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41. Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion
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42. The Hiding Place
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43. The Lost German Slave Girl : The
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44. Alexander Hamilton
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45. Pol Pot : Anatomy of a Nightmare
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49. When Trumpets Call : Theodore
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59. Lane Kirkland : Champion of American
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60. Seven Pillars of Wisdom : A Triumph

41. Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom
by Conrad Black
list price: $39.95
our price: $26.37
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1586481843
Catlog: Book (2003-11-01)
Publisher: PublicAffairs
Sales Rank: 5623
Average Customer Review: 4.26 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

A brilliant and provocative biography of Franklin Roosevelt--written by a leading newspaper publisher and staunch conservative.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt stands astride American history like a colossus, having pulled the nation out of the Great Depression and led it to victory in the Second World War. Elected to four terms as president, he transformed an inward-looking country into the greatest superpower the world had ever known. Only Abraham Lincoln did more to save America from destruction. But FDR is such a large figure that historians tend to take him as part of the landscape, focusing on smaller aspects of his achievements or carping about where he ought to have done things differently. Few have tried to assess the totality of FDR's life and career.

Conrad Black rises to the challenge. In this magisterial biography, Black makes the case that FDR was the most important person of the twentieth century, transforming his nation and the world through his unparalleled skill as a domestic politician, war leader, strategist, and global visionary--all of which he accomplished despite a physical infirmity that could easily have ended his public life at age thirty-nine. Black also takes on the great critics of FDR, especially those who accuse him of betraying the West at Yalta. Black opens a new chapter in our understanding of this great man, whose example is even more inspiring as a new generation embarks on its own rendezvous with destiny. ... Read more

Reviews (23)

5-0 out of 5 stars FDR: Champion of Freedom: Polio Victim gets USA going!
Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his New Dealers put America back to work; gave millions hope in desperate dustbowl days and won our greatest War against Hitler and Japan. As our greatest 20th century President he is well served by this superb biography by publisher Conrad Black. Black a Canadian and conservative has portrayed in this length 10000 page tome a brilliant portrayal of the private FDR; his complex relationship with his mother Sarah and his socially liberal wife Eleanor as well as all the politcal maneuvering needed by the great man to transform isolationist America into the mighty fortress of freedom enabling the forces of freedom to defeat Fascism and the Japanese.
Black's book is readable, countains a well of anecdotes yet also includes all the details of the great 12 years (1933-45_ our longest service chief exectuvie served our land.
This book will be essential to FDR studies for years to come. My advice is to read the book slowly absorbing all the incredible

events of the crucial days of the Great Depression and World War II.
As an admitted liberal and lifelong Democrat I am proud to belong to a party whose chief was FDR! "Happy Days are here again" when the reader and Black meet in this essential biography.

5-0 out of 5 stars Praised Book on the Champion of Freedom - FDR
In "The Time 100 - the Most Important People of the Century," Franklin Delano Roosevelt is ranked the runner-up most important person of the century - second only to Albert Einstein. Roosevelt is a giant of world history.

On the back cover of this fine book by Conrad Black are these comments about this book by CONSERVATIVE intellectuals I generally admire:

George F. Will: "Conrad Black skillfully assembles powerful arguments to support strong and sometimes surprising judgements. This spirited defense of Roosevelt as a savior of America's enterprise system, and geopolitical realist, is a delight to read."

John Lukacs: "Conrad Black's FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT is extraordinary. It is something different from the dim and flickering lamp of academic retrospect. A new - and generous - light is poured on its subject: an illumination directed by a conviction of Roosevelt's place in the history of an entire century."

William F. Buckley Jr.: "An enormous accomplishment, a learned volume on FDR by a vital critical mind, which will absorb critics and the reading public."

Henry Kissinger: "No Biography of Roosevelt is more thoughtful and readable. None is as comprehensive."

I really enjoyed Conrad Black's writing style, which adds life to the words with his own colorful descriptors. This is the best single-volume biography of FDR. He presents an accurate and living picture of Roosevelt in his presidency and not a dry summary of the events. For example, I chuckled when Black says that FDR correctly judged Hitler to be the real concern while Mussolini was, in comparison, a buffoon.

My own criticism of the book is that it skips over the human suffering of the period. The Great Depression was devestating. I suggest the book "The Grapes of Wrath" or any of the many documentaries on the Great Depression.

Read this book and you will get to know and appreciate President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. You may not agree with some things, but you will at least understand FDR in the context of the times.

The world was in depression. America was in the Great Depression and heading to what would have been, without Roosevelt's intervention, a complete collapse of America's economic system. Capitalism and democracy fell out of favor around the world. Hitler and other dictators came to power around the world, and radicals gained followers in America. This climaxed in the clash of World War II.

The world we live today in is not a world of Hitler's Third Reich and fascism. It is not a world of Stalinism. It is not a world of colonial empires. It is not a world of radical laissez-faire capitalism. It is a world of Roosevelt's pragmatic ideas for a more stable economy and international security.

Roosevelt was a great president for everyone, and his ideas today seem very pragmatic and sensible. It is refreshing that several notable conservatives have had the guts to praise this book for what it is - a very good book about a great president.

5-0 out of 5 stars Well Written. Makes a Strong Case for Roosevelt's Greatness
I give this book the highest recommendation for anyone with an interest in Roosevelt, American History, or World History. I have been reading about history and decided to read about Roosevelt, since he was a great president. I compared reviews and decided on this big book and am glad that I did. Black is talanted with his writing and very amusing at times, which was refreshing considering that this is a very long and thorough book. Roosevelt emerged to me as both a charming person and a shrewd president for good causes, like bringing America out of isolation to save the world from Hitler. His skills and legacies make modern politicians look like preschoolers.

Black writes that Roosevelt is not as admirable of a person as his admirers think because he was egoistic, could be difficult, and was very shrewd and dominating with his power. Roosevelt was a Machiavellian figure in some ways. Yet Black says that Roosevelt was far more admirable for what he did for America and the world than even his admirers may realize. Here Black unfolds the details (and there are many details) that show Roosevelt's greatness.

This review below that I found on the Internet stuck with me as best reflecting my own thoughts, and it carries more expertise than my humble review can offer:

"FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT Champion of Freedom. By Conrad Black. Reviewed by Alan Brinkley, New York Times. Friday, November 28, 2003.

"It will come as something of a surprise to those familiar with Conrad Black as the powerful and energetic head of a large newspaper publishing empire that he has also managed to write an ambitious biography of Franklin Roosevelt, nearly 1,300 pages long.

"It may also come as a surprise to those who know of the generally conservative politics of Lord Black (who resigned last week as chief executive of his company, Hollinger International, but not as its chairman, during a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation) that he reveres Roosevelt as the greatest American of the 20th century, perhaps of any century, and the most important international leader of modern times.

"However unexpected, this enormous book is also one of the best one-volume biographies of Roosevelt yet. It is not particularly original, has no important new revelations or interpretations and is based mostly on secondary sources (and rather old ones at that). But it tells the remarkable story of Roosevelt's life with an engaging eloquence and with largely personal and mostly interesting opinions about the people and events he is describing. Black's enormous admiration for Roosevelt is based on many things. He reveres what he calls Roosevelt's great courage and enormous skill in moving the United States away from neutrality and first toward active support of Britain and China in the early years of World War II and then toward full intervention. He admires Roosevelt's skill in managing the war effort and his deftness in handling the diplomacy that accompanied it.

"He sees Roosevelt, even more than Churchill, as the architect of a postwar world that for half a century worked significantly better than the prewar world of catastrophic conflicts and economic disasters. Roosevelt, he argues, helped legitimize democracy in the eyes of the world and created alliances and relationships that maintained a general peace through the rest of the 20th century. Churchill, once the war was essentially won, became a futile defender of the dying British empire.

"Roosevelt, in the last months before his death, was promoting a very different vision of world order based on international organizations and national self-determination (even if with great power supervision). Of the major political leaders of the age of World War II, Black writes, "Roosevelt was the only one with a strategic vision that was substantially vindicated in the 50 years following the Second World War."

"Black is also a stalwart defender of the New Deal. His defense is not simply the selective approval that many conservatives give to the way it saved capitalism and ensured the primacy of free markets. Black admires it all: Social Security, the Wagner Act, farm subsidies, securities regulation, wage and price legislation, even Roosevelt's almost incendiary oratory in 1936 welcoming hatred of the forces of power and greed.

"He expresses gingerly criticism of Roosevelt's reluctance to move aggressively to combat segregation, of his support of Japanese-American internment and his relatively modest response to the Holocaust, and of his occasional poor judgment in the people he trusted. (He is particularly contemptuous of Henry A. Wallace, but no more so than of conservative figures like Breckinridge Long, the genteel anti-Semite who obstructed the granting of American visas to European Jews in the late 1930s.)

"Despite these and other reservations, Black never departs from his overall judgment of Roosevelt, perhaps best illustrated in his use of a quotation from Churchill as a chapter title: "He Is the Greatest Man I Have Ever Known."

"While Black may not be the best chronicler of any single aspect of Roosevelt's life, and while he may offer little that scholars don't already know, he has created a powerful and often moving picture of the life as a whole. Truly great men inspire many exceptional biographies, and this is not the first or last for Roosevelt. But it is a worthy and important addition to the vast literature on the most important modern American leader."

5-0 out of 5 stars Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom
Newspaper tycoon Black praises former President Roosevelt for having the clearest strategic vision of the major world leaders during World War II and for using "political legerdemain" in using war to end the Great Depression and save democratic capitalism. FDR emerges in these pages, primarily devoted to his four terms in the White House, as the consummate skilled politician and among the U.S.'s greatest presidents. He also gives Roosevelt credit for having laid the groundwork for the Cold War and enabling his successors to "liberate Eastern Europe."

5-0 out of 5 stars A balanced and favorable account
I don't know of a better one-volume biography of FDR. Geoffrey Ward's two volumes, Before the Trumpet, and A First-Class Temperament are better written and more carefully researched, but they only take his life to 1928. This book relies on secondary sources mostly, and its footnoting is unhelpful--the footnotes just tell what secondary source the author got the information from. I have not read the multi-volume works of Frank Friedel and Kenneth Davis, but they are referred to a lot in the footnotes to this book and no doubt are more carefully researched. Yet I thought reading this worthwhile, and its overall assessment of FDR's accomplishments rings very true. George Will and Bill Buckley, Jr., and Henry Kissinger supplied blurbs for the jacket, which more hidebound Republicans, clinging to GOP attitudes during Roosevelt's Administrations would not, I presume, do. Black's assessment of FDR's performance at Teheran and Yalta ably refutes some of the old Republican canards re same, and make for good reading. All in all, I thought the time spent reading this nice big book was well spent. There are a few errors, and I mention two: on page 233 Black refers to Senator Harry Flood Byrd as a Virginia favorite son candidate at the 1932 Democratic National Conventio--but at the time Byrd was not yet a Senator; and on page 792 Black says Admiral Darlan's funeral in Algiers on Dec 26, 1942, was attended by the "Cardinal-Primate" of Africa, but there was no Cardinal in Africa in 1942, much less a Cardinal-Primate. The book does have a good 25-page bibliography. ... Read more


42. The Hiding Place
by CORRIE TEN BOOM, JOHN SCHERRILL
list price: $6.99
our price: $6.29
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Asin: 0553256696
Catlog: Book (1984-11-01)
Publisher: Bantam
Sales Rank: 3678
Average Customer Review: 4.58 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

The Hiding Place proves that the light of God's love can penetrate even the darkest recesses of despair, places like the Nazi extermination camp at Ravensbruck. After protecting Dutch Jews in a secret room in their home, Corrie ten Boom, her sister and father were discovered, arrested, and imprisoned. Only Corrie survived, but her faith in God remained strong-so strong that, after the war, she could forgive a former camp guard in a face-to-face meeting. More than just a spellbinding adventure, The Hiding Place is a life-changing story. ... Read more

Reviews (130)

5-0 out of 5 stars A story of forgiveness
Corrie Ten Boom said it best in the beginning of the book when she points out that every person, place, and thing you encounter in your life is God preparing you for the plans He has for you. I believe God meant for millions be to touched by Corrie's life story. The over all message in this book is forgiveness, and how it is possible, under impossible circumstances. Not only does the Lord desire us to forgive, but He made it possible to do so by providing the love to do it. Corrie and her family lived sacrificial lives, but more importantly they were obedient to God, whom they knew loved them very much. Time and time again, Corrie's life was saved by her obedience and tenacious way of looking to the Lord for guidance and help. These people KNEW and lived God's love and it infected others around them. This story was just as much about Betsie, Corrie's sister, as it was Corrie. Betsie was a resilient woman who loved the Lord so much that she even thanked Him for fleas! Corrie's entire family had a respectful fear of the Lord that is lacking in today's world. This story helps us to realize how very comfortable we are in this material world of ours. Previous to reading this book, I read "Survival in Auschwitz" by Primo Levi, who was an Italian Jewish survivor of Auschwitz (hence the name). It was nice to read both books in order to get a view from both the Christian and Jewish perspective. This great evil during WWII was not just against one race, it was the enemy of the human race. While some humans were inprisoned and/or killed, others were alive yet dead inside as they gave into hate and bitterness. Corrie and her family saw this great evil and clinged to the hope that if these people were capable of so much hate, then they were equally capable of so much love. They compassionately prayed for the ones they suffered along with, as well as for the ones causing the suffering. "The Hiding Place" is a wonderful book in which we can learn to forgive those that have hurt us, and love others the way God loves us. Get it! Read it! Tell a friend!

5-0 out of 5 stars A woman of faith
I admire people who really take a stand for what they believe in, no matter what the cost, and Corrie Ten Boom is one of those amazing people. The story of her family, pre-concentration camp, is inspiring, because they really are willing to give up everything so that God's children are not harmed. This is truly one of the best books I've ever read...I copied a lot of phrases out of the book and into my personal journal so they could touch me later like they touched me then. There's a lot of love in this woman, mixed with comapssion, honesty, and happiness that made me reconsider my own standards in the midst of the peacetime life I live, and makes me ask the question: Would I truly risk my life for another's? Everyone should read this.

5-0 out of 5 stars A beautiful,moving,emotive book.
I have read a number of autobiographys,and expect to read more still.
I think i shall be hard-pressed to find another one as beautiful as Corrie's.

5-0 out of 5 stars THE best book you'll read this summer
First written in 1971, The Hiding Place has, through both critical acclaim and word of mouth of the masses, achieved both certifiable classic status and a revered place in the hearts of its readers. And, I might add, for good reason. Although written in 1st person novel form from the perspective of the selflessly valiant Cornelia ten Boom, it is, of course, the true story of one family's almost unfathomable degree of limitless giving and unwavering altruism that saved many of lives during the nihilistic hate-filled Nazi regime in Holland, where the Gestapo as well as Dutch collaborators were pervasively ubiquitous and inexorably replete with hate and ineluctably devoid of both reason and love.

While reading, I felt a veritable melange of emotions running the gamut from sadness, anger, despair, and hope. Thanks to the wonderful writing, you feel like you're reading a novel -- although one that is all too harrowing and real. As Betsie quotes the Bible and says, "Give thanks in all circumstances," she subsequently says "Thanks for the fleas" -- a moment that demonstrated that God DOES work in mysterious ways. Without giving away anything that happens, I strongly exhort you to read The Hiding Place -- a book that stays with you long after you have turned the last page.

"No pit is so deep that He is not deeper still."
- Betsie ten Boom

5-0 out of 5 stars A veritable laugh riot
I was walking my dog and reading The Hiding Place and I thought why I am being sad. I should be glad and happy because the story is happy if you think about it you know. So I started laughing at the awesome stuff that Corrie does and says when she's helping the Jews. In summation, it's better to laugh than to cry. At least, that is, to Joseph O'Brien. ... Read more


43. The Lost German Slave Girl : The Extraordinary True Story of the Slave Sally Miller and Her Fight for Freedom
by John Bailey
list price: $24.00
our price: $16.32
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0871139219
Catlog: Book (2005-01-09)
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press
Sales Rank: 44246
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

It is a spring morning in New Orleans, 1843. In the Spanish Quarter, on a street lined with flophouses and gambling dens, Madame Carl recognizes the face of a German girl who disappeared twenty-five years earlier. But the olive-skinned woman is a slave, with no memory of a "white" past. And yet her resemblance to her mother is striking, and she bears two telltale birthmarks. Had a defenseless European orphan been illegally enslaved, or was she an imposter? So begins one of the most celebrated and sensational trials of nineteenth-century America. In brilliant novelistic detail, award-winning historian John Bailey uses Miller's dramatic trial to describe the fascinating laws and customs surrounding slavery, immigration, and racial mixing. Did Miller, as her relatives sought to prove, arrive from Germany under perilous circumstances as an indentured servant or was she, as her master claimed, a slave for life? The trial pits a humble community of German immigrants against a hardened capitalist and one of the most flamboyant lawyers of his time. Bailey follows the case's incredible twists and turns all the way to the Supreme Court and comes to a shocking conclusion in this investigative history that reads like a suspense novel. ... Read more

Reviews (4)

5-0 out of 5 stars Absolutely fascinating!
I read this book as a selection of my book club and started it with only moderately high expectations.After all, wouldn't all the court deliberations begin to drag on as the case of the purported German immigrant was debated?However, I found the book absolutely fascinating; I'd rank it close to the top of the list of the sixty-something books we've read and discussed.The story of the immigration of the German families is heart-wrenching and highlights how even relatively minor circumstances can have life-altering consequences for a vulnerable population.
The tension only mounts as the court case begins.The book provides a perspective of US history through its detail and discussion of how slaves are treated and, even more startling, the motivations behind the law-making governing slaves and whether someone is considered white.I'd recommend it to all.John Bailey did a remarkable job of using the case of the "lost German slave girl" to provide a much larger view of Southern history.

4-0 out of 5 stars Exceptionally detailed, another image from our past
This book moved me. This segment of history is not one that is discussed often. There were plenty of people who could pass. Given the opportunity, one would gladly accept it. It is so interesting reading the legal background of slavery. I was so impressed with the the thorough research that the author did for this book. It brings to mind so many stories of slaves bartering for their right to just exist.

Sally Miller was brilliant. If one is to believe what they see and it is beneficial for you to perpetuate their belief why not. It was brilliantly executed and one slave used the legal system to set herself free.

Great read.

5-0 out of 5 stars Is she or isn't she?
An extremely thought-provoking book.The author has done extensive research into what must have been quite a talked-about case in pre-Civil war New Orleans. The legal back-up is heavy and thequotes from men of the law are jaw-dropping to those of us in the 21st Century.
The author does make one misstatement--perhaps because he is Australian.He states that Lincoln freed the slaves.This is not true.The Emancipation Proclation freed not one slave--it was the 13th Amendment, passed after Lincoln's death at the end of the Civil War.
Other than that, this story is a well-researched glimpse into history and an America that is hard to recognize.

5-0 out of 5 stars fascinating historical fact with some necessary fictional ex
This is a fascinating story in its own right, and a horrifying account of what slavery was like on a day-to-day basis for the people who lived with it in the Mississippi area. It's the little details the author gives that bring home how degrading the institution was for slaves and slave owners alike. Surprisingly the author is an Australian lawyer, I bought and read the book in paperback in Australia, but his research in the US has been meticulous. He has had to use fiction to fill in parts of the slave girl's story but this enhances rather than detracts from the overall narrative. I highly recommend it, very suitable for the thinking person's Christmas stocking! ... Read more


44. Alexander Hamilton
by Ron Chernow
list price: $35.00
our price: $21.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1594200092
Catlog: Book (2004-04-01)
Publisher: Penguin Books
Sales Rank: 45
Average Customer Review: 4.65 out of 5 stars
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Amazon.com

Building on biographies by Richard Brookhiser and Willard Sterne Randall, Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton provides what may be the most comprehensive modern examination of the often overlooked Founding Father. From the start, Chernow argues that Hamilton’s premature death at age 49 left his record to be reinterpreted and even re-written by his more long-lived enemies, among them: Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and James Monroe. Hamilton’s achievements as first Secretary of the Treasury, co-author of The Federalist Papers, and member of the Constitutional Convention were clouded after his death by strident claims that he was an arrogant, self-serving monarchist. Chernow delves into the almost 22,000 pages of letters, manuscripts, and articles that make up Hamilton’s legacy to reveal a man with a sophisticated intellect, a romantic spirit, and a late-blooming religiosity.

One fault of the book, is that Chernow is so convinced of Hamilton’s excellence that his narrative sometimes becomes hagiographic. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Chernow’s account of the infamous duel between Hamilton and Aaron Burr in 1804. He describes Hamilton’s final hours as pious, while Burr, Jefferson, and Adams achieve an almost cartoonish villainy at the news of Hamilton’s passing.

A defender of the union against New England secession and an opponent of slavery, Hamilton has a special appeal to modern sensibilities. Chernow argues that in contrast to Jefferson and Washington’s now outmoded agrarian idealism, Hamilton was "the prophet of the capitalist revolution" and the true forebear of modern America. In his Prologue, he writes: "In all probability, Alexander Hamilton is the foremost figure in American history who never attained the presidency, yet he probably had a much deeper and more lasting impact than many who did." With Alexander Hamilton, this impact can now be more widely appreciated. --Patrick O'Kelley ... 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


45. Pol Pot : Anatomy of a Nightmare (John MacRae Books)
by Philip Short
list price: $30.00
our price: $19.80
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0805066624
Catlog: Book (2005-02-08)
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Sales Rank: 107326
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Book Description

A gripping and definitive portrait of the man who headed one of the most enigmatic and terrifying regimes of modern times

In the three and a half years of Pol Pot's rule, more than a million Cambodians, a fifth of the country's population, were executed or died from hunger. An idealistic and reclusive figure, Pol Pot sought to instill in his people values of moral purity and self-abnegation through a revolution of radical egalitarianism. In the process his country descended into madness, becoming a concentration camp of the mind, a slave state in which obedience was enforced on the killing fields.

How did a utopian dream of shared prosperity mutate into one of the worst nightmares humanity has ever known? To understand this almost inconceivable mystery, Philip Short explores Pol Pot's life from his early years to his death. Short spent four years traveling throughout Cambodia interviewing the surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge movement, many of whom have never spoken before, including Pol Pot's brother-in-law and the former Khmer Rouge head of state. He also sifted through the previously closed archives of China, Russia, Vietnam, and Cambodia itself to trace the fate of one man and the nation that he led into ruin.

This powerful biography reveals that Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge were not a one-off aberration but instead grew out of a darkness of the soul common to all peoples. Cambodian history and culture combined with intervention from the United States and other nations to set the stage for a disaster whose horrors echo loudly in the troubling events of our world today.
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46. The Pilgrimage
by Paulo Coelho
list price: $13.00
our price: $9.75
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Asin: 006251279X
Catlog: Book (1995-05-01)
Publisher: HarperSanFrancisco
Sales Rank: 9500
Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

A Spiritual Journey Toward Self-Discovery

The Pilgrimage recounts the spectacular trials of Paulo Coelho as he journeys across Spain to discover personal power, wisdom, and a miraculous sword that seals his initiation into the secret society of the Tradition. With his enigmatic mentor, Petrus, he follows a legendary road traveled by pilgrims of San Tiago since the Middle Ages, encountering a Chaucerian variety of mysterious guides and devilish opponents. Coelho's experiences and his mentor's teachings impart the spiritual wisdom that reveals itself as the true purpose of their exciting journey. Part adventure story, part guide to self-mastery, this compelling tale delivers a powerful brew of magic and insight. ... Read more

Reviews (45)

5-0 out of 5 stars Why do pilgrims criticize this book?
I also walked El Camino, and was surprised to know that some (few) Brazilian pilgrims criticize Paulo Coelho's "The Pilgrimage". Every time that I asked if they read the book, they said that they did not. It seems that El Camino was becoming the property of a few choosen ones, and "The Pilgrimage" made it popular all over the world. For me, this is an absolutelly fascinating book, but I understand why some reviews say about whether this is an accurate description of the journey. It is not. It is Paulo Coelho's experience, whether you like it or not. If you don't like, better buy a travel guide or write a book by yourself. And by the way, I believe that Coelho deserved the Golden Medal of Galicia that he received this year.

4-0 out of 5 stars Good travel book, interesting personal perspective
This was Coelho's first popular book, and as such denotes his evolving magical style. It is about his trip in the Santiago de COmpostela trek that goes from east to west across Spain. I found the travel perspective of the book to be fascinating, and since I read it I have thought many times about doing the trek myself.

As for the personal revelation the author encounters in the trek, I foudn them interesting, not overwhelming. The lessons learned are presented in many different books aside form this one; what makes this book a little special, I believe, is that the story involves the reader in such a way that the lessons are driven effortlessly.

1-0 out of 5 stars Oh dear
Silly, very silly. The Pilgrimage is a ridiculous confection of half thought out semi spiritual nonsense. Paulo Coelho claims to have walked part of the route, catching a bus through the mountains of Galicia, in search of his 'sword' in the company of a male spiritual guide. He enjoyed plenty of out of body experiences and wrestled with a dog, which was of course the devil himself, not one of the thousands of wild dogs in Spain.

This book will and does appeal to a large section of society, and if your bookshelves are groaning under the weight of dream interpretaion and past life exploration books, then take a look at your Feng Shui advice guide and throw them all out and replace them with a slim volume of the Pilgrimage, it has it all - even tranced out dancing in a castle. I wonder if Paulo paid the 4Euro entrance fee to join his fellow Knights Templar for that?

4-0 out of 5 stars A possible road to spirituality
You have to be at least a little bit mystical in order to fully enjoy this book, which is full of mysteries and unexplainable events.

This is the detailed experience of the writer in Spain, along the road to San Tiago, which pilgrims have traveled since the Middle Ages. But this story is a contemporary quest, and it has an interesting and exciting mix of ancient and modern, that in the end leads to learning and understanding the truth.

It is the road that Paolo has to take in order to defend his sword and that will turn him into a Warrior of Light. He is accompanied by his spiritual guide, Petrus, with whom he will walk about 800 km over three months, during which time he will confront himself with his own fears, thoughts, doubts, and weaknesses. It is a pilgrimage that will explain to our main character (and implicitly to us) that our efforts in life are salutary and indispensable. But without results they amount to nothing.

Also, the story shows that love makes us stronger and it is this strength that allows us to make the right decision at the right time.

The search of truth is assimilated to a personal search for meaning, for the things that we need in life such as truth, love, joy of life, and spirituality.

I think it will be a very pleasant lecture for everyone who enjoys this kind of story, and it will make you think a lot about your life and the meaningful things in your personal universe.

5-0 out of 5 stars Will to continue
I first read this book in the summer of 97 on my way back from a trip from Ottawa, I'd found it in the ottawa airport. Two years prior to that, I'd read The Alchemist and never really gave much thought to other books by Paulo Coelho, dispite the lasting and impowering effects The Alchemist had had on me. It had me hooked and only at 16, I was convinced and determined that I was going to walk the Camino. Five years later, last may, I finally achieved it. It was my moby dick, really the only thing I'd ever set my mind to doing. The book inspired me to take a journey of a life time. In doing so, I found so many more journey's I'd never imagined. I highly recommend that you read the book, and once you have, live the Camino for yourself. ... Read more


47. Catherine de Medici : Renaissance Queen of France
by Leonie Frieda
list price: $29.95
our price: $19.77
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0060744928
Catlog: Book (2005-02-01)
Publisher: Fourth Estate
Sales Rank: 185612
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Book Description

Poisoner, besotted mother, despot, necromancer, engineer of a massacre: the stain on the name of Catherine de Medici is centuries old. In this critically hailed biography, Leonie Frieda reclaims the story of this unjustly maligned queen of France to reveal a skilled ruler battling against extraordinary political and personal odds.

Orphaned in infancy, imprisoned in childhood, heiress to an ancient name and vast fortune, Catherine de Medici was brought up in Florence, a city dominated by her ruling family. At age fourteen, the Italian-born young woman became a French princess in a magnificent alliance arranged by her uncle the pope to Henry, son of King Francis I of France. She suffered cruelly as her new husband became bewitched by the superbly elegant Diane de Poitiers. Henry's influential and lifelong mistress wisely sent her lover to sleep with Catherine, and after an agonizingly childless decade when she saw popular resentment build against her, she conceived the first of ten children. Slowly Catherine made the court her own: she transformed the cultural life of France, importing much of what we now think of as typically French -- cuisine, art, music, fashion -- from Italy, cradle of the Renaissance.

In a freak jousting accident in 1559, a wooden splinter fatally pierced Henry's eye. Hitherto sidelined, Catherine found herself suddenly thrust into the maelstrom of French power politics, for which she soon discovered she had inherited a natural gift.

A contemporary and sometime ally of Elizabeth I of England, Catherine learned to become both a superb strategist and ruthless conspirator. During the rise of Protestantism, her attempts at religious tolerance were constantly foiled, and France was riven by endemic civil wars. Although history has always laid the blame for the infamous St. Bartholomew's Day massacre by a Catholic mob of thousands of French Protestants at Catherine's door, Leonie Frieda presents a powerful case for Catherine's defense.

This courageous queen's fatal flaw was a blind devotion to her sickly and corrupt children, three of whom would become kings of France. Despite their weaknesses, Catherine's indomitable fight to protect the throne and their birthright ensured the survival of the French monarchy for a further two hundred years after her death, until it was swept away by the French Revolution.

Leonie Frieda has returned to original sources and reread the thousands of letters left by Catherine, and she has reinvested this protean figure with humanity. The first biography of Catherine in decades, it reveals her to be one of the most influential women ever to wear a crown.

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48. Truman
by David McCullough
list price: $22.00
our price: $15.40
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0671869205
Catlog: Book (1993-06-14)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Sales Rank: 1979
Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

The life of Harry S. Truman is one of the greatest of American stories, filled with vivid characters -- Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin, Eleanor Roosevelt, Bess Wallace Truman, George Marshall, Joe McCarthy, and Dean Acheson -- and dramatic events. In this riveting biography, acclaimed historian David McCullough not only captures the man -- a more complex, informed, and determined man than ever before imagined -- but also the turbulent times in which he rose, boldly, to meet unprecedented challenges. The last president to serve as a living link between the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries, Truman's story spans the raw world of the Missouri frontier, World War I, the powerful Pendergast machine of Kansas City, the legendary Whistle-Stop Campaign of 1948, and the decisions to drop the atomic bomb, confront Stalin at Potsdam, send troops to Korea, and fire General MacArthur. Drawing on newly discovered archival material and extensive interviews with Truman's own family, friends, and Washington colleagues, McCullough tells the deeply moving story of the seemingly ordinary "man from Missouri" who was perhaps the most courageous president in our 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


49. When Trumpets Call : Theodore Roosevelt After the White House
by Patricia O'Toole
list price: $30.00
our price: $19.80
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0684864770
Catlog: Book (2005-03-08)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Sales Rank: 4694
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Amazon.com

Chronicles of the post-presidential years of America's chief executives aren't generally scintillating reads. With a few exceptions--Jimmy Carter and Herbert Hoover come to mind--the period after presidents vacate the White House tends to be abbreviated, idle, and a little sad. Patricia O'Toole's absorbing account of Theodore Roosevelt's final decade carries some of this pathos, but she also vividly captures the spark and sometimes reckless vigor of the most vibrant of presidents. Possessed of an irrepressible self-confidence and insatiable appetite for power, Roosevelt made an unconvincing show of stepping out of the spotlight when he declined to seek reelection in 1909, bequeathing the presidency to loyal foot soldier William Howard Taft. Over the course of Taft's one rather lackluster term, Roosevelt embarked on an extended African safari (where the trailblazing conservationist slaughtered hundreds of animals), but upon his return he became embroiled in a battle with Taft for the heart of the Republican Party. When he lost that struggle, he turned to the budding Progressive Party. Under their banner, Roosevelt bested Taft in the 1912 election, but Woodrow Wilson, of course, beat them both. Roosevelt's bursting-at-the-seams life has been thoroughly chronicled, but O'Toole wisely focuses on a period when the never-retiring giant of American politics was wounded (both figuratively and literally--he was shot while campaigning and insisted on giving a speech before going to a hospital), but wouldn't, or couldn't, give up the fight. --Steven Stolder ... Read more

Reviews (3)

5-0 out of 5 stars An essential book for those who really want to know the man
The formerly powerful face a difficult readjustment when they leave their offices. Their individual characters dictate exactly how complicated this transition will be, and we learn a lot about such people by studying how they cope. In WHEN TRUMPETS CALL, Patricia O'Toole examines the last years of the life of Theodore Roosevelt.

Writer, explorer, naturalist, devoted family man, human dynamo, and twenty-sixth president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt was only fifty years old when he completed his two terms of office and had ten years of his life left to fill. He went out on a high note, sure that his personally chosen successor, William Howard Taft, would continue the progressive agenda Roosevelt's two Republican administrations had put in place.

Hoping to avoid the appearance of dictating policy to the new president, Roosevelt distanced himself as far from Washington as he possibly could. He spent his first year out of office on safari in Africa with his son, Kermit. One of the real pleasures of WHEN TRUMPETS CALL is that, because so much of it is drawn from the correspondence of Roosevelt's family and friends, we get vivid portraits of all his intimates, including his sons, who had real challenges in keeping up with their father.

Returning to the United States, it was apparent that Taft would not uphold Roosevelt's progressive work. Remembered as one of our most mediocre presidents, the Taft administration served the interests of big business whenever it could, foiling Roosevelt's legacy. Roosevelt claimed to act out of a sense of duty. He felt responsible that he had chosen an unworthy successor and saw no other way to rectify the situation than to regain the presidency himself. Although his sense of duty was one of the best and strongest elements of Roosevelt's character, he also found the redemption of his lost power to be irresistible.

He formed the Bull Moose Party and split the Republican vote, allowing Democrat Woodrow Wilson to win the presidency. In Roosevelt's criticism of Taft and Wilson, we see the small side of a big man. In print and public speeches, he carped about every decision they made, from Taft's lazy corporate coddling to Wilson's procrastination about entering World War I. Roosevelt's petulance lost him his audience, and by the time the United States had entered World War I, Wilson saw no reason to include Roosevelt in the war effort.

For a man who took such well-deserved pride in his usefulness, sidelining was a painful insult. Unfortunately, World War I had other blows in store for him. First, he watched his sons go off to war and participate as he could not. Then, his youngest son, Quentin, was shot out of the sky and killed. The Roosevelt philosophy of strenuous service turned back on itself, and Roosevelt never seemed to recover from his loss.

Patricia O'Toole has written a sensitive, sophisticated study of a great man at a vulnerable time. Although there are many books on Theodore Roosevelt, WHEN TRUMPETS CALL is an essential volume for those who really want to know the man.

--- Reviewed by Colleen Quinn

5-0 out of 5 stars Bully!
Woodrow Wilson once said, " A man who makes no mistakes usually makes nothing at all." Wilson in no way intended this statement to be used in praise of his fierce rival Theodore Roosevelt but I can think of no better description of the life of this Bull Moose of American politics. Roosevelt was a man of action and sometimes a loose cannon and Patricia O 'Toole has written a wonderful book which shows very clearly why this quotation so aptly fits TR.

O 'Toole's book covers the last ten years of Roosevelt's life, a time of retirement for a man who was not yet ready to retire. She follows Roosevelt on his African safari, his triumphant tour of Europe, the split with President Taft, the 1912 campaign, the Brazilian expedition, World War I and his preparations to run for President again in 1920. It is a fascinating and enjoyable journey that one undertakes in reading this book and I am glad that this author has given me the chance to follow Roosevelt's journey in print for I doubt that I could have kept up with him in real life.

The main thesis of this book is that Roosevelt had an overwhelming need for power and enjoyed conflict to the point that both of these weaknesses often clouded his judgment. The author makes her point very clearly and backs up her argument with hard evidence, giving the reader very little reason to doubt her argument. She is a little harsh on TR occasionally, especially when it comes to Roosevelt's split with Taft, but for the most part she is very fair and even handed. In the case of Roosevelt's support for the efforts of the government to suppress free speech during World War I and his backing of silly initiatives to ban all things German she is probably too soft on the old lion.

Theodore Roosevelt is one of the icons of American history and it would be difficult for any author to make any part of this man's story dull. It is quite another thing however for an author to get inside the soul of Mr. Roosevelt and I believe that O 'Toole has done just that. From TR's habit of dismissing those who disagreed with him as unmanly or cowardly to the deep grief and guilt he felt when his son Quentin was killed in the war, this book will lead the reader to the depths of Roosevelt's soul. Although it only covers Roosevelt's post White House years this is the best biography of the old Rough Rider that I have yet to come across. Far superior in it's readability and energy to the Edmund Morris books.

4-0 out of 5 stars A Political Lion in Winter
Patricia O'Toole has written a lively account of the decade left to Theodore Roosevelt once he left the White House. He was a man adrift, without a goal or purpose for the first time in his life.

Once you have achieved your career goal (for him, the Presidency at age 42), what do you do for an encore? According to Ms. O'Toole, TR tried to repeat himself with a failed, but close, run for the White House in 1912 and was comtemplating another bid in 1920 when he died in his sleep from an embolism in 1919.

The research is good, though I disagree with some of her conclusions, especially her view of TR needing power and doing anything to achieve it. Her difficulty lies in writing the concluding chapter of TR's life without having written of his first fifty years.

In some 1600 pages, Edmund Morris has written an epic biography of TR's life in a trilogy : the pre-White House period ("The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt" which won the Pulitzer Prize) and the White House years ("Theodore Rex"). The concluding volume covering the post-White House years has yet to be published. For now, Ms. O'Toole's book will have to do.As an aside, Sylvia Morris (married to Edmund Morris) has written her own biography of Roosevelt's wife, "Edith Kermit Roosevelt." ... Read more


50. American Sphinx : The Character of Thomas Jefferson
by JOSEPH J. ELLIS
list price: $29.95
our price: $19.77
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0679444904
Catlog: Book (1997-02-04)
Publisher: Knopf
Sales Rank: 7135
Average Customer Review: 3.92 out of 5 stars
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Amazon.com

Well timed to coincide with Ken Burns's documentary (on which the author served as a consultant), this new biography doesn't aim to displace the many massive tomes about America's third president that already weigh down bookshelves. Instead, as suggested by the subtitle--"The Character of Thomas Jefferson"--Ellis searches for the "living, breathing person" underneath the icon and tries to elucidate his actual beliefs. Jefferson's most ardent admirers may find this perspective too critical, but Ellis's portrait of a complex, sometimes devious man who both sought and abhorred power has the ring of truth. ... 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.

5-0 out of 5 stars Compelling Study of a Founding Father
Of all the historical characters I have ever read about, Thomas Jefferson by far is the most complex. His entire life seems to be a contradiction. The writer of the Declaration of Independence, yet he owned slaves all his life, refusing to free them even in his will. Opposed to any kind of centralized federal government, yet under his presidential administration, the US doubled in size with the Federal government purchase of the Louisiana territory. Author Ellis does a superb job of noting these contradictions and many other weaknesses displayed by Jefferson throughout his career. A Francophile, Jefferson was totally unable to predict the violence of the French Revolution, even though he was living in Paris during the time. During the American Revolution, Jefferson wrote the Declaration and then disappeared to Monticello, then leaving men like Adams and Washington to put his ideas into action. This particularly charactertizes the actions of Jefferson- his thoughts were so idealistic as to be incompatible with reality. This is opposed to Adams, a thoroughly pragmatic man. Time and again, author Ellis contrast Jefferson to Adams and in the majority of the instances, Jefferson loses. Yet, the American public is still drawn to Jefferson while Adams does not seem to generate that kind of esteem. Why? Jefferson was an idealist, who talked about the moral goodness of man and thought the human race able to function with very little in the ways of laws, government oversite, etc. These ideas were portayed by Jefferson in his writings which fed the higher nature in all of us. Men like Adams were much more pragmatic- ideas are fine, but what can we make that will actually work in the real world?

This book does a wonderful job of trying to define the character of Jefferson and the title American Sphinx is more accurate. I don't believe we can truly know Jefferson and perhaps that's what makes him one of the most interesting of the Founding Fathers.

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.

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.

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. ... Read more


51. Galileo's Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love
by Dava Sobel
list price: $15.00
our price: $10.20
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0140280553
Catlog: Book (2000-11-01)
Publisher: Penguin Books
Sales Rank: 6525
Average Customer Review: 4.13 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Galileo Galilei's telescopes allowed him to discover a new reality in the heavens. But for publicly declaring his astounding argument--that the earth revolves around the sun--he was accused of heresy and put under house arrest by the Holy Office of the Inquisition. Living a far different life, Galileo's daughter Virginia, a cloistered nun, proved to be her father's greatest source of strength through the difficult years of his trial and persecution.

Drawing upon the remarkable surviving letters that Virginia wrote to her father, Dava Sobel has written a fascinating history of Medici--era Italy, a mesmerizing account of Galileo's scientific discoveries and his trial by Church authorities, and a touching portrayal of a father--daughter relationship. Galileo's Daughter is a profoundly moving portrait of the man who forever changed the way we see the universe.

• Winner of the Christopher Award and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award

• Named a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, Esquire, and the American Library Association
... Read more

Reviews (195)

5-0 out of 5 stars Galileo's World Under A Microscope
Galileo's Daughter is a rare gift. This marvelous duo biography of Galileo Galilei and his daughter Virginia evokes a sense of time and place, character and action and of cosmic importance that are usually the province of great works of fiction.

Author Dava Sobel's meticulous scholarship and keen insights provide us a literary microscope with which we can examine Galileo's seventeenth-century world as the great astronomer explored the heavens with his telescope.

Galileo's numerous scientific discoveries and his condemnation by the Church for heretically teaching the earth moved around the sun are familiar to most school children. Galileo's Daughter does much more than chronicle these familiar events.

Sobel transports us to the Florence of Grand Duke Ferninando de Medici, the Rome of Pope Urban VIII, the Covent of San Matteo where Virginia Galilei became Suor Maria Celeste and breathes life into Galileo's Italy during the era of The Thirty Years War. Superstition and science, loyalty and treachery, generosity and selfishness, the ridiculous and the sublime each combine in a rich Italinate tapestry of seventeenth-century life.

I recommend this wonderful book to men and women of all ages. It will satisfy even those with little interest in history, science or biography. If you are looking for a good story, well told, that illuminates the human condition, this book is for you.

3-0 out of 5 stars Bringing a historical figure down to a more personal level
Galileo's correspondence with his favorite daughter (only her letters to him are present; his letters to her were lost or destroyed) gives us a new perspective on a well-known historical figure and events.

Sobel weaves fascinating historical background on everything from the plague to international politics around the tender letters from Galileo's daughter, Maria Celeste. Despite the fact that she's a cloistered nun, we learn quite a bit about the world at large.

It's interesting to watch Galileo, a devout Catholic, grapple with his faith and with church authorities who believe science and religion are mutually exclusive. We get to see the personal side of Galileo's famous trial.

The book also presents a suprising portrait of a strong, intelligent woman in a place where you might not expect to find her - a seventeenth-century convent.

If you're not a science or history buff the book can get a bit dry in places, but Galileo's discoveries and persecution generally make for enough plot to draw you along over the rough spots.

4-0 out of 5 stars Refreshing Perspective
From the title of this book, I naturally expected it to be a biography of Galileo's daughter, which it is not exactly. I was a bit disappointed to begin with, as the first hundred pages or so are Galileo's early biography. Once his daughter, Virginia (later Suor Marie Celeste) came into the picture, the story became much more interesting.

Virginia was one of Galileo's three illegitimate children by the mistress of his early years, Marina Gamba. She eventually married, with Galileo's blessings, and he never lost interest in his children. Due to their illegitimacy which he felt would eliminate any chance of a decent marriage, Galileo had his two daughters entered into a convent at a very early age. The both became nuns at the convent of San Matteo on turning sixteen, Virginia taking the name Suor Marie Celeste and Livia that of Suor Arcangela. The son, Vincenzio, lived with Galileo in his late teens and eventually (after an unpromising start) became a good son to him.

This book recounts Galileo's personal and private life, using letters from Marie Celeste to give color to what would otherwise be a black and white, straight forward biography. Their shared love is beautiful to see in her letters--his to her having been lost--and the bits and pieces of every day life that she treats the reader to are thoroughly enjoyable.

This is a very detailed and readable history of Galileo, and gave me a much greater understanding of the man, his work and his difficulty with the Church. The conflict he felt between himself and his discoveries comes through very clearly and poignantly in his own words through his other letters. Her faith in him, and in the fact that he was not being heretical, is very apparent. It was interesting to me to see how differently Sobel portrays Galileo's fight was the Church--if her sources are to be believed (and I see no reason to disbelieve) it was not at all what history textbooks would have us believe.

As a history major and fanatic, I truly enjoyed reading this book. The alternate perspective of Galileo was refreshing and real--and made sense of a lot that had previously seemed murky to me about him and the Church. The addition of Marie Celeste's letters gave this book personality and took Galileo from a science god to a human being. My only regret is how few letters are in this book, and that the title is a bit misleading. Despite that, if you have any interest in Galileo, this is a must-read!

5-0 out of 5 stars "The father...of modern science" had a loving daughter!!
=====>

This six part, 33 chapter book, by Dava Sobel, has two themes running through it:

Theme #1: Decribes thoroughly the life and times of Galileo Galilei (1564 to 1642).
Theme #2: Describes the life of Galileo's daughter (1600 to 1634) through some of the actual letters she wrote to her father.

This is first and foremost a solid, easy to read biography of Galileo. His life is traced from him first entering a monastery before deciding to lead a life of scientific inquiry and discovery. Actual letters or parts of letters (translated from the original Latin, French, or Italian by various experts) by Galileo and others are included in the main narrative. Throughout, we are told of his numerous inventions and discoveries. Perhaps the most sensational is that his telescopes allowed him to reveal a new reality in the heavens and to reinforce the Copernican argument that the Earth moves around the Sun. For this belief, he was brought before the Holy Inquisition, accused of heresy, and forced eventually to spend his last years under house arrest. All the translated papers pertaining to these inquisition days are included and make for fascinating reading.

My favorite Inquisition story is with respect to the June 1633 renunciation or "confession" document (reproduced in this book) Galileo was to speak out aloud. The main point of this document is that the Earth does not move around the Sun and that the Earth does not move at all. After reading it aloud, it is said that he muttered under his breath "Eppur si muove" (translation: "But it does move.")

One of Galileo's daughters born "Virginia" and later appropriately named "Sister Maria Celeste," had the intelligence and sensibility of her father. As indicated by her letters, her loving support, which Galileo repaid in kind, proved to be her father's greatest source of strength through his most productive but tumultuous years. Sobel herself translated these letters from the original Italian. They are expertly woven into the main narrative adding an emotional element to this biography.

This book contains almost twenty-five complete letters and numerous large and small fragments from other letters by Sister Celeste. All letters she wrote begin with a statement showing love and respect for her father. Example: "Most Illustrious Lord Father." The first complete letter is dated May 10, 1623 and the last complete letter is dated December 10, 1633. Those letters Galileo wrote to his daughter have not survived.

Almost 75 illustrations are found throughout this book. They add (besides the actual letters of Galileo's daughter) yet another dimension to the narrative. Two of my favorite pictures are entitled "Moon drawings by Galileo in 1609" and "Sunspot drawings by Galileo."

Another intriguing aspect of this book is a chronology after the main narrative ends entitled "In Galileo's Time." This is not just a timeline of important events that occurred during Galileo's life but includes all significant events (especially scientific ones) between 1543 to 1999 inclusive. For example, what happened in 1687? According to this chronology, "Newton's laws of motion and universal gravitation are published in his [book] 'Principia.'" What happened in 1989? Answer: "[NASA] launches [the] 'Galileo' spacecraft [or space probe] to study the moons of Jupiter at close range."

Where did the author obtain all the fascinating information needed to write such an intriguing book? Answer: from the over 130 references found in the bibliography.

I noticed in the book's "Appreciation" section that the author gives thanks to many people. (Dr.) Frank Drake, who helped with the celestrial mechanics found in this book, caught my eye. She co-authored with him the excellent book "Is Anyone Out There?: The Scientific Search for Extraterrestral Intelligence" (paperback, 1994).

Finally, my only minor complaint is with the book's title. As mentioned above, there are two interconnected themes running through this book. Thus, I think a more appropriate title might have been "Galileo and his Daughter."

In conclusion, this book is a thorough biography of Galileo that includes some translated letters from one of his daugters. It is truly, as the book's subtitle states, "A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love!!!"

<=====>

4-0 out of 5 stars A original perspective.
Dava Sobel made an excellent job in this book. Family is an aspect of Galileo's life never exploded before (at least not that I know) and totally gives you a different perspective of this controversial and heavily influential individual. Galileo's life, as exposed in Sobel's book, is a very human and touching one. Seeing Galileo from the eyes of his tenderly loving bastard daughter (a nun), evokes such intense conflicting emotions as one might expect only to surge by empathy, a characteristic only obtained when the author makes you compenetrate inside the personage life. A great book, highly recommended for curious people. ... Read more


52. Rocket Boys
by Homer Hickam
list price: $14.00
our price: $10.50
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0385333218
Catlog: Book (2000-01-11)
Publisher: Delta
Sales Rank: 6441
Average Customer Review: 4.79 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

The #1 New York Times bestselling memoir that inspired the film October Sky, Rocket Boys is a uniquely American memoir--a powerful, luminous story of coming of age at the dawn of the 1960s, of a mother's love and a father's fears, of a group of young men who dreamed of launching rockets into outer space . . . and who made those dreams come true.

With the grace of a natural storyteller, NASA engineer Homer Hickam paints a warm, vivid portrait of the harsh West Virginia mining town of his youth, evoking a time of innocence and promise, when anything was possible, even in a company town that swallowed its men alive. A story of romance and loss, of growing up and getting out, Homer Hickam's lush, lyrical memoir is a chronicle of triumph--at once exquisitely written and marvelously entertaining.

Now with 8 pages of photographs.

... Read more

Reviews (442)

5-0 out of 5 stars A Moving Memoir
Homer Hickam's Rocket Boys was one of those books that I couldn't put down, and I thought about for a long time after I finished it. There is humor mixed in with the story of one boy's determination to succeed in achieving his goals. I would recommend this book to people who are looking for an inspiring story. It is about growing up in a rural mining town in West Virginia struggling to accomplish goals in space when the main concern of the town is what is below the ground, not what is above it. I thought that this was an excellent book and would recommend it to teenagers as well as adults. It's considered an adult book, but it is an easy book to read and teenagers can relate to the main character. This is one of my favorite books.

Through reading this book, I have learned that hard work and determination will allow a person to reach his or her goals in life. In this book, Homer Hickam had many obstacles to overcome in order to reach his goal of becoming a rocket scientist. This book has taught me that if I have a dream, I must try to reach it. No matter how many and how hard the obstacles are that come in the way of dreams, a person must keep trying. I would also recommend seeing the movie that was based on this book, October Sky. October Sky is an accurate presentation of the story. If you have already seen the movie, you are sure to enjoy this book.

5-0 out of 5 stars October Sky: A Memoir
Rocket Boys

This is a book which was inspired by a boy's desire to please his father. Homer Hickman Junior, referred to as Sonny, grew up in Coalwood, a mining town in West Virginia. Sonny's mother knew he was special; she encouraged him regardless of the upsets, the destruction, or his fathers reluctance from him to go on. Spanning his years in high school, this memoir evokes encouragement, disappointment, and sheer ecstasy. To see the blossoming of a "geeky" child into a man revered in Coalwood and all through out society should be an inspiration to us all. All of his efforts were concentrated on a single person, his father, to gain his full support. Rocket Boys is a book which is impossible to put down, looming in the back of your head until you finish. A magnificent read. Attending high school and being in those formative years gave me a chance to reflect on what the message might be. Every nook and cranny of the book is something a person can relate to, a well thought out memoir

5-0 out of 5 stars Loved this book!!
I'm not sure which was more interesting--the story of the rocket building or the story of growing up in a small West Virginia coal mining town. I was captivated by both.
To those that say this book doesn't appeal to women--nonsense! I'm a woman and am recommending it to my daughter and all my friends.
And finally, to the reviewer that said the movie is better--I loved the movie, but guess what, the book was even better.

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent - a quick read
This book really drew me in - although it is nearly 400 pages long, I finished it within two days! Highly recommended - especially if you have an interest in space/rocketry. However, it is hard to imagine many people who wouldn't enjoy this book. Better than the movie. I'm also amazed that a "rocket scientist" can write so well.

5-0 out of 5 stars Rocket Boys
One day my class teacher told us we would all be picking a book, reading it, and writing a critique for it. Then she told us we would be placing it on the internet. I wasn't too thrilled about any of this. This book turned out to be a lot better than I thought it would be. Rocket Boys, by Homer H. Hickam was written beautifly, tellling the story of a few young boys trying to reach a common goal. Homer "Sonny" Hickam Jr. starts out as a freshman in highschool trying to find a way with the ladies, especially Dorthy, and battling the jocks, one being his brother, for popularity. Sonny takes a sudden intrust in Sputnik. This is what gets him started on his incredibly passoinate love for rockets. His father is a miner and is always gone, as where his mother is incredibly supporting to whatever he does as long as he "doesn't blow himself up." Miss Rilly was another very supporting person in Sonny's life. She is the one that provides the "fuel" for Sonny's dream when she gives him a book on rocketry and encourages him to enter the science fair. I loved how the story is so vivid and colorful, how you can see the excitement, anger, fear, and love that the character expresses. This story also shows you that you have to keep trying to get what you want, and that not everything comes easily, but if you work hard for it, it can be very rewarding. Sonny learns this when he decides to enter the county science fair. It ends up being incredibly rewarding, and surprising to him. He ends up in the national science fair and returns home with a medal. Sonny eventually ends up working for NASA and accomplishing his dream. I loved this book because it was what really happened to him and it shows. He made a lot of really great frinds along the way, whether in the mine workshop or just some "different" people at school. I give this book five stars and would read it again anyday! ... Read more


53. Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World
by Jack Weatherford
list price: $25.00
our price: $16.50
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0609610627
Catlog: Book (2004-03-16)
Publisher: Crown
Sales Rank: 1255
Average Customer Review: 5 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (9)

5-0 out of 5 stars Enlightening to the Amateur Historian
Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World was exciting and enlightening read. Jack Weatherford's style of writing is easy and flowing making what could be a dry historical work into a tale that explain or debunks many of the myths surrounding the Mongol empire.

Whet your appitite:
-The Mongols had an aversion to physical contact with their dying enemies.
-Both the Russians and Nazis used Mongol military tactics on the Russian front in WWII.
-The Mongols connected the known world inadvertently spreading the bubonic plague.

A few things to note:
-Genghis Khan dies half way through the book. The remainder of the book discusses the man as defined by his legacy which is the influences he had on the future of government, religious tolerance, military tactics, commerce, science and exploration.
-Khubilai Khan rightly takes up a fair number of pages. It is interesting how Khubilai Khan succeeded in conquering the Sung using politics where Genghis Khan had failed with military force.
-I would have like to have seen a family tree starting with Temujin's (Genghis Khan as a boy) parents. The lineage is well covered in the book and I was easily able to draw out the tree myself.

This was a very enjoyable and easy to read book that took many of the myths about the Mongols and either laid them to rest or explained them from the Mongol perspective. It turns out the 'Mongol horde' was actually a well organized society driven with the purpose of increasing trade in manufactured goods.

5-0 out of 5 stars REVISIONIST HISTORY AT IT'S BEST
I liked this work. Like most, I must admit to have had a very narrow view of the Khans and the contribution the Mongol people.
This book has certainly given me food for thought and has sparked an interest in a new subject (for me) which I will follow up on....always a nice thing, I think! The author's style is easy, his line of thought is logical. I would very much recommend this read for any history buff, and indeed recommend adding it to their library. Prof. Weatherford..if you read this, a suggestion - I think a nice book addressing and telling the tale of your research and the writing this book would be wonderul! So often the story of the making of a work is as interesting as the work itself. Just a thought. Anyway, a good work, read it, you won't be sorry.

5-0 out of 5 stars It All Started With the Mongols
This is a dual biography, of Genghis Khan the man and of the empire he created. Born Temujin in an obscure branch of an obscure group of nomads in Central Asia, Genghis Khan first gained supreme power over the Mongols, whom he unified and turned into a superb fighting machine, then proceeded to conquer much of Eurasia. Weatherford occasionally has to refute some romantic legends that have grown up around Genghis Khan and his family, but the truth is dynamic enough.

Of especial interest is Weatherford's coverage of the after effects of Genghis Khan's empire. The Mongol Empire lasted for only about a century, but its influence lingers on. Cross regional trade tied Europe, Asia, and the Middle East motightly together than ever before. An efficient communications system enabled information to spread at an unprecedented pace. So much of what we regard as essential accoutrements of our modern world can be traced back to the Mongols.

Yes, the stories of Mongol cruelty and ruthlessness are accurate and Weatherford fully covers them, but this book makes clear that without the Mongol influence, our world today might be much poorer.

5-0 out of 5 stars Fascinating
For too long, the writing of Big History was discredited. Critics seized on the occasional errors or incompleteness in sweeping works like Toynbee's Study of History to attack their broad theses. Weatherford's book about Genghis Khan is a welcome reversal of that trend. His big picture approach synthesizes knowledge from many sources to show the astonishingly original contributions of the early Mongol empire - religious freedom, universal laws, public schools that included students from outside traditional elites, relatively free trade, paper money, even an efficient postal system. These innovations did not survive Genghis Khan's later successors. But eyes had been opened, and the ideas introduced by the Mongols returned to play a major role in subsequent civilizations, particularly in Europe.

Yes, the Mongols were ruthless conquerors. But Weatherford shows that many reports of slaughtered populations were wildly exaggerated. The vast Mongol empire, while hardly a paradise of democratic government and civil rights, imposed a kind of peace for a century. The Romans were sometimes brutal too, but the Pax Romanica imposed a similar peace on much of the Mediterranean world, enabling the growth of ideas and practices that influence us today.

Understandably, Weatherford does not go into as much detail as more narrowly focused histories. Yet there is enough to make his writing interesting as well as easy to understand. This is one of the most readable of all Big Histories. The few maps help to establish a geographical framework, though the pen and ink drawings really don't add to our knowledge.

5-0 out of 5 stars Wow What a Great Book!
I recently made a discovery while browsing through the new releases at the bookstore. With no intentions of buying the book I read the first few pages. Once I had read the introduction taken from a 1989 story in the Washington Post I was hooked. The author Jack Weatherford is a professor of anthropology in Minnesota and has done a terrific job of creating an interesting read. Once you start the read it is hard to stop. As part of his research he spent time in Khan's former homeland of Mongolia doing in depth studies, interviews, research, and even camping on the steppes. He has included many references, notes, and comments at the end of this 300 page book including a glossary of Mongol terms.

When one thinks of great historical figures, the Mongols and Genghis Khan are not the first names that pop into your mind. But here is a boy, raised in dire poverty and living right on the edge of survival in central Asia approximately 800 years ago, that somehow survives, and then who rose from insignificance to become a leader of the region. He started a family that conquered most of Asia from Hungary to Korea, from India and China to Russia and south to Israel - and all areas between, and left huge foot prints that lasted hundreds of years in an area of the globe where most people (60%) of the earth lived. He did this with a small group of peoples - the Mongols - and they became the masters of all they could find. It is sort of similar to someone conquering Asia and Europe with the Swiss army, and then changing the histories of these vast regions forever. He amalgamated Russia and China from a series of provinces, created Korea, among other things, and left in place an organization that lasted over 200 years.

Khan and his sons succeeded through a combination of mobile forces, quick action, and later propaganda. Many peoples when hearing that they were coming simply surrendered. The Mongols were known as a small tribe of scavengers on the northern Asian steppes near the Siberia forests, and are descendents of the Huns that had attacked Rome. "Hunting, trading, herding, and fighting formed a seamless web of subsistence". The author tries to paint a very detailed picture in the format of a semi-biographical novel all in chronological order that must contain a certain amount of fiction to fill in all the biographical details (see Secret History reference in the book). But it all seems realistic and is compelling reading.

The book tells the story of the rise to power, seemingly year by year, battle by battle. At age 48 he controls Mongolia, but then with a change of power in Beijing, they (the Jurched) demand that he show submission to their power. That was not in his nature. Instead, he gathered his forces, crossed the vast Gobi region and invaded in groups of 10,000 men (like mobile divisions). The men took no "honor in fighting; they found honor in winning". Starting in 1211 it took him three years to reach the walls of Zhongdu (Beijing). Once that region was conquered he returned to Mongolia very wealthy and was content to stay there. But as his trade and other activities increased, the reach of the Mongols expanded and encountered hostile neighbors. When he sent friendly commercial travelers westward loaded with commercial goods, they were met with death by their unsuspecting neighbors - the Khwarizm campaign (Kazakhstan). The neighbors did not appreciate the retribution that would be unleashed by their actions. Incensed by their deeds, Khan invaded killing their soldiers and aristocrats, and then running the societies according to his own laws.

Next he tried to pass his holdings onto his sons. But when they were divided and quarreling, so he sent them out to conquer new areas covering much of Asia and Europe. The story continues on into the middle of the 14th century and the great plague when the role of the Mongols diminished.

We can all learn a lot by reading this book including part of Khan's philosophy, i.e. you can conquer an army by force but one can only win a nation by winning the hearts and minds of the people - to paraphrase. It still seems to be applicable.

Excellent book. Five stars.

Jack in Toronto ... Read more


54. The Beatles Anthology
by Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, John Lennon
list price: $60.00
our price: $37.80
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0811826848
Catlog: Book (2000-10-05)
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Sales Rank: 10012
Average Customer Review: 4.77 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Created with their full cooperation, The Beatles Anthology is, in effect, The Beatles' autobiography. Like their music, which has been a part of so many of our lives, this landmark release is warm, frank, funny, poignant and bold. At last, here is The Beatles' own story. Each page is brimming with personal stories and rare, vintage images. Includes over 340,000 words and over 1300 images, including unseen photographs and personal memorabilia. ... Read more

Reviews (203)

5-0 out of 5 stars Fabulous!
I was going to give this book 4 stars, until half-way through I was struck by the pure genius of it all. Why? It's like a cover song - when someone else plays a Beatles song, does it ever really sound as good as the original? Rarely. "Anthology" is a huge tome of a book comprised entirely of interviews and snippets from the Fab Four themselves, with a very few extras from their manager, studio producer, etc. It seems like a coffee table book, but it certainly isn't - over 350 large pages of fine print.

The reason why this book ALMOST got 4 stars is because of the inherent nature of a book made entirely of quotes - natural conversation doesn't translate well onto the printed page, especially when so many people are quoted from different periods in their lives. The book never says "In 1964, the Beatles recorded Rubber Soul" or anything like that. Instead, the quotes gradually roll around to telling you, until you realize "Oh, we're in the studio again". Often this book is disjointed and hard to follow, especially if you don't anything about the Beatles.

However, few people know nothing about the Beatles! After the first 30 pages, you get used to the style of presentation, and later on you realize the beauty of it all - these boys are down-right inspiring. Worked in with all the tours and stories and pranks and bad rumors and other nonsense are wonderful descriptions of their music and how it was written, what its inspiration was, and the trials that were faced to create it. The Beatles didn't idolize themselves, not like their fans do, so the words just flow out effortlessly and pure, just like their music did. This was their lives, no big deal, this is what they did. The creativity is catchy.

If you are a die-hard Beatles historian, I'm positive that nothing new is said in this book. There is no "myth-making" in these pages - their fights and disagreements are very bluntly presented - but you can see a "No Big Deal" kind of attitude formed. It's is only natural, the survivors are turning 60, after all. Like the video series and the CDs, this version of Anthology is a warm revisit of a wonderful little rock'n'roll band. Check it out.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Definitive Chronicle At Last
Hundreds of books have been written about The Beatles, but it is
crushingly obvious when reading this Anthology volume that by far the
best one would naturally come from the bandmembers themselves. [The
price] seems like an incredible bargain considering the size and
quality of this work, which covers the years 1940 (the birth of Ringo
and John) to the breakup in 1970. At 368 coffee-table sized pages
it's already huge, but the small print makes it almost double that
size.

The book would be worth it just for the photos alone, which
are beautifully reprinted--many from the early years are actually in
color--chronicling dozens of previously unpublished, intimate moments
taken straight from the group's personal archives. But what really
makes this one essential is the text itself, which is taken from
interviews conducted with Paul, George and Ringo in the 90s and an
exhaustive compilation of Lennon quotes from all points in his life (I
recognized many, but there were also some I've never seen before).
Even after the dozens upon dozens of biographies which have recounted
the group's earth-shattering tale ad nauseum, you feel like you're
reading it for the first time. All four bandmembers speak with a
thousand times more wit, frankness and detail than all of their
previous biographers combined; in fact, they manage to offer up
juicier tales, and more interesting spins on already known events,
than anything you've read before even in the most gossipy bios--and
you get it this time knowing that it's honest (you know it's honest
when you hear conflicting memories about certain events!).

"Anthology" is especially revealing when it comes to the
childhoods and Hamburg era: you get to hear about the first time
George got laid (right in front of the other three bandmembers!), or
when Ringo was a member of the Dingle gang, or what they did at
teenage parties. The detail is so thorough and vividly recalled for
the early years (and butressed by the photos) that you feel like
you're living it as it actually happened. No stone is left unturned
about the famous years, either: George and Ringo philosophize about
their first LSD trips and the meaning of "Tomorrow Never
Knows", the Maharishi controversy is finally put to rest (hint:
he never made a pass at anybody), and new insight is shed on the
evolution of the friendships between John and the other three. More
is made about the breakup than was on the "Anthology"
videos, including Yoko's presence and the business hassles, as well as
the making of "Abbey Road". Finally, all of this is told
with such an elegant sense of Beatle humor that even the heaviest
moments are a joy to read. Also included are excerpts from Stu
Sutcliffe and Brian Epstein's personal diaries. With this volume now
finally released, the only other essential Beatle books to get are
Lewishon's "Beatles Chronicle" and Miles' "The Beatles:
A Diary", both of which give exact reference dates and
descriptions for every live show, radio, recording and filming session
(as well as more great photos).

5-0 out of 5 stars Magical mystery tour through the Beatles' career
This book purports to tell the Beatles's story in their own words (though augmented by memories from people close to them like Brian Epstein, producer George Martin, roadies Neil Aspinall and Mal Evans, and publicist Derek Taylor), and does the job quite well.

I would estimate that at least 80% of the information contained in this book is already old hat for die-hard Beatlemaniacs who have memorized Mark Lewisohn's "Complete Beatles Chronicle" and read every Beatle book out there. But it's not so much the substance of the information as the way in which it is told--it's great to be able read about these events from the Beatles' point of view, even as seen through the prism of the thirty to forty years that have passed. And I am grateful that George was able to participate in the whole Anthology project before his untimely death in 2001.

The modern-day comments from Paul, George, and Ringo were apparently taken from the interviews from the Beatles Anthology circa 94-95 (if you watch the entire video/DVD and compare it to the text in the book it's pretty obvious). Hard-core fans will be able to recognize where many of the other quotes came from, although they aren't sourced, unfortunately--after each such quote there's merely a superscript such as "64" or "70" showing the year it was said, with no reference to the publication or interview it was taken from. That said, the editors had an incredible job piecing this thing together; they could almost be listed as co-writers!

There's a great deal of eye-candy (photographs, memos, handwritten notes, drawings, etc.), which are fascinating to look at. Sometimes, though, the arrangement of text, typeface, and photographs on the page seems rather random and thrown together, and even can make it difficult to read (for example, page 177, which tells about George and John's first LSD trip is printed on a background of garish red with magenta and orange text that all but obliterates the actual text). But it's never dull.

Despite the fact that it may be a bit of a chore to read, since it's large and heavy (even in paperback), it is a joy to read and I heartily recommend it to all Beatle fans.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Ultimate Beatles!
This book transcends its overt purpose of being an anthology of the Beatles.

Anyone who loves the music the Beatles gave us will find much rewarding material here. Those who want to know about how success can be accomplished in popular music will be riveted. Those who like to look back on popular culture in times past will have a happy trip. If you just love exciting photography, there is much to attract you to this volume. I found myself singing the Beatles' songs to myself as I read the text and looked at the illustrations. That was the best part!

To me, the most thought-provoking part of this book was its rags-to-genius quality. The Beatles were unlikely candidates to become leading musical innovators. Most of them were so poor that their families lacked indoor bathrooms when they were growing up. None of them could read music. The combined number of music lessons they had was less than ten in total. They could not afford musical instruments. Their families could not afford to subsidize their careers. Yet they were observant about the new, in contact with what moved their hearts, listened intently for better music, and worked with a never-ending frenzy to fulfill their passion for the music. It's vastly more heartwarming and fascinating than any rags-to-riches story ever can be.

I had never understood John Lennon's complaints about the "packaged, predictable" Beatles until I read in this book about the type of band they were while evolving their style. Particularly in the Hamburg gigs, they were more like a jazz combo that played rock and roll. The music was free form, and they stretched some songs into being as long as an hour and a half.

In fact, their commercial success was a tremendous tragedy for their artistic success because they were probably at the edge of developing a whole new musical genre that would have become the dominant one today. I'm sorry it never happened. I feel even more sorry for them, in realizing that they knew what they lost and must feel it very deeply.

I was also moved by the story of their tempestuous friendship. These guys went through tremendous stresses, strains, and deprivations together. They fought, they disagreed, they slugged each other, and they appreciated each other. Yet, there was a strong enough pull towards each other that allowed the group to continue through its amazing journey, despite the difficulties. To have had such friendships, even if they are eventually lost, must be an amazing experience. Few will know this closeness in their lives.

I came away from this book with a new appreciation for the Beatles. Before this book, the Beatles were all about (for me) how they sounded and looked, and how I reacted to that. Now, I see them as being role models for important aspects of human experience that we should all appreciate.

Before closing, I do have two words of caution. This book is very open about the major and minor vices of life. As such, this book could make the wrong impression on adolescents. They don't need too many new ideas about how to rebel, and this book could be read that way. That's not what the Beatles were doing, but a 13 year old could see it that way.

Second, as revealing as the book is, more is ultimately still hidden below the surface than is revealed. These young men knew a lot of pain, and that pain was an important source of their brilliance. Don't be offended that they did not share more. It was probably very painful to share as much as they did.

I would like to give the editors major credit for developing a successful dialogue style in the book that included quotes from John Lennon. It must have been the dickens to read through all of his many quotes, and to weave them into material comparable to what can be developed in a simple interview where the others could be aware of what each other said.

"Take a sad song, and make it better."

4-0 out of 5 stars Excellent production.
I thought the book was excellently produced, but would have liked more input from non-Beatles and from sacked drummers (nudge nudge wink wink). For instance, Lennon and McCartney recount the time they finished up "I Wanna Be Your Man" for the Rolling Stones; I'd like to have had a word from Mick Jagger and Keith Richards about that experience as well.

To the reviewer who complained that they were still slamming Pete Best's drumming ability and mental acuity, or lack thereof, forty years on--that's not strictly true. Pretty much all the statements in the book on that subject are at least 35 years old. But I'd still like to have seen some more input from Pete, as well as a page or two regarding his post
Beatles musical career. He did actually have one, and did fairly well for a couple of years. But, as this book presents him, he was basically a non-entity, just the last in a long line of drummers who occupied the Beatles' drum stool before Ringo came along.

There have been some conflicting reports on the musical skills of the various members of the band, ca. 1962. McCartney's own brother said of the group at that time, none of them was a rocket scientist, musically speaking, and it could have been any one of them fate could have chosen to go. Granted that statement was a bit disingenuous in retrospect, but wrt Pete Best it seems as if there was always an official policy in the Beatles' organization to purge his memory. For instance, when the BBC tapes were put on CD, the first two shows, with Pete Best, were omitted due to problems with the 'sound quality'. I've heard some of those performances, and the sound was fine. The drumming wasn't fantastic, but seemed more than adequate in the context. ... Read more


55. Hot Lights, Cold Steel : Life, Death and Sleepless Nights in a Surgeon's First Years
by Michael J. Collins
list price: $24.95
our price: $16.47
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0312337787
Catlog: Book (2005-02-01)
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Sales Rank: 354129
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Book Description

When Michael Collins decides to become a surgeon, he is totally unprepared for the chaotic life of a resident at a major hospital.A natural overachiever, Collins' success, in college and medical school led to a surgical residency at one of the most respected medical centers in the world, the famed Mayo Clinic.But compared to his fellow residents Collins feels inadequate and unprepared.All too soon, the euphoria of beginning his career as an orthopedic resident gives way to the feeling he is a counterfeit, an imposter who has infiltrated a society of brilliant surgeons.

This story of Collins' four-year surgical residency traces his rise from an eager but clueless first-year resident to accomplished Chief Resident in his final year.With unparalleled humor, he recounts the disparity between people's perceptions of a doctor's glamorous life and the real thing: a succession of run down cars that are towed to the junk yard, long weekends moonlighting at rural hospitals, a family that grows larger every year, and a laughable income.

Collins' good nature helps him over some of the rough spots but cannot spare him the harsh reality of a doctor's life. Every day he is confronted with decisions that will change people's lives-or end them-forever.A young boy's leg is mangled by a tractor: risk the boy's life to save his leg, or amputate immediately?A woman diagnosed with bone cancer injures her hip: go through a painful hip operation even though she has only months to live?Like a jolt to the system, he is faced with the reality of suffering and death as he struggles to reconcile his idealism and aspiration to heal with the recognition of his own limitations and imperfections.

Unflinching and deeply engaging, Hot Lights, Cold Steel is a humane and passionate reminder that doctors are people too.This is a gripping memoir, at times devastating, others triumphant, but always compulsively readable.
... Read more

56. The Pirates Laffite : The Treacherous World of the Corsairs of the Gulf
by William C. Davis
list price: $28.00
our price: $18.48
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Asin: 015100403X
Catlog: Book (2005-05-02)
Publisher: Harcourt
Sales Rank: 10567
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Jean and Pierre Laffite's lives were intertwined with the most colorful period in New Orleans' history, the era from just after the Louisiana Purchase through the War of 1812. Labeled as corsairs and buccaneers for methods that bordered on piracy, the brothers ran a privateering cooperative that provided contraband goods to a hungry market and made life hell for Spanish merchants on the Gulf. Later they became important members of a syndicate in New Orleans that included lawyers, bankers, merchants, and corrupt U.S. officials. But this allegiance didn't stop them from becoming paid Spanish spies, handing over information about the syndicate's plans and selling out their own associates.

In 1820 the Laffites disappeared into the fog of history from which they had emerged, but not before becoming folk heroes in French Louisiana and making their names synonymous with piracy and intrigue on the Gulf.
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Reviews (1)

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent double biography, full of adventure and intrigue!
In "The Pirates Laffite, the Treacherous World of the Corsairs of the Gulf," author William C. Davis presents an in-depth, thoroughly researched examination of the Laffite brothers' colorful lives, including new information about them discovered in archives of the United States and France. Davis separates the truth from romantic legend to reveal the Laffites as complex men adept at turning opportunities toward their advantage while skirting the edges of the law in the polyglot world of early 1800s New Orleans and the Gulf.
Written in an entertaining, chronological narrative style, this double biography is the most completely documented work ever written about Jean and Pierre Laffite. Most people are familiar with the legend of Jean Laffite and Galveston, or Jean Laffite and the Battle of New Orleans, but Jean's elder half-brother, Pierre, has received scant attention from previous historians and other writers. In "The Pirates Laffite," Davis aptly relates how Pierre was the mastermind of the Laffite brothers' operations, and that the brothers worked closely together for most of their lives, including the Galveston period.
Their true story, based on archival documents, letters and contemporary newspapers, paints a compelling portrait of enigmatic men on the edge of the new frontier of the Louisiana Purchase, seeking to make their mark on the world.
This book also sensitively tells the fascinating story of the Laffite's free black mistresses and children, carefully recorded from information in baptismal records, notarial archives, and other surviving documents. The women were involved in the then prevalent system of placage with the Laffites as their protectors.
"The Pirates Laffite" engages the reader magnificently, and even the sometimes lengthy footnotes are absorbing to read. A large book at 720 pages (with footnotes and index), it is a brilliant work about the Laffites' lives by a highly skilled historian. Davis, Director of Programs for the Civil War Center at Virginia Tech, is most well known for his numerous books about the Civil War. This finely polished double biography shows he is equally at home with the early national period of the southern United States and its people.
... Read more


57. When Character Was King: A Story of Ronald Reagan
by Peggy Noonan
list price: $15.00
our price: $10.20
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Asin: 0142001686
Catlog: Book (2002-10-01)
Publisher: Penguin Books
Sales Rank: 7512
Average Customer Review: 4.11 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Read by the author
3 cassettes5 hours

From the bestselling author of What I Saw at the Revolution comes an elegiac tribute to one of America's most beloved leaders.

It is twenty years—a full generation—since Ronald Reagan first walked into the White House and ignited a revolution.From the beginning, he enjoyed the American people's affection but now, as he approaches the end of his life, he has received what he deserved even more: their deep respect.

What was the wellspring of his greatness?Peggy Noonan, bestselling author of the classic Reagan-era memoir What I Saw at the Revolution, former speechwriter, and now a columnist and contributing editor for The Wall Street Journal, argues that the secret of Reagan's success was no secret at all.It was his character—his courage, his kindness, his persistence, his honesty, and his almost heroic patience in the face of setbacks—that was the most important element of his success.

The one thing a man must bring into the White House with him if he is to succeed, Noonan contends, is a character that people come to recognize as high, sturdy, and reliable.

Noonan, renowned for her special insight into Ronald Reagan's history and personality, brings her own reflections to Reagan to bear in When Character Was King and discloses never-before-told stories from the former president's family, friends, and White House colleagues to reveal the true nature of a man even his opponents now view as a maker of big history.

Marked by incisive wit and elegant prose, When Character Was King will enlighten and move listeners.
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Reviews (141)

5-0 out of 5 stars A-plus-plus
For devout Reaganites, Peggy Noonan's new book covers familiar ground. We're well acquainted with this quintessentially American success story, and with the deeply patriotic and moralistic ideals which underpinned RR's policies, particularly in the foreign policy sphere.

Yet, what makes this book so special is Ms. Noonan's extraordinary gifts for storytelling. A measure of her formidable talents is her ability to take well-chronicled events -- the hardscrabble Illinois childhood, the SAG and GE years, the 1976 near miss, the PATCO strike, the assassination ordeal, Iran-Contra, the Iceland Summit, etc, etc -- and infuse them with fresh energy and perspective.

As Ms. Noonan recounted RR's clear-eyed, strong-willed, visionary posture vis-a-vis the Soviets, I could not help but reflect on how those qualities have been sorely absent from U.S. foreign policy over the past decade -- and how urgently important they are right now. Indeed, the book's penultimate chapter is devoted to the lessons George W. Bush absorbed from nearly a decade of watching RR.

"When Character is King" advances Peggy Noonan's reputation as one of the finest political writers of her generation. A worthy successor to the memoir of her years in the Reagan White House: "What I Saw at the Revolution."

4-0 out of 5 stars At first disappointing, but it satisfies in the end
Peggy Noonan - who really does write "like an angel" as someone once said - would no doubt argue that to understand Ronald Reagan's character one must know in considerable detail about his origins. The first half or more of her book is a biographical chronicle of Reagan's rise from childhood to presidency. It is only sparsely salted with illuminating stories as it carefully recounts the progression of a life that was, until later, not extraordinary. It leaves us wanting more.

However the book delivers more in its later chapters as Noonan recounts less-known stories from her own and others' experience with Reagan as candidate and president. She knits them together with insight and astute observations to illuminate a fine man. The book in the end adequately depicts Reagan's strong convictions in his principles and sense of ethics, his respect for people of all stripes and his extra gentleness for the powerless and ordinary, his often self-deprecating humour, his love of nature and physical work, his seemingly-boundless optimism and other cornerstones of his character and his success.

Ultimately, the book fails in only one respect: it does not show much of the steely edge which most people experienced in politics would believe that Reagan must have had to make it to the Oval Office. Not showing this part of the man's character makes Ms. Noonan's picture less complete. However it is certainly not the one-sided deification that a few one-star reviews by obvious flaming liberals have claimed, and is well worth the time in reading.

4-0 out of 5 stars A Stirring Tribute to a Great Leader
I agree 100% with the other reviewers who have praised this book. Peggy Noonan's book serves as a concise but relatively thorough biography of Reagan, an informative explanation of the influences that guided his decisions before and during his political career, and a spirited and insightful defense of some of Reagan's controversial actions (controversial, at least, to those who Reagan called "our liberal friends" who "know so many things that are not so"). Plenty of funny, enlightening, and touching anecdotes help to make this a great tribute to one of our Nation's greatest leaders.

4-0 out of 5 stars An insiders view of a great president
This book was written by a former speech writer for Ronald Reagan. It features more than just a look inside the Reagan White House. It tells of his childhood in northern Illinois all the way through to his battle with Alzheimer's. There are amusing tales of Reagan's meetings with foreign heads of state. There is great detail of Iran Contra and Reagan's meetings with Gorachev. I expected the book to take a vary favorable position of Reagan (which it did for the most part) but Noonan was not exactly complimentary at times.

The best part of this book told the story of Reagan taking on the Communist infiltration of Hollywood in the 40's. I was unaware of this and found it quite interesting. It laid the foundation for his life in public office. Another interesting theme of the book shows how Reagan made the conversion from the Democratic to Republican party. I bet not many people knew he was a Democrat until midlife.

5-0 out of 5 stars "DON'T LET THE TURKEYS GET YOU DOWN."
When Ronald Reagan left office, he told George H.W. Bush, "Don't let the turkeys get you down." This is sage advice of the highest order, and applies to all people, famous or not. This is the Ronald Reagan that Peggy Noonan writes about.

Reagan was excoriated during his time, but he never became petty. The way he handled criticism is a model for the way all good people should handle criticism. The Reagan model is to stay positive and upbeat, no matter what the drumbeat of stupidity is. To follow his example is to stay above the fray, to maintain the Christian principle "forgive me my tresspasses, as I forgive those who trespass against me." The lessons that average people can learn from Reagan is that if you are a good and decent person, even if the small people, the various and sundry pizzants of the Dumbellionite Class, the ignoramuses, the people of low moral character, the dregs and the ne'r'do'wells attempt to mock you, to bring you down to their level, to react with jealousy at succeses they are unable to achieve, simply continue on a path of honesty and good works. Forgive them and let not your heart be troubled.

God bless Ronald Reagan.

STEVEN TRAVERS
AUTHOR OF "BARRY BONDS: BASEBALL'S SUPERMAN"
... ... Read more


58. Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant
by Ulyssess S. Grant, Ulysses S. Grant
list price: $12.98
our price: $12.98
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0914427679
Catlog: Book (1999-03-15)
Publisher: William S. Konecky Associates
Sales Rank: 21289
Average Customer Review: 5 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Grant was sick and broke when he began work on his Memoirs. Driven by financial worries and a desire to provide for his wife, he wrote diligently during a year of deteriorating health. He vowed he would finish the work before he died. One week after its completion, he lay dead at the age of 63.

Publication of the Memoirs came at a time when the public was being treated to a spate of wartime reminiscences, many of them defensive in nature, seeking to refight battles or attack old enemies. Grant's penetrating and stately work reveals a nobility of spirit and an innate grasp of the important fact, which he rarely displayed in private life. He writes in his preface that he took up the task "with a sincere desire to avoid doing injustice to anyone, whether on the National or the Confederate side." ... Read more

Reviews (8)

5-0 out of 5 stars Grant as commander.
Ulysses S. Grant like many other Civil War figures wrote a long and detailed memoir detailing his experiences in the war. Unlike many of the others however, he did it not to toot his own horn but for the noble purpose of leaving an income for his family. One of the most famous pictures of Grant is the one of him sitting on his porch, covered in blankets, writing. He died just a week after he finished this book. I wonder if the Grant family is still receiving royalties from this book after all of these years.

In reading this book one has to take into account that by his own admission, Grant was not a scholar. Nor was he a writer, but for a sick old soldier he does a wonderful job. The writing is a little dry at times but that is mainly because he goes into so much detail about his campaigns. His West Point eye shows not only in his strategy but also in his writing as he goes into great detail about the topography of the areas he is describing. In fact, this is the most dull part of the book as he goes into so much detail that he will occasionally lose the reader entirely. Grant is not one to cast blame for his problems but as part of his topographical discussions he almost always writes that this ground was much more favorable for offense than defense. He of course being on the offensive. It is also easy to avoid casting blame for failures when the writer has few failures, so while Grant is not guilty of this he has no reason to be.

Grant does not describe his battles in detail for some reason. His overall campaigns are covered in detail but the battles themselves get little attention. The battles of others under his command are told in a far more interesting and complete manner than are the battles he was personally involved in. His descriptions of Sherman's Atlanta campaign and the march to the sea are riveting and his descriptions of the final days of the war and Lee's surrender are enthralling. He also goes to great lengths to defend some of his comrades against charges that had been made against them while never taking on charges leveled at him. His drinking is never mentioned. He even takes time to defend Joe Johnston's Georgia campaign against Sherman. His insights are incredible but this memoir could have offered the reader a little more of a glimpse into the author than it does. Although, toward the end of the book one does start to see Grant's personality come out.

There are numerous maps included in this book but they will be of little use to most readers. I assume they are military maps, but they are so detailed that one can hardly make out the important points. There is also an attempt to downplay what Robert E. Lee had accomplished before Grant arrived on the scene. This could have come from humility on Grant's part, or it could have been jealousy, but whatever the cause it is unseemly. Still, Grant knew how to defeat Lee and did so, which is more than any other Union general managed to do.

Overall, this is a very insightful and well-written book. Any serious student of the Civil War will want to have a copy of their own, not only to read but as a very important reference book. He points out the mistakes and shortcomings of leaders on both sides as well as offers praise when he feels it is due. It is amazing how kind he is to General Halleck considering how much trouble that man caused Grant early in the war. He does seem to take delight however in detailing Sherman's dislike of Halleck. Not much of the real Grant comes across in this book but what does come through is that while he was a determined advisory; he was also a very kind hearted man. A great man in fact, who was very much misunderstood, then and now.

5-0 out of 5 stars One of the great books in the English language
General Grant wrote this book while dying of throat cancer. He had been swindled by a dishonest Wall Street Broker and his trophies and possessions were stripped from him to satisfy the demands of his debtors. Bankrupt, suffering from a terminal illness and never passing a moment without acute pain, he produced this magnificent monument to his greatness. Those who denigrate Grant as a drunkard, butcher, bumbling President need to read this book in order to correct these errant assumptions. It is impossible to read this book and not realize that Grant was an inordinately intelligent man and one hell of a writer.

Grant's Memoirs are a deserved classic in American literature and considered the greatest military Memoirs ever penned, exceeding Caesar's Commentaries. Grant wrote as he lived: with clear, concise statements, unembellished with trivialities or frivolities. The only "criticism" the reader might have is that Grant bent over backwards not to wound the feelings of people in the book. He takes swipes at Joe Hooker and Jeff Davis, but what he left unsaid would have been far more interesting. A compelling and logical reason why Grant was so spare in his comments was because he was involved in a race with death. He didn't know how long he could live and therefore, "cut to the chase."

Grant's assessments of Lincoln, Sherman, Sheridan and other military leaders are brilliant and engrossing. His style, like the man himself, was inimitable and couldn't be copied. In everyday life, Grant was a very funny man, who liked to listen to jokes and tell them himself. His sense of the absurd was acute. It's no accident that he loved Mark Twain and the two hitched together very well. Twain and Grant shared a similar sense of humor, and Grant's witicisms in the Memoirs are frequent, unexpected and welcome. There are portions where you will literally laugh out loud.

Though Grant's Memoirs were written 113 years ago, they remain fresh, vibrant and an intensely good read. I have read them in! their entirity 30 times in my life and I never weary of the style and language that Grant employed. He was a military genius to be sure, but he was also a writer of supreme gifts, and these gifts shine through on every page of this testament to his greatness. All Americans should read this book and realize what we owe to Grant: he preserved the union with his decisive brilliance. A truly oustanding book.

5-0 out of 5 stars One of the better Civil War memoirs
One of the nice things Grant does in his book, is break down ranks using a horizantal flow chart on various pages. This helps clear confusion for the novice. (page 446-7 is one example)
Other reviews have spoken admirmingly of this book, I would like to draw attention to an incident Grant tells of, where a Union soldier is stealing ALL of a Southern ladies chickens.The Southern woman vainly pleaded with the Union soldiers to please spare her a few at least.
The Union soldiers looked at the woman and said,

>"This rebellion has to be suppressed if it takes the last chicken in the Confederacy."< ( Page 555 Grants memoirs)
( how will this woman and her children eat after this?)Another following incident---

>"The South prior to the rebellion kept bloodhounds to pursue runaway slaves who took refuge in the neighboring swamps, and also to hunt convicts. Orders were issued to KILL all of these animals as they were met with.
On one occasion a soldier picked up a POODLE, the favorite pet of it's mistress, and was carrying it off to EXECUTION, when the lady made a strong appeal to him to spare it.
The soldier replied," Madam our orders are to KILL every bloodhound,"
"But this is not a Bloodhound," said the lady.
"Well, Madam, we can not tell what it will grow into, if we leave it behind," said the soldier as he went off with it."<

---------------The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant------Page 555----
( exact wording again, the capitals are mine for emphasis)

Combining Grants testimony, and Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman, ( see my review of his book, and the direct quote), there is no doubt the Southern women, children and families suffered greatly during the Civil War. There was NO MILITARY VALUE, for the majority of this.

People that deny this, should read books, by the two top Northern Generals.

As far as Civil War biographies go, this is one of the better ones.

5-0 out of 5 stars A man of whom all Americans can be proud
The book is remarkable for its clarity of speech and the simplicity of its presentation, but most of all for the quality of focus of a man whose final chapter is as moving as any I have read, and written just a week before he died. I recommend that the trilogy of Grant; CAPTAIN SAM GRANT, GRANT MOVES SOUTH, and GRANT TAKES COMMAND, be read first. Then read his MEMOIRS, and follow it up with ON THE BORDER WITH CROOK. The characters in the MEMOIRS appear prominently in all the others; men known by Grant from West Point, the Mexican American War, and who served, subsequently, as officers during the Indian Wars following the Civil War. Connections such as these fascinate me. Grant's knowledge of his adversaries most of who he knew from experience was perhaps his greatest weapon. Yet, war being war, he never let let friendship interfere with his duty, which is why he became known as UNCONDITIONAL SURRENDER (U.S.) GRANT. it seemed to me the more he got into his work, the better he expressed himself, and his CONCLUSION rose to the level of greatness as a writer. He seemed the perfect compliment to Abe Lincoln whose policies he hoped to carry forward.

5-0 out of 5 stars Simple, elegant , humorous, while at death's door
More than the descriptions of the great battles, which were of such great scale that they were beyond my ability to grasp, I was most impressed with the courage and intelligence of the man, who wrote these memoirs while dying of a painful cancer. His assessments of the generals on both sides, many of whom he knew intimately from the Mexican war, are priceless. I think the one I like best was of General Warren -- "His difficulty was constitutional and beyond his control. He was an officer of superior ability, quick perceptions, and the personal courage to accomplish anything that could be done with a small command."

General Grant also never lost the ability to make fun of himself (a lost art among today's leaders?), recalling being mocked by a stablehand who had seen him prancing in his uniform shortly after being commissioned. Perhaps that is why in his prime Grant so often wore a simple private's shirt with his proper insignia of rank.

The anecdotes from his conversations with President Lincoln are unforgettable. So are stories from the war with Mexico, when long-range Mexican cannonballs came into his lines at such shallow angles that his men could open ranks to avoid the bounding projectiles. The language of the day - "reducing" the enemy "works" with great "execution" -- adds to the enjoyment and reminds the reader of today's "collateral damage" military jargon.

Grant, great lover of a good cigar, comments on his observations from the war with Mexico that people smoked tobacco more when it was an expensive item they they did later when the price was much cheaper.

Where are such men today? Probably still out there waiting for the next great challenge to bring them forward. General Grant comments that "Those who wait to be selected, rather than those who seek, can be expected to provide the most efficient service." ... Read more


59. Lane Kirkland : Champion of American Labor
by ArchPuddington
list price: $30.00
our price: $20.40
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0471416940
Catlog: Book (2005-01-14)
Publisher: Wiley
Sales Rank: 31375
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

The untold story of Lane Kirkland, labor leader and advocate for the American worker

"This book tells the story of one of the true heroes of the struggle for freedom from totalitarianism. Through the skillful use of the power he exercised as the leader of American labor, and through his own unshakeable commitment, Lane Kirkland played a crucial role in our peaceful revolution in Poland. He did much more. Throughout the world, millions of free people owe him a debt of gratitude for his service to the democratic cause. I am gratified that the full account of his indispensable contribution to freedom has finally been written."
—Lech Walesa, founder of Solidarity and former president of Poland

"Lane Kirkland believed in freedom and would fight for his beliefs. Here is a portrait of his tough, principled, and consistent brand of leadership. We can admire him and learn from him."
—George P. Schultz

"I knew Lane Kirkland well. While he may not always have been able to secure the influence of the American labor movement he represented, he always supported the interests of the workers with great dedication and showed willingness to compromise. . . . [With] this biography, the man and his work will always be remembered. The book will also find considerable interest in Germany."
—Helmut Schmidt, former chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany (1974?1982)

"Lane was a crusader for freedom and I can testify on the basis of personal involvement that his role in the defeat of Stalinism was second to none."
—Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Adviser to President Jimmy Carter ... Read more

Reviews (1)

5-0 out of 5 stars Tribute to a Labor Giant
Those following the contemporary demise of the American trades union movement and wishing to learn about its last gloriousdays, would be wise to read Arch Puddington's scholarly, beautifully writtenbiography of Lane Kirkland, the last of labor's great leaders.

In the tradition of the titans preceding him, stretching back through George Meany, A. Phillip Randolph and Samuel Gompers,Kirkland fought unstintingly for the welfare and rights of America's working men and women. At a time when America was beginning its drift to the right, Kirkland unified many disparate unions into a more powerful AFL-CIO,brought minorities and women into active roles, and successfully fought offmanagement and government attempts to deprive workers of their hard wonrights. A fervent patriot and World War II veteran, withRonald Reagan, whom he vigorously opposed on domestic labor issues, he led theAFL-CIO in playing a profound role in support of the Solidarity movement inPoland, which led to the lliberation of eastern Europe and the downfall of theSoviet Union and its empire. Thereafter, Kirkland's day passed him by, as other leaders, with the support of the New Left, sought and eventually succeeded inusurping his position.Now the movement is hoist on its on petard, to themisfortune of American workers.

Puddington comes to his task well equipped as former executive director of the League for Industrial Democracy and the authorof seminal works on the conditions of labor under the Soviet regime and thehistories of Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe. This is an important book for those interested in20th century labor history.
... Read more


60. Seven Pillars of Wisdom : A Triumph
by T.E. LAWRENCE
list price: $19.95
our price: $13.96
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0385418957
Catlog: Book (1991-06-01)
Publisher: Anchor
Sales Rank: 2984
Average Customer Review: 4.79 out of 5 stars
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Amazon.com

This is the exciting and highly literate story of the real Lawrence of Arabia, as written by Lawrence himself, who helped unify Arab factions against the occupying Turkish army, circa World War I. Lawrence has a novelist's eye for detail, a poet's command of the language, an adventurer's heart, a soldier's great story, and his memory and intellect are at least as good as all those. Lawrence describes the famous guerrilla raids, and train bombings you know from the movie, but also tells of the Arab people and politics with great penetration. Moreover, he is witty, always aware of the ethical tightrope that the English walked in the Middle East and always willing to include himself in his own withering insight. ... Read more

Reviews (38)

5-0 out of 5 stars Foundations of conflict
It's difficult to describe the experience of reading The Seven Pillars. It is by turns beautiful and ugly. It is military history. It is a subjective view provided by a man very much of his time. It is an apology and an excuse for the necessities of war. It is a portrait of a tribe that Lawrence came to respect and even love. It is a travel book about life in the desert at the time of writing. It is inevitably a mix of fact and history and fiction and probably at least a little bit of wishful thinking.

It's a pretty amazing book to read.

A few notes:

Before you read the book, do some quick background reading on the history that's involved. This will help avoid confustion.

Be prepared for a long read! It's not only a long book, it's an extremely dense book. The choppiness and frequent changes in tone make it hard to put on the reading cruise control.

Read it as a product of its time. Lawrence was a fascinating man, but not without his prejudices or faults.

5-0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Account of Arab Revolt
Absolutely fascinating account of the Arab Revolt of World War I, and of the Mind of one of its orchestrators (that being TE Lawrence). I don't know much about WWI or II history but I'd recommend this as a great place to start. It has all the elements of a great war story -- strategies, battles, troop movements, intra-battling amongst Arab tribes, Arab history and culture, plus Lawrence's inner conflict about his knowledge that the Brits were merely using the Arabs as a pawn in the greater scheme of WWI. The relevance to modern times is staggering -- if we had not made the horrible mistakes we did then (not giving the Arabs the indepence they worked so hard for), the world would certainly be a better place today. Also, this book is beautifully written and contains absolutely wonderful descriptions of the Arabian terrain. My only criticism is that Lawrence tends sometimes to get a little too abstract and pontifical, but that's okay. Excellent work of literature in the form of a non-fiction memoir.

3-0 out of 5 stars Seven Pillars
The book in its depth, scope and subject matter reminds me of A Bright and Shining Lie. As with that book, it suffers from an overload of details that are distracting to someone unfamiliar with the events. I'm sure that to so one more intimately familiar with the historical events of the time the book would be a fascinating and informative read. I though came away with the most from the chapters that stuck with broader historical and political commentary, rather than the specific names of who slept in what tent when, who owned which camel (and said camel's gender) and what ulitmately killed the camel (mange, dehydration, neglect, etc).

5-0 out of 5 stars A Tale of Two Loyalties
The complexity of the desert lies in not in its terrain or its people, but in its politics. The extreme economic scarcity inherent to the land has created a tangled web of inter-tribal alliances, loyalties, and rivalries that put medieval Europe to shame. In this book, T.E. Lawrence describes how he put his phenomenal understanding of this system to work, overcoming and manipulating tribal differences and clan rivalries, in driving the Ottoman Empire out of the Arabian peninsula.

As his irregular army fights and raids its way to Damascus, Lawrence's misgivings about his duty as an English soldier to serve England first, even if it means misleading the men who so trustingly follow him, is a source of great anguish. He clearly does not consider himself to be a "real" soldier, though he is expected to act as one. The double life he must lead wears him down greatly; he finally tires of the desert that he once loved, and requests to be sent home.

Though the tales of minor skirmishes and major battles as well as the humorous anecdotes are quite entertaining and captivating in their own right, the great strength of this book is in its description of the complex socio-political system of the Bedouin nomads of Arabia and the even more complex mind of its author.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Great Work Of Homosexual Literature
After reading this book I read all 35 Amazon reviews and was surprised that everyone had missed the point of this masterpiece. TE Lawrence wrote a masterwork of pro-homosexual propaganda. This book is about what it is meant to be a homosexual in an early 20th Century heterosexual world through the metaphor of a deceitful British Officer operating as a leader helping to create an uprising in the Arabic War zone in the First World War. Two further twists are added to the metaphor as Arabic culture is essentially homosexual in nature and Lawrence is forced to lie about the real British motivations throughout his time in Arabia. (But please be clear I am not gay). Lawrence learned how to operate successfully in the (for him totally foreign) Arabic world in the same way that gays had to learn how to operate in the heterosexual world of the West. But also kept secret the true British military intentions for over seven years in the same way that turn of the century gays were forced to stay in their closets, never revealing their true motivations.

While the book is extremely long and uses a small font size, Lawrence's prose is exceedingly economical and many of his sentences are structured in a way that a good deal more is left unsaid, yet understood, than sneers from the pages. His contemptuous descriptions and scornful imagery of his fellow men make plain an underlying self-hatred that even thousands of hours of buttock pounding on a string of prize camels cannot relieve. The strongest and most irresistible impressions about Lawrence are formed during critical moments when he executes a man, turns his back on an armed robber and slowly rides away, gets horny when whipped by Turkish soldiers for refusing to service their officer, rides endless camel miles without complaint, repeatedly radically deprives himself of creature comforts, and uses an unassailable sense of irony whenever dealing with his commanding officers. Knowing that his past roles in the army included being one of the people that hand-colored military maps, reflected appropriately upon his character.

A good part of TE's current reputation was built by the 5 Oscar winning movie Lawrence of Arabia, but the movie is only loosely based on the book and takes only the story themes in the book that are most complimentary to TE and least aligned with history. The movie bests the book in scenery; the book wins in all other dimensions. TE's view of the world is not easily classified into a stereotype as he vacillates between extreme cynicism and innocent trust, and derisive commentary and respectful remarks. Nevertheless, he clearly had a world class intellect and the cunning of a terrorist. His insightful commentary on Arabs revealing them as tribal, inward-looking, blinkered, narrow-minded, unthinking, vengeful and insular explains why this book is still recommended reading at several leading Western military schools. By the end of the book, Lawrence was a real person, but not one I would like working on my team. His sarcastic, arrogant, disdainful, sardonic, acerbic, mordant, derogatory, uncomplimentary, depreciatory, critical, sniping, self-important, condescending, scathing, and mocking mindset would quickly tire me. Read the book if you want to fully understand why I wrote the sentence that way!! ... Read more


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