphs that led him to where he is today. He tells us of his experience with mustangs, his successful childhood riding career, the encounters with his father that helped shape his own way of thinking, the development (and narrowly-avoided disaster) of his Thoroughbred racehorse facility Flag Is Up Farms, various success stories of his 'join-up' method, his meeting with Queen Elizabeth II of England, his many tours to demonstrate his techniques, and even his succes in using 'join-up' with wild deer. He also introduces us to the horses that have shaped his life and carved a place for themselves in his heart - Brownie, his childhood mount; Johnny Tivio, his all-time favorite; and Dually, his most recent mount.

    Toward the end of the book there is a 'How To' appendix describing in detail the 'join-up' technique. Roberts lists all the necessary equipment (nothing fancy is needed - everything is standard equipment that any horse owner should already have; the only thing you may have to 'borrow' is the round pen itself if you do not have one), and takes us through the procedure in a clear step-by-step fashion. He explains the purpose of each aspect of 'join-up' and how the horse will perceive the handler's actions. He also explains the meaning of the horse's responses to these actions. The appendix is very easy to follow and the technique is simple enough that it is easy to remember afterward, without having to lug the book to the arena with you.

    The book concludes with an afterword by Lawrence Scanlan, the author of 'Riding High' and co-author (with Ian Millar) of 'Big Ben'. Scanlan describes his experience observing the 'mustang project' that Roberts embarked upon in 1997. This takes us briefly into the story of Shy Boy, a small mustang stallion Roberts attempts to gentle (in the wild, not in a pen) with his 'join-up' technique. The afterword is very short. Roberts went on to write about his experience with Shy Boy in his next book 'Shy Boy: The Horse that Came in from the Wild'. I have not read that one yet, but plan to soon, as I was very impressed with 'The Man Who Listens to Horses'. I would highly recommend it to anyone involved with horses. ... Read more


    14. Truman
    list price: $32.00
    our price: $21.12
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 0743508068
    Catlog: Book (2001-05-01)
    Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
    Sales Rank: 32691
    Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars
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    Book Description

    Hailed by critics as an American masterpiece, David McCullough's sweeping biography of Harry S. Truman captured the heart of the nation. The life and times of the thirty-third President of the United States, Truman provides a deeply moving look at an extraordinary, singular American.

    From Truman's small-town, turn-of-the-century boyhood and his transforming experience in the face of war in 1918, to his political beginnings in the powerful Pendergast machine and his rapid rise to prominence in the U.S. Senate, McCullough shows a man of uncommon vitality and strength of character. Here too is a telling account of Truman's momentous decision to use the atomic bomb and the weighty responsibilities that he was forced to confront on the dawning of a new age.

    Distinguished historian and Pulitzer-Prize-winning author David McCullough tells one of the greatest American stories in this stirring audio adaptation of Truman -- a compelling, classic portrait of a life that shaped history. ... Read more

    Reviews (172)

    5-0 out of 5 stars Truman
    Truman by David McCullough is a biography of one of our most extraordinary Presidents, Ol' Give 'Em Hell Harry, the man who said, " the buck stops here." Harry S. Truman, who's humble start in rule Missouri, with hard work, determination, and circumstance landed in the Oval Office of the White House.

    This is a tale of a man, told warmly with feeling. A story of a man who walked in the shadow of Franklin D. Roosevelt, a man who had to make a choice to use the Atomic Bomb, a man who proved himself, a man of uncommon vitality and strength of character. Reading this book, one gets to know Harry Truman, you feel emotion and see insight as the author sets the story and writes a telling tale.

    Harry Truman a man who married later in life because he didn't have the money. His work on the farm gave him strength and dogged optimism in the face of defeat, but much more was to come for Harry. Facing responsibilities such as had weighed on no man ever before and setting American politics and diplomacy, Harry Truman was treading a new age.

    The author has mastered Truman in this book, as no other has to date, and it shows throughout this book. This is the life of Harry Truman complete with all of the supporting characters as well... Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin, Eleanor Roosevelt, his wife Bess Wallace Truman, General George Marshall, Joseph McCarthy and Dean Acheson. Harry Truman was responsible for the Truman Doctrine, NATO, the Berlin Airlift and the Marshall Plan, but fired General Douglas MacArthur. "Truman," shows Harry Truman to be complex, thoughtful, peppery when he needed to be and plainspoken.

    I really enjoyed reading this biography... like a grandfather telling a story that happened in his lifetime... with understanding and thoughtfulness.

    5-0 out of 5 stars A model biography of an almost model man
    David McCullough delivers! Truman is a model biography - in both McCullough's craft and his subject of the epic life of Harry S Truman. McCullough truly creates another universe - a reality that would have existed only in the past, but now fits in your hands in these 1000 some pages. The reader will find him/herself immersed in the history and lives of amazing figures of another age whose actions for which we - citizens of the world are greatly indebted. The reader will both know Harry S Truman and his historical significance - his heroic and at the time highly controversial Presidency.

    Truman is both an epic of a man's life and homage to the triumph of American democracy. Truman is a man of humble origins who achieves incredible feats. I urge anyone who stumbled onto this page to "get to know" Truman by reading this book. This book is a joy to read - it flows like a novel. You will not be disappointed.

    "I never did give anybody hell. I just told the truth and they thought it was hell."
    -Harry S Truman

    5-0 out of 5 stars Buy It and Read It ASAP!!
    I first read this book in 1992 when it was released. I've read it over several times since and each time I enjoy it just as much as the first. What a great person and what a remarkable life! This is one book that I can't possibly say enough about. IT'S OUTSTANDING!! Mr. McCullough obviously admires his subject, but he is objective and shows Mr. Truman warts and all. He had very few warts however. BUY IT and READ IT as soon as you can. You won't regret the time spent.

    4-0 out of 5 stars Talks about the right aspect of Truman's career
    I admired the book for talking about Truman's friendship with Eddie Jacobson. He and Eddie were business partners in the 1920's and Eddie (a Jewish man) later influenced Truman to help found the modern state of Israel. I am still disappointd as I am also searching for talk about (probably) Truman's other mostly unsung achievement-the firing of Churchill and the birth of modern India and Pakistan. Sadly the book offers nothing about that aspect of Truman's career.

    5-0 out of 5 stars My First Biography
    I decided to read this book for two reasons. First, I was/am an avid supporter of Howard Dean, and he often cites Truman as his favorite president, and knowing so little about Truman, I was curious why. Second, practically the only thing I did know about Truman was that he made the decision to use the Bomb, and I was extremely interested in what sort of man it takes to make such a decision.

    The book is 992 pages long - daunting to someone whose only other 500+ page read had been Lord of the Rings.

    But I found each page interesting and riveting. Never did I find it slow or dull. I had no idea how much impact the Truman administration had on the country and the world. Not only the Bomb, but the start of the Cold War, the Korean War, the first push by a President for universal health care, the first push by a President for equal civil rights. Truman, an ordinary farmer from western Missouri, is the absolute example of the American dream.

    The book also answered both of my questions. The similarities in Truman's approach to politics and his agenda with Howard Dean's campaign for the presidential nomination are uncanny. And, to my surprise, Truman was not at all the sort of man I imagined making the decision to obliterate Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    I feel like I've learned more from this one book than I learned in 17 years of schooling. ... Read more


    15. Theodore Roosevelt: The 26th President (Audio Renaissance)
    by Louis Auchincloss
    list price: $23.95
    our price: $23.95
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 1559277386
    Catlog: Book (2002-08-01)
    Publisher: Audio Renaissance
    Sales Rank: 753582
    Average Customer Review: 4.25 out of 5 stars
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    Book Description

    An intimate portrait of the first president of the 20th century

    The warm and knowing biography traces Roosevelt's involvement in the politics of New York City and New York State, his celebrated ,military career, and his ascent to the national political stage.Caricatured through history as the "bull moose", Roosevelt was in fact a man of extraordinary discipline whose refined and literate tastes actually helped spawn his fascination with the rough-and-ready world of war and wilderness.
    ... Read more

    Reviews (8)

    4-0 out of 5 stars Good book for a tough subject to pin down.
    This book serves as a good introduction to Theodore Roosevelt to either satisfy or stimulate one's curiosity before indulging in a lengthier biography. This is a "short" bio, and not meant to be a treatise on T.R. The author was better with his Penguin Lives book on Woodrow Wilson, but he seemed to have more fun with Roosevelt.
    As a subject T.R. is especially enjoyable, but more for his forceful character than for any of his objective accomplishments (for which the author notes several, e.g., negotiating the peace between Japan and Russia, and his national conservationist orders, etc.).
    The author addresses Roosevelt's sense that his presidency was relatively unspectacular, and since war time presidents receive the most historical attention (e.g., leading to positive evaluations for Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt, but negative for Wilson due to his post war failures), Roosevelt felt himself cheated from his place of greatness due to being a peacetime president.
    As this author notes, many of T.R.'s beliefs had long lasting value (especially, I feel, his beliefs on the limitations of capitalism as spoken by a pro-business chief executive). Those who followed him, though, soon abandoned these attitudes. The reason for this seems to rest with T.R. He accomplished much emphasizing the forcefulness of his personality and took credit for improvements as being uniquely his. Since he can be the only T.R., his philosophy could not be transmitted to others. When out of office, he was no longer "T.R." and his so-called system collapsed as with a deck of cards. He was ultimately left a shell of his former self.
    What if Roosevelt had toned down some of his tendencies? Might he have extended his influence over the next administrations and the country? If so, might this have led to a different result in how America influenced the developing European disputes that resulted in the First World War? These are some of the questions that remained with me from reading this book.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent Series
    This is the second volume in the new American Presidents series edited by Arthur M. Schlessinger, and like the first on James Madison, provides excellent, although brief insight into one of America's most fascinating characters. The prime focus of this book is on TR's presidential and post-presidential years. Limited space does not allow for anything more than a brief summary of Roosevelt's early life, which may actually be his most interesting period. Still there is enough to give the reader a basis for understanding Roosevelt's revolutionary power-expanding actions as President. Auchincloss does a wonderful job of filling this short volume with all of the important events of Roosevelt's life while keeping to a very enjoyable and readable style. It is a good introduction to Roosevelt and will leave you wanting to learn more.

    4-0 out of 5 stars John the Baptist to Edmund Morris's Volume III
    This slim volume may serve as a excellent introduction to the life of TR, or as a bracing romp through familiar landscape for devoted TR aficionados. The book itself is a little pricey for what you get, however (I hope a paperback edition of this American Presidents series is made available eventually), and it is pretty evident to the informed reader that Auchincloss is merely reviewing the conclusions of previous biographers. Auchincloss does attend to a particularly interesting period of TR's life, i.e. his decline and fall. From TR's impulsive public declaration not to seek a "third" term, the bloodletting in Africa, his quixotic Bull Moose campaign, the misadventure in the Amazon, to TR's death shortly following the death of his youngest son in WWI ("poor Quinnikins"), Auchincloss's volume was for me a tantalizing foreshadowing of what is certain to be a grand event in biography -- the third volume of Edmund Morris's TR trilogy. This book should help keep you satisfied (if only for a few hours) until the release of Morris' next volume. And after you read Auchincloss's TR, you should read his THE RECTOR OF JUSTIN if you've never done so, and also Edward Renehan's THE LAST LION (excellent mini-biographies of TR's sons, fascinating characters in their own right).

    4-0 out of 5 stars Good book for a tough subject to pin down.
    This book serves as a good introduction to Theodore Roosevelt to either satisfy or stimulate one's curiosity before indulging in a lengthier biography. This is a "short" bio, and not meant to be a treatise on T.R. The author was better with his Penguin Lives book on Woodrow Wilson, but he seemed to have more fun with Roosevelt.
    As a subject T.R. is especially enjoyable, but more for his forceful character than for any of his objective accomplishments (for which the author notes several, e.g., negotiating the peace between Japan and Russia, and his national conservationist orders, etc.).
    The author addresses Roosevelt's sense that his presidency was relatively unspectacular, and since war time presidents receive the most historical attention (e.g., leading to positive evaluations for Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt, but negative for Wilson due to his post war failures), Roosevelt felt himself cheated from his place of greatness due to being a peacetime president.
    As this author notes, many of T.R.'s beliefs had long lasting value (especially, I feel, his beliefs on the limitations of capitalism as spoken by a pro-business chief executive). Those who followed him, though, soon abandoned these attitudes. The reason for this seems to rest with T.R. He accomplished much emphasizing the forcefulness of his personality and took credit for improvements as being uniquely his. Since he can be the only T.R., his philosophy could not be transmitted to others. When out of office, he was no longer "T.R." and his so-called system collapsed as with a deck of cards. He was ultimately left a shell of his former self.
    What if Roosevelt had toned down some of his tendencies? Might he have extended his influence over the next administrations and the country? If so, might this have led to a different result in how America influenced the developing European disputes that resulted in the First World War? These are some of the questions that remained with me from reading this book.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Bully Moose
    ully Moose

    The author likes TR, and it shows. But then he backs up his judgment with a detailed history of this president. Mr. Auchincloss is not afraid to add his own interpretations, and some of them you may not want to agree with. But they are always well reasoned and therefore welcome.

    Was TR an imperialist? By modern definition of the term one would answer in the affirmative. He condoned the taking of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, the Philippines and the digging of the Panama canal. He built up the fleet and had it sail around the world to demonstrate America?s new might. But he also engineered the peace treaty between Japan and Russia.

    Was TR a bully? Most decidedly so. He fought hard for what he believed in - and never forgave an insult. But his conduct was built on a basis of honor and chivalry, trying to do what he believed would be best for the people. He took on the likes of Morgan, Gould and Fish because he believed them to be detrimental to the people?s welfare. In the end he outlived himself and his policeman?s ethic.

    Mr. Auchincloss gives us a stunning, vivid portrait of this great president, in clear and precise language. I highly recommend this book. ... Read more


    16. Active Side of Infinity
    by Carlos Castaneda
    list price: $18.00
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 0694521248
    Catlog: Book (1999-01-01)
    Publisher: HarperAudio
    Sales Rank: 410750
    Average Customer Review: 4.31 out of 5 stars
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    Book Description

    "Ordinarily, events that change our path are impersonal affairs, and yet extremely personal." My teacher, don Juan Matus, said this in guiding me as his apprentice to collect what I considered to be the memorable events of my life. Don Juan Matus was a Yaqui Indian shaman from Sonora, Mexico. . . who traced [his] lineage to the shamans who lived in Mexico in ancient times. Over the course of thirteen years, don Juan ushered me into the cognitive world of those shamans, a world which was. . . ruled by a different system of cognition than the one which rules our world of everyday life.

    Writing The Active Side of Infinity was a response to don Juan's directive to collect such an album of memorable events. . . . As time went by, he revealed to me that gathering such a collection was a traditional task given by the shamans of his lineage to their apprentices. . . . Don Juan stated that to formulate an album of this nature demanded such discipline and impartiality that it was, in essence, an act of war.

    "Don Juan described the total goal of the shamanistic knowledge that he handled as the preparation for facing the definitive journey: the journey that every human being has to take at the end of his life. . . . Don Juan considered that to collect the memorable events in their lives was, for shamans, the preparation for their entrance into that concrete region, which they called the active side of infinity."

    In The Active Side of Infinity, written in the final years of preparation for his definitive journey, anthropologist and shaman Carlos Castaneda gives us his most autobiographical and intimately revealing work ever, the fruit of a lifetime of experience and perhaps the most moving volume in his oeuvre.

    Read by Cotter Smith on two cassettes. ... Read more

    Reviews (26)

    5-0 out of 5 stars The active side.
    What can be said about the book? A must read for anyone familiar with Castaneda. Brilliant if not confusing. Take notice of many inconsistancies with his previous works. Written just before the end of his life or the beginning of his "Definitive Journey". Of course the question is still unanswered... is this stuff for real? The answer is moot. To the average person the stories related to us by Carlos were a big tease, we can never hope to aspire to the warriors way by ourselves. The best we can do is live our lives "like a warrior". The true brilliance of the works, is that it has forced many of us to accept the existence of other possibilities. Don't long for more books just because Carlos has passed on, there are more out there... Just look for them.

    5-0 out of 5 stars The Active Side of Infinity
    The Active Side of Infinity is the last book Carlos Castaneda wrote before his death in 1998. He described it as "a collection of the memorable events in my life," which he gathered at the recommendation of don Juan Matus, the Yaqui Indian shaman who was his teacher. An anthropologist and shaman, Castaneda wrote ten other books, including The Teachings of Don Juan.
    Collecting the memorable events in one's life is a way of stirring "caches of energy that exist within the self," and making that energy available.
    The process requires "the genuine and all-consuming act of putting together the sum total of one's emotions and realizations, without sparing anything." It's not a process that one undertakes lightly. Castaneda says that, for a shaman, the act of collecting memorable events is preparation for a "definitive journey" into the "active side of infinity."
    Non-shamans call the definitive journey "death," and the active side of infinity "the afterlife." Shamans believe that human energy exists in a very real place after death, and they prepare themselves for continued existence in that place.
    The collection of memorable events is not a personal memoir, or a rehashing of life's experiences, but instead is stories and events that touch something universal in all humans. They often change the life path of those to whom they occurred.
    Castaneda describes how he first met don Juan, and his difficulties in finding him after they lost contact just after their meeting. He also includes several stories from his life as a child and a young man--events he had totally forgotten, but that had irrevocably changed his life.
    Whether or not one agrees with Castaneda and don Juan about the afterlife, those who read The Active Side of Infinity will find themselves thinking about their lives, and journeys they must take after death, in a different way.

    5-0 out of 5 stars A farewell to Carlos
    Sorcerers from Don Juan's lineage believed that in order for consiousness to survive after death one must recapitulate certain events in one's life. This is the reliving of this experiences to stir caches of energy that exist within the self. This allows our life force to be free from the binds of the eagle, who then feeds itself from those experiences and not our consiousness.
    This book is a colection of some of those events in Carlos life wich he recapitulated in the same fashion his benefactor did before he departed into the other world.
    It is also a sort of rites of passage for any Carlos reader. We get to see the more personal side of him. An almost old fashioned and mild manner person who in the presence of Don Juan seemed to colapse only to discover his true nature and purpose. We also get to see a more detailed account of some of the unforgetable moments from his past books: His first encounter with Don Juan and his last.
    This a great book and a very entertaining one as well. It's a very profound statement and a farewell to a beloved writer and an almost shaman. If he only would've "seen".

    4-0 out of 5 stars Preparing for the definitive-journey...
    Sometime in 1998, on a not-so unusual evening, my computer, once booting it up, seemed to explode in a dance of light and sound - my email had been inundated with the news that the famous author of 'The Teachings of Don Juan', Carlos Castaneda, had leaped into the abyss, never to return. The general response to his final passing, the commencement of his 'definitive-journey', was an ecstatic celebration: his work, it had been said, was finally complete. My feelings were mixed. Castaneda had been a close 'literary friend', a quasi-spiritual companion who, through his many books, made me aware that all things are indeed possible. The 'warrior-traveller' had moved on, and it was rumoured that his last book, ~The Active Side of Infinity~ was on the way.

    It has been four years, and for a variety of reasons, I never got around to reading it, but finally did last week. To be sure, this last installment ranks, in my mind, as one of his best. This is the last in a long line of texts concerning Castaneda's appreticeship as a sorcerer, working under the tutelage of Don Juan Matus - a 'nagual' of mystery, power and hilarious wit. Don Juan has to be one of the most interestiing characters of the twentieth century. And to finally meet him again in ~Infinity~ was certainly a pleasure.

    ~Infinity~ has to be the most accessible of all Castaneda's books. We can almost categorize it as being his last will and testament before his final exit into infinity - an effort to pay off his spiritual debts as a warrior-traveller, recapitulating (Don Juan's term) memorable events and relationships in his life that changed his path or had, either consciously or not, affected or had a profound significance in his life as a sorcerer. The book is a collection of Castaneda's memories, intense and not so, that through re-living would prepare him for the 'definitive-journey' into the abyss. Death is the central theme in ~Infinity~, communicating the importance of preparing oneself for the unavoidable end we all must embark upon...

    I was reminded of Carl Jung, the famous Swiss psychiatrist who, in the last years of his life, always had 'The Tibetan Book of the Dead' on his night stand, referring to it before falling to sleep. This was Jung's way of preparing himself for the definitive journey. Castaneda, though, through re-living the past, sought-out some of the more significant people in his life, and made a practical attempt to set things right. This made a lot of sense to me on many levels.

    To suggest to new readers of Castaneda to begin with ~Infinity~ would be, in my mind, a disservice. My advice would be to start from the beginning with 'The Teachings of Don Juan' and move on from there...one's appreciation of the entire philosophy will be much deeper as a result. That said, however, ~Infinity~ could well be a good starting point, because as I mentioned before, it's the most accessible of the canon.

    5-0 out of 5 stars ONE OF CASTANEDA'S MOST IMPORTANT BOOKS
    This book was published after Castaneda's death and he undoubtedly knew he was dying when he wrote it. This is his most autobiographical account. It provides insight into the very human side of a man surrounded by so much mystery. Many concepts described in earlier books are clarified here. The most important topic is that of "The Predator". This is the only one of Castaneda's books (with the exception of The Magical Passes) that addresses this most controversial subject. Make no mistake, this topic is not making reference to a metaphor. Without an understanding of this topic, one will never be able to make progress on the Path of Knowledge. For those interested, check out these other books that discuss this topic: 1) The Path (Esmeralda Arana), 2) In Search of the Miraculous (PD Ouspensky), 3) Far Journeys (Robert Monroe), 4)Enlivening the Chakra of the Heart (Florin Lowndes). ... Read more


    17. Arcanum : The Extraordinary True Story
    by Janet Gleeson
    list price: $24.00
    our price: $24.00
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 1570426554
    Catlog: Book (1999-03-01)
    Publisher: Time Warner Audiobooks
    Sales Rank: 614641
    Average Customer Review: 4.39 out of 5 stars
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    Reviews (23)

    4-0 out of 5 stars A Fun and Surprising History
    I didn't know what to expect when I picked up a copy of The Arcanum in a bookstore at the airport. I needed something to read on a four hour flight, and Janet Gleeson's book definitely fit the bill: it kept my attention for the whole four hours. The capsule on the back cover was what really caught my attention. It promised eccentric kings, dungeons and avarice of all kinds. The book did not disappoint! It's as much an entertaining look at how small things make a big difference in history as it is a factual and well-presented history of the introduction of porcelain manufacture in Europe.

    Gleeson did her homework, and that enabled her to bring to life a cast of character that might have come out of the most imaginative of novels. Almost before our eyes we can see the Augustus' obsession with porcelain, and finding a way to manufacture it, drive events in European history. We see a young and desperate alchemist/charlatan who couldn't have gotten himself in more trouble if he tried. Gleeson weaves these, and other, figures and their strange tale into a history that reads almost like a novel.

    If you enjoy Barbara Tuchman's books, I suspect that you'll like Janet Gleeson's, as well. Aside from the fascinating story, Gleeson provides a technical discussion of the substance of porcelain ware and its manufacture that should appeal to novice and expert alike. I enjoyed this book immensely; it gave the reader the whole package. I recommend it without reservation and I'll definitely be looking to read more books by this author.

    4-0 out of 5 stars The development of Europe
    There were many advances during the rennaisance era in Europe that are far reaching. You would think that something so ephemeral as a luxury item wouldn't have much impact, but history demonstrates otherwise. Deception, espionage, war, and even treason were common occurences in 17th and 18th century Europe. All that in pursuit of the secrets for making porcelain is conceptually challenging to say the least.

    When one alchemist searching for the legendary philospher's stone performs one illusion too many, he finds himself a "guest" of Augustus the Strong until he provides him with the gold he needs to pay for his extravagantly decadent life style. Fortunately, for the alchemist, he's bright and talented, and just may provide the king with another type of gold to keep the executioner at bay.

    The Arcanum, is well written and researched with an extensive bibliography. I was very impressed with the level of scholarship exhibited by Ms. Gleeson. Considering the subject matter, and my preconceptions, I was suitably suprised and impressed at what I learned.

    3-0 out of 5 stars Pleasant Read
    Janet Gleeson is not a storyteller. This becomes apparent as she pops between explaining the arcanum, porcelain making, political strife and the lives of the people involved. The subjects are so compelling, however, that you will not mind too much. It is apparent, too, that she has a passion for the subject of porcelain making, and she does manage to infuse the reader with her interest.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Splendidly told history always pleases
    If you enjoy splendidly written historical stories, this is a must read. I must admit that the story started to lose its lustre around the time that Meissen loses its lustre; but, in its entirety, the book is a must read. If you've read The Professor and the Madman, this story is equally enthralling.

    4-0 out of 5 stars A substance more valuable than gold
    Today, porcelain, china, and dinnerwares are common items in a household. This was not always true. Once, hard paste porcelain, the world's best, was literally as valuable as gold. But only the Chinese knew the formula, and they kept their secret from Europeans for nearly 1000 years. So it is fitting that the person responsible for discovering the Chinese's secret was an alchemist, whose true quest was to find the secret for making gold from other less expensive metals.

    This swashbuckling tale of adventure, double-dealing, and final victory, is a basic manual for porcelain collectors and dealers, and it is a must for antiques enthusiasts, no matter where their interests lie. Porcelain and its history touch every collecting area to some degree. The knowlege contained in this short history is a must for anyone who aspires to a full education in the decorative arts. ... Read more


    18. Ten Things I Wish I'd Known- : Before I went Out Into the Real World
    list price: $18.98
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 1570428573
    Catlog: Book (2000-04-01)
    Publisher: Time Warner Audiobooks
    Sales Rank: 431699
    Average Customer Review: 3.72 out of 5 stars
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    Book Description

    --Starting at the bottom--over and over again
    --Dealing with--and learning from--the Boss from Hell
    --Giving up the Wedding Delusion, not to mention that one-way ticket to Happily Ever After
    --Being asked to bend your principles--by your superiors
    --Wanting to be a high-powered success and super parent
    --Knowing that children will both exhaust and sustain you
    --Facing that terrifying question: "What have I been put on this earth to do?"

    You could call them notes from life's trenches. Maria Shriver's TEN THINGS I WISH I'D KNOWN--BEFORE I WENT OUT INTO THE REAL WORLD gives us her reflections, confessions, advice, memories, and, most of all, hard-earned lessons...all the things we wish we knew before we started out, and that few people ever honestly discuss.

    Here is the truth about: the price we pay for giving in to our fears, as well as the relief we feel when we finally face them; the humiliation of swallowing our ego so that we can learn from an abusive experience; the rewards of taking risks and the pain of failure; the joy of finding someone we can love and the limitations of every relationship; how it's never too late to tap the wisdom of others, even (especially!) our own parents; and the importance of taking what we do seriously without taking ourselves seriously.

    Expanded from Maria's acclaimed College of the Holy Cross commencement address and written in the voice of a trusted and trusting best friend, TEN THINGS I WISH I'D KNOWN--BEFORE I WENT OUT INTO THE REAL WORLD is a pithy, poignant, down-to-earth, and at times laugh-out-loud book that will help people of all ages and on all roads in life.

    It's within you to carve out your own future, create your own destiny.

    I wrote this book so that you might be spared. Not from having to learn the lessons I had to learn. No one can spare you that, because learning is experiential, and you have to do it yourself. As a wise person once told me: If I could spare you the pain you're experiencing, I wouldn't--because I wouldn't want to deprive you of the strength and wisdom you'll gain from having gone through it and come out the other side.

    Each and every one of you is a powerful, resilient human being capable of living the life you design for yourself. I wish all of you the faith and the courage to pinpoint your passion. ... Read more

    Reviews (99)

    5-0 out of 5 stars Ten Things I'm Glad I Know Now
    Just when you thought you were all alone, Maria Shriver saves the day with her wise advice in her new book Ten Things I Wish I'd Known-Before I Went Out into the Real World. This book is not only helpful for students of all majors, but will continue to be a source of wisdom throughout the course of a person's life. I, being a senior about to face the real world, have hit the wall of shock and devastation. I no longer have a crutch to lean on and will be thrown out all alone into the worst job market seen in years. While this has been the most stressful and horrifying time in my life, Maria Shriver's book gives me a drop of hope by giving me a head start through her own personal experiences and the experiences of others.
    Ten Things I Wish I'd Know-Before I Went Out into the Real World was inspired by a speech Shriver was asked to give to the graduating class of the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. The speech was so successful because of her fearless wit and hard-hitting facts that it was developed into a book to help graduating students across the country.
    This book has been extremely helpful because Maria Shriver gives the facts whether you like them or not. She does not sugar coat a thing. She does not tell the reader to "go out there and get em'" or "you can do it all if you put your mind to it." In fact, she tells the reader the complete opposite. She writes that one person cannot do it all and one must be willing to fail and start from the bottom if they look forward to achieving anything.
    Shriver uses her own experiences as well as others experiences as her prime sources. She does not go into the psychology and rhetoric of each situation, yet teaches the reader from first hand experience the advice and lessons she has had to learn the hard way.
    Not only does Shriver help a graduating student at the starting gate of their career, but she also serves as a mentor throughout their entire life. With topics beyond work and successful careers, she hands out her own wisdom about finances, marriage, and children. These topics each have their very own chapter because as Shriver notes, these are some of the hardest yet most endearing jobs a person will ever face.
    Now that I am three months from heading out into the real world, I wish I had read this book sooner. I wish I had known that even someone as successful as Maria Shriver has received criticism and cried her eyes out in the seat of her car. I am still scared and unsure about the future, but I know that while I am sitting at my very own commencement address, I will already be equipped with some of the best advice and wisdom given from a successful person who wasn't afraid to start at the bottom. If you or anyone you know are about to face the uncertainties of the "real world," I strongly suggest this book as a teacher, guide, and mentor.

    4-0 out of 5 stars Wise Wisdom for the Real World
    I admire Maria Shriver for what she has accomplished in life without the constant help of the silver spoon she was born with. She is an amazing woman in her own right and has worked hard to become a person of great integrity and wisdom. So who better to write a book on life lessons than someone who has learned a few along the way.

    Ms. Shriver wrote this book after she received so much positive response from a little commencement address she had given. I only wish I had heard such a profound speech before I had set off into the world. After reading this book I realize I only do part of the necessary steps for life success and I am now inspired to work my way into all 10. She recommends: Finding your passion, take any job as a stepping stone, respect your coworkers, be responsible for your behaviors, fail without fear, discard the myth of Superwoman, pay attention to your family life, work on your marriage, make your own money and LAUGH!! It takes alot of energy to live life correctly so be prepared and reach for this little book of wisdom for inspiration.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Like Spending Time With A Friend
    This is a charming, down-to-earth, honest little book, filled with important lessons about life. Written with humor and wisdom, it reflects the personality of a fiesty, spirited person determined to make her own mark in the world.
    From the first chapter, in which she tells us to "pinpoint our passion" (hers was to be a broadcast journalist), to the second one where she tells us "no job is beneath you" and regales us with tales of learning every aspect of her job, and realizing there were some things she would never do well, and how important it is to be able to take criticism, and down through the others, which deal with such subjects as the necessity of mentors, the value of ethics, and achieving financial independence, we learn, along with Maria, that life is indeed a bumpy ride, with many lessons to teach us.
    Particularly interesting were the chapters on husband and children, in which she tells us (as if we didn't know already!) that the Prince Charming and Happily Ever After myths are just that and that life is a compromise and we must make choices. Making the point that it is important to be your own person while at the same time maintaining these vital relationships, she combines the view of the modern woman with old-fashioned values.
    By the time we reach the concluding chapter, on Laughter, which she says makes "all the other nine things doable," Maria has become a trusted and valued friend, with whom we have enjoyed spending a few hours.

    5-0 out of 5 stars I loved this book
    Maria is a great example of a person who is "wired for success". She explains her life and how her definition of success has changed with each stage. I will buy this for my wife and the kids in my church Youth Group. Plus she is funny!

    1-0 out of 5 stars A SHRIVELED SHRIVER
    The one thing I say now that I read this second book by Mrs. Arnold Schwarzenegger: Hasta la vista, baby. ... Read more


    19. Flags of Our Fathers
    by Barry Bostwick, James Bradley
    list price: $29.95
    our price: $19.77
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 0553712462
    Catlog: Book (2000-05-18)
    Publisher: Random House Audio
    Sales Rank: 237861
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    Book Description

    New York Times bestseller, now adapted for young readers, Flags of Our Fathers is the unforgettable chronicle of perhaps the most famous moment in American military history: the raising of the U.S. flag at Iwo Jima.
    Here is the true story behind the immortal photograph that has come to symbolize the courage and indomitable will of America. In February 1945, American Marines plunged into the surf at Iwo Jima–and into history. Through a hail of machine-gun and mortar fire that left the beaches strewn with comrades, they battled to the island’s highest peak. And there, they raised a flag. The son of one of the flag raisers has written a powerful account of six very different men who came together in the heroic battle.
    ... Read more


    20. Benjamin Franklin : An American Life
    by Walter Isaacson
    list price: $26.00
    our price: $17.16
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Asin: 074353364X
    Catlog: Book (2003-07-01)
    Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
    Sales Rank: 24962
    Average Customer Review: 4.39 out of 5 stars
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    Book Description

    Benjamin Franklin is the founding father who winks at us -- an ambitious urban entrepreneur who rose up the social ladder, from leather-aproned shopkeeper to dining with kings.

    In bestselling author Walter Isaacson's vivid and witty full-scale biography, we discover why Franklin turns to us from history's stage with eyes that twinkle from behind his new-fangled spectacles. In Benjamin Franklin, Isaacson shows how Franklin defines both his own time and ours.

    The most interesting thing that Franklin invented, and continually reinvented, was himself. America's first great publicist, he was consciously trying to create a new American archetype. In the process, he carefully crafted his own persona, portrayed it in public, and polished it for posterity. His guiding principle was a "dislike of everything that tended to debase the spirit of the common people." Few of his fellow founders felt this comfort with democracy so fully, and none so intuitively.

    In this colorful and intimate narrative, Isaacson provides the full sweep of Franklin's amazing life, from his days as a runaway printer to his triumphs as a statesman, scientist, and Founding Father. He chronicles Franklin's tumultuous relationship with his illegitimate son and grandson, his practical marriage, and his flirtations with the ladies of Paris. He also shows how Franklin helped to create the American character and why he has a particular resonance in the twenty-first century. ... Read more

    Reviews (98)

    5-0 out of 5 stars A great effort.
    Walter Isaacson's "Benjamin Franklin: An American Life" is an excellent biography of the eldest of the American founding fathers. Isaacson's writing style is incisive, so the book is never dull. Many Americans tend to view the founding fathers as god-like patriots; but Isaacson is able to show Franklin's flaws through the many refrences to Franklin's correspondences. Isaacson also extensively covers Franklin's pragmatism and frugality through many examples from his letters and other records.

    I can't compare this book to any of the other popular Franklin books because I haven't read them, but I would reccomend this book for a less analytical, though not superficial, read. I say this because it was written by a journalist - journalists tend to be incisive and easier for most to read than scholers. If you would enjoy a more psychological view into Franklin's character, HG Wells' version would probably be more appropriate.

    5-0 out of 5 stars An American Renaissance Man
    Publisher, philosopher, scientist, inventor, and statesman - Walter Isaacson's "Benjamin Franklin: An American Life" is a fascinating portrait of our Founding Father's most senior citizen. But it is also an outstanding history of American life in the 18th century, first as a colony, then in the struggle for independence. The role of France in the American Revolution - and Franklin's role in securing that key alliance - unfolds with a clarity I'd not previously encountered. And Franklin's often-combative relationship with John Adams is a riveting character study, especially when balanced by McCullough's biography of Adams. In vivid detail and painstaking research, Isaacson's Franklin is brilliant, but still an enigma. Despite unquestionably high morality, we see a ruthless businessman. While possessing an obvious love for socializing - especially with members of the opposite sex - his immediate family is effectively abandoned, as Franklin lives virtually parallel lives between Europe and America. We see Franklin typically charitable and charming, yet alternately cold and calculating. Yet despite his foibles and flaws, Franklin emerges deservedly as "the most accomplished American of his age." And given the breadth of these accomplishments, an argument could be made "for any age". In summary, Isaacson achieves the rare combination of an important and scholarly biography that at the same time is a lively and entertaining story of America and one of our greatest Americans.

    4-0 out of 5 stars Great Portrayal of the Most Versatile American
    Let me first start off by saying that I have read few biographies. But Isaacson made a biography that is both readable and balanced between Franklin's personal and professional life. Franklin was the true founding father that believed in the common man. Franklin was not perfect but he believed in fair treatment for all. America would have advanced much slower if it was not for Ben. Probably his greatest contribution to our society was the feeling of helping one another. He helped form the first fire station, post office, police force (much less his inventions) - his work had community written all over it. All of his work was done with the premise of helping mankind. Maybe other founders fought the wars and wrote the documents. But we survived all these years because we formed a community; the idea that as Americans we have to all work together. That is Franklin's legacy to our nation. I will read biographies on the other founders (Hamilton, Jefferson, Adams and Washington) to gain a more complete perspective on how this country started. This book lays an excellent foundation and is a must read for those interested in the origins of America through the eyes of one of its greatest citizens.

    5-0 out of 5 stars An outstanding biography of a remarkable man
    Walter Isaacson, former chairman of CNN and managing editor of Time Magazine, has written an immensely readable and informative biography of Benjamin Franklin that never gets too stuffy or bogged down in meaningless minutae. Instead, we are treated to a fascinating glimpse at a man who was early America's greatest publisher, scientist, politician, inventor and diplomat.

    We all have our pre-conceived notions of Franklin, including him out flying his kite to try and link electricity with lightning, or him dozing off during the lengthy and tedious deliberations at the Constitutional Convention. Isaacson peels back the layers of the story a bit, reminding us how often our vision of Franklin derives from Franklin's own pen, such as the vision of the young teen arriving in Philadelphia with loaves of bread, looking ridiculous as he passed by the window of his future wife (a scene written by Franklin at age 65 when he penned his autobiography).

    The book does a very good job not only of recounting the many accomplishments of Franklin, but also of exploring his middle class ideals and values. For example, Isaacson's book reminds us that while Franklin was never terribly pious or religious throughout his life, he favored organized religion because churches encouraged citizens to behave well, and to do good things. There was always a sense of pragmatism and public service in everything Franklin did and believed in. As a publisher, if he thought a public policy or official was wrong and needed to be criticized publicly, he would invent characters (to avoid libel suits) to write humorous and sometimes scathing attacks that were basically anonymous.

    The book also dwells repeatedly on the Franklin's love and admiration of the middle class as the real core of American society. While Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia as a college for southern gentlemen, Franklin founded the University of Pennsylvania to serve a much larger, and more low-brow, populace. As a statesman, it is remarkable that Franklin (despite many years abroad as an effective French ambassador) was a participant and signer of virtually every key treaty/document in colonial history, including the Albany Plan of the Union, the Declaration of Independence, the Treaty of Alliance with France, the Peace Treaty with England, and the Constitution. His spirit of compromise and his sage demeanor no doubt helped bridge the gap which sharply divided members of the Constitutional Convention. He occasionally flip-flopped on an issue, including his views on the Stamp Act and his belief in the possibility of conciliation with Britain, but without his sense of compromise the Constitution would never have made it in its present, remarkable form.

    Isaacson also explores the personal side of Franklin, including his strained relationship (and ultimate lack of a relationship) with his loyalist son, who became governor of New Jersey, as well as his relatively harmless flirting with the ladies of French society while he was abroad. The contrasts in his character, and that of John Adams (who was sent out to France to work with him on the French alliance), was remarkable. Both great men to be sure, but they could not be more unalike, and their pairing was an unfortunate one.

    The book ends with a wonderful chapter titled "Conclusions" in which Franklin's place in history, and the changing attitudes towards his character over the years, are explored. The Trascendentalists like Emerson and Thoreau had little use for Ben, as he was too practical and mundane for their "rarefied tastes", but as the country became more industrial and Horatio Alger novels became the rage, Franklin's work ethic and maxims were embraced all over again. Ultimately Isaacson points out that as a writer he was "more Mark Twain and less William Shakespeare", and as a scientist he was more like Edison than Newton. Always witty and charming, if not profound, he probably did more than anyone in history to try and advance the common good, through civic associations, libraries, volunteer fire departments, post offices, etc. I put the book down terribly impressed with Franklin the man, and Isaacson the biographer.

    1-0 out of 5 stars Walter Isaacson: Mr. Shallow, An American Life
    As a direct descendant of Simon Meredith (1663-1745), father of Hugh Meredith, Benjamin Franklin's erstwhile business partner in Philadelphia, I looked forward with great interest to Isaacson's much touted book, and immediately consulted it between flights, looking up Cousin Hugh. With respect to Hugh, Isaacson, like so many predecessors, again proved shallow, inept, under informed and a grand source of misinformation: as we Merediths know all too well, Franklin simply stiffed Simon and dumped Hugh after the venerable Ben had gained a virtual monopoly to print money. Isaacson remains oblivious of the fact that the Simon Merediths of Radnorshire, members of a medieval college of physicians and clerics, were and remain one of the most distinguished Welsh-American families this country has ever known. I realize Isaacson is reputedly a great publicist and business person, but as an historian and researcher he remains woefully ignorant. Welcome to another silly, sorry Franklin read. ... Read more


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