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121. Goebbels: Mastermind of the Third
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122. Always Running
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123. The Vanderbilts
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124. Admiral of the Ocean Sea : A Life
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125. Illuminations
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126. The Autobiography of Benjamin
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127. No Ordinary Time: Franklin and
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128. The First American: The Life and
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129. Benjamin Franklin
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130. Remains: Non-Viewable : A Memoir
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131. Titan : The Life of John D. Rockefeller,
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132. Mao : A Life
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133. Notable Black American Men
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134. But Not for the Fuehrer
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135. Letters From Prison
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136. Baruch: My Own Story
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137. A Lady, First: My Life in the
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138. Jackson & Lee: Legends In
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139. Kaffir Boy: The True Story Of
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140. Lenin: A Biography

121. Goebbels: Mastermind of the Third Reich
by David Irving, Walter Frentz
list price: $90.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1872197132
Catlog: Book (1997-12-09)
Publisher: Focal Point Publications
Sales Rank: 785051
Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (27)

5-0 out of 5 stars New insights into the Nazi hierarchy
In his biography of Joseph Goebbels David Irving has provided some masterful and provocative insights into the inner workings of the Nazi hierarchy. However, the book is sometimes confusingly organized and Irving's use of the present tense when describing past events can be irritating and seem a bit amaturish in so seasoned a writer.

With these caveats in mind, this is still an important book and necessary reading for any student of World War II. Mr. Irving is neither a Holocaust denier nor a proponent of the Nazis or their ideology; he simply has a different point of view. It's amazing how vociferous and censorious the academic history establishment can become when their 'established' truths are challenged; and in this book, Mr. Irving has done just that.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Refreshing Look At European Turmoil Around WWII
This is fascinating treatise! It is the first book by David Irving I have read, but there will certainly be others. Although the dust jacket pays the obligatory homage to Goebbels' "evil genius" and the "holocaust," the book itself is a highly refreshing and readable account. Irving is the first to actually use Goebbels' personal diaries, and what emerges is a picture of a quite understandable, albeit rather sad individual. Of far more interest to me personally, is the study of others in the Third Reich such as Hitler, Strasser, Streicher, and others as seen THROUGH GOEBBELS' EYES! Irving is a true objective historian who writes a well-researched and documented book without feeling he must dish up the sort of pap usually provided by the dominant media to those interested in this period of history in Europe.

5-0 out of 5 stars Europe's Machiavelli
It's amusing in the extreme to see so many people froth at the mouth over David Irving. If he is "so discredited," why is he thrown such a fit about? The fact of the matter is that history should never be written about until fifty years after the occurences in question.

Remember, Watergate was first derided as lunatic conspiracy theory, and one that eventually toppled Richard M. Nixon...

Here, Irving neither "apologizes" for Nazi Germany or its architects, nor does he simply goose-step in unison with the current gospel according to the cereal box. What he has done was to obtain 1,200 plates of glass upon which were written heretofore unavailable Goebbels diaries entries, that were "missing" when Louis Lochner released his work of Goebbels' diaries circa 1943-1945, and utilize them to take the reader into the mind of the man who was Hitler's "false prophet."

A brilliant portrait of a perverse, twisted and sad soul that impacted the world in an (ultimately) destructive fashion.

I suggest you read, and judge for yourself.

I suggest you read, and decide for yourself.

2-0 out of 5 stars its fiction, not history
Unfortunately, this interesting bit of history relies on fictional details to support its larger claims. There is documentation about the falsities in this volume that came to light at David Irvings libel trial in London that removes any value to this book other than the interesting and fascinating way that Mr. Irving is able to weave his stories. If you like other WWII fiction you might enjoy this. If you are looking for REAL history then you are better off reading Goebbels diary entries in their original German than relying on David Irvings misguided attempt to channel the Third Reichs thinkers in this book.

1-0 out of 5 stars Covering Up For Hitler
David Irving's "biography" of Goebbels is a cover up which is full of distortions. Some of the more serious distortions were the subject of the civil trial in London where Irving attempted to have Deborah Lipstadt's book, "Denying the Holocaust", banned in England. Professor Richard Evans, a real historian of the Third Reich, was able to show as an expert witness for Lipstadt's defense that Irving had distorted a number of crucial points in this "biography" of Goebbels.

Two of the crucial distortions Evans showed were (1) Irving's claim that in 1932 31,000 Jews were guilty of insurance fraud in Germany when the total number of all such frauds, Jewish and non - Jewish, was 74 and (2) Irving's citing a document which he claimed proved that the German authorities attempted to prevent Kristallnacht when the actual document shows the exact opposite - i.e. the authorities were encouraging the destruction. The reader of "Goebbels" is seriously encouraged to read Richard Evans' "Lying About Hitler."

Also, John C. Zimmerman's book "Holocaust Denial: Demographics, Testimonies and Ideologies" has a lengthy chapter on Irving's dishonest methodology which shows the way Irivng manipulates and distorts information. Zimmerman also demonstrates that Irving has distorted key incriminating entries from Goebbels' diary and has deliberately ignored other key entries which prove the existence of the Holocaust. ... Read more

122. Always Running
by Luis Rodriguez
list price: $13.00
our price: $9.75
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Asin: 0671882317
Catlog: Book (1994-02-09)
Publisher: Touchstone
Sales Rank: 9722
Average Customer Review: 4.48 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

By age twelve, Luis Rodriguez was a veteran of East L.A. gang warfare. Lured by a seemingly invincible gang culture, he witnessed countless shootings, beatings, and arrests, then watched with increasing fear as drugs, murder, suicide, and senseless acts of street crime claimed friends and family members. Before long Rodriguez saw a way out of the barrio through education and the power of words, and successfully broke free from years of violence and desperation. Achieving success as an award-winning Chicano poet, he was sure the streets would haunt him no more -- until his young son joined a gang. Rodriguez fought for his child by telling his own story in Always Running, a vivid memoir that explores the motivations of gang life and cautions against the death and destruction that inevitably claim its participants. At times heartbreakingly sad and brutal, Always Running is ultimately an uplifting true story, filled with hope, insight, and a hard-earned lesson for the next generation. ... Read more

Reviews (139)

5-0 out of 5 stars It's a five star book!
It has been said,"young people read nobles to learn about other people's life." This quote means that young peaple read in order to know how other peaple live through out the different generations and learn from it. It is indeed true, I as a young person like to read most of all to figure out how other people different from me lives and how they get along whith their issues in life and apply it to my self. I personally think this book it's one of it's kind. Always Running it's a piece of literature that basically reflects on a lot of young people, it tells the story of Luis as a gang member when he was young himself and how he feels now seeing his son on the same situation. This is something that gives a lot to think about, I mean to all of us teenagers that think that the thing we do now won't influence our future generation and that we wouldn't be affected by it. This book it's a great example on that and that's the reason why I rated it as a five star book!

5-0 out of 5 stars Reality TV ain't got nothing on this!
On the Strength: If Rodriguez's memoir Always Running sounds raw and intense, that's because it is. A lucid, in your face account of a young man's journey from the darkest depths of barrio life-to a yearning soul, striving for the light that glimmers at the end of a tunnel. Chin (Rodriguez) a young vato loco from the mean streets of Los Angeles Califas, would do just about anything for his click, even commit murder. Living foul was all he knew, castigated by society, the revolving door from the hood' to correctional institutions swirled so fast and frequent it left young Chin feeling bitter and more hateful toward authority, and rival gangs. Drugs and violence would be his refuge-but eventually education and community involvement would become his salvation. Rodriguez delivers a compelling look at gang life, and what it takes to break free from its deadly shackles. What makes this book particularly appealing is the unique poetic voice, which combines English and Spanish, and a whole-lot-of Slanglish (no comprende? Don't trip, there's a phat glossary in the back of the book for those who do not understand the Latin lingo that is spread throughout). Rodriguez also takes you for a lyrical cruise through the Boulevard, "Fancy "shorts" danced on the asphalt with only the eyes and beany caps of the drivers visible through the windshield. Music blared out of a multitude of speakers as a river of headlights streamed toward the silhouette of downtown skyscrapers and back." Reality TV ain't got nothing on this! Always Running is a must read. Very highly recommended. -Michael Perry, OLM Entertainment Watch.

5-0 out of 5 stars WHAT AN INCREDIBLE BOOK!!!!!!! MUST BE READ!!!!!!!!
As he was growing up, Rodriguez had a vivid lifestyle in which he had witnessed countless shootings, racism, beatings, and several other negatively hard crimes. At 12 years of age, he experienced some illusions of gangs and rascim. People would relate to this book in many different ways, as they were growing up too. I believe this book could get to your fealings, but when I started to read it, I was resenting against the people who were rioting.

5-0 out of 5 stars A MUST READ BOOK!!!
It's about a lifestyle of a young child, growing up in the streets of Los Angeles, Luis J. Rodriguez writes about his vivid life, encountering racism, killings,cruicial beatings, and shootings. Moving around the areas of the Los Angeles he gets involve in gangs later on his life, learns that the gang life is not great. Turn his life into school. Write this book for his son so he won't make a mistake. Relates to people who are in gang activity and show that there is another way in life to succeed, Instead of living by a gun.

1-0 out of 5 stars Nothing More Than a Glorified Ex-Gangbanger
I read this book about ten years ago for the first time. My son was being "courted" by a gang in our area and a fellow parent recommended it. It did not help.
Neither does it help to read that Rodriguez' son went back to prison after the publication of that book.
In my modest opinion, but is worth something nevertheless in a world where our Latino and Black youth are being killed and killing on the streets everyday--for all the hype I have heard about Luis Rodriguez--he is no more than a glorified ex-gangbanger who found an angle for self-promotion. As a parent I must ask myself, where was he when his own child needed him? ... Read more

123. The Vanderbilts
by Jerry E. Patterson
list price: $55.00
our price: $36.30
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0810917483
Catlog: Book (1989-09-01)
Publisher: Harry N Abrams
Sales Rank: 34638
Average Customer Review: 5 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (3)

5-0 out of 5 stars Vanderbuilding with the Vanderbilts
If you are a fan of the Vanderbilts or of the Gilded Era, this book is a must. I have to admitt that I own lots of coffee table books. Usually, I just look at the pictures, read the captions, but never a word of the text. This book caught my attention from the start. It's a wonderful history of the Vanderbilt family, although not too heavily involved. I found that the family tree charts were loads of help while reading the book ... with such a large family it would be easy to forget who's who.
The pictures are exquisite, they bring the Vanderbilts and their fabulous homes to life. There are 291 illustrations, 92 of them are in full color.
I bought this book on a visit to George Vanderbilt's Biltmore Estate in the mountains of North Carolina. If you live any where near the area, I highly recommend a visit. The house, gardens and winery are out of this world!

5-0 out of 5 stars Splendour Aplenty!
This book serves a myriad of purposes. If you are interested in turn of the century architecture, this book is for you. If you are interested in the social mores of the day, this book is for you. If you are interested in the Vanderbilt familiy in particular, and America's aristocracy in general, this book is for you. With hundreds of wonderful photos and illustrations, and an objective account of the history of one of America's richest families, "The Vanderbilts" takes the reader back to an era of nonchalant decadence. A time when prosperity was the plaything of the gods, and the gods were called Vanderbilt, and were lead by "The Commodore". America today is enriched by the spoils of their success, boasting some of the best in arcitecture and art collections. The family who gave us Grand Central Station, The Metropolitan Opera, and a good deal of the exhibited contents of the Met Museum also provide us with a fascinating tale of the rise and reign (and stumbles and pratfalls along the way) of American royalty.


124. Admiral of the Ocean Sea : A Life of Christopher Columbus
by Samuel Eliot Morison
list price: $28.99
our price: $28.99
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Asin: 0316584789
Catlog: Book (1991-10-12)
Publisher: Little, Brown
Sales Rank: 51703
Average Customer Review: 4.25 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Telling the story of the greatest sailor of them all, "Admiral of the Ocean Sea" is a vivid and definitive biography of Columbus that details all of his voyages that, for better or worse, changed the world. 50 drawings, maps & charts; 4 fold-outs. ... Read more

Reviews (12)

5-0 out of 5 stars Enlightening and entertaining
This was one of the most enjoyable biographies I've read. The most distinguishing thing about this book of course is the fact that Morison recreated the voyages before his writing the book. This recreation lends credibility to his writing. But more than that, it makes much of the book, particularly those parts at sea, seem as if the reader is experiencing the voyages through the person of Columbus. Not only the particulars of what he saw, but the smells of land breezes, the feel of the trade winds, the motion of the boat. Morison's obvious love of the sea and of sailing work very much in his favor. Another strength is the historical perspective carefully provided by Morison. Knowing what was going on with Catholic Spain during Columbus' life (the defeat of the Moors, the expulsion of the Jews, political intrigue and conflict involving France, England, Portugal, and others) helps to explain the motivations of Columbus and his contemporaries. I was a bit wary of a 60-year old book, Pulitzer or no Pulitzer, in light of the more recent reconsiderations of Columbus. Some people would have us believe that the voyage of 1492 was some sort of original sin inflicted upon the paradise that was the western hemisphere. But in his preface, Morison makes it clear that he is concerned with Columbus, the "man of action", and is leaving analyses of his motivations to others. And at any rate, Morison's sensibilities are very much in tune with those of the year 2000. He makes few apologies for Columbus and takes him to task where warranted, particularly for his treatment of the natives. One chapter, "Hell in Hispaniola", is almost exclusively devoted to this area. One word of warning: If your knowledge of sailing isn't good, then you may want to bone up on some of the rudiments before starting this book. Morison provides an explanation of some of the terminology, but not enough for someone who knows as little about sailing as I did coming in. But please don't be put off by that - this book is a real pleasure.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Great Discoverer
Morison was both a true sailor and a true writer. This, his pre-war masterpiece (his WW2 history of the U.S. Navy being his other) was intended for the 450th anniversary of the First Voyage which, sadly, was overshadowed by other events. It remains the standard English-language work on the four voyages of the Admiral (as Morison likes to call him), and it reigns supreme over all other Great Explorer books as the one tome which is doubly literate - both well written and fully conversant in sailing lore. The first point Morison makes is that Columbus did, after all, discover America: Africans, Chinese, Vikings and (obviously) the Indians had encountered it before 1492, but only Columbus got back home to spread the word. Discovery is not just finding something, it's telling everyone else about it. The other early point debunked is that Columbus never "proved" the world was round, as no-one ever doubted it was: his thesis was that the world was not as big as everyone said - therefore China was only a month's sail away. In this, he was utterly, utterly wrong, but the by-product of his error was the unfolding of the New World. Finally, Morison comes to Columbus the man. He was no saint - his treatment of the Carib peoples is a terrible stain on his and his masters' reputations - but as a navigator, few approach his skill, and none his achievements.

4-0 out of 5 stars biased book, still good reading for the beginner
Morison (RIP) was in love with Columbus, thus, don't hold your breath waiting to find out details of the natives' Holocauts (yes). And the "other" Holocaust will be forever part of his biography.

Columbus was in large part responsible for introducing penalty of cutting off hands of Indians who failed to produce the quota of gold dust. Greedy Columbus himself was killing natives at the wholesale. After all, in his first journal the word "gold" is repeated countless times. Columbus was first the businessman, and then a superb mariner.

Such abuses are polished by Morison, making the book unreliable source.

Still, author uses good narration to explain life of Columbus, and sets in invironment. If you know nothing about Columbus, you may buy the book for its easy reading. If you are looking for fair and detailed bio, look further (John Boyd Thacher, "Cristopher Columbus", 1903, is still the best source).

Worthwile to note: this book comes also in 2 volume version, which, beside of more pictures, includes an extra chapter on origin of syphilis (Morison in general minimizes massive raping of women).

5-0 out of 5 stars The Best on the subject...
What other Author on Columbus was also an Admiral? ... and sailed the same pathways on a clipper ship?... Morison has written many books on Cristobal... and this one is the cadaliac. I have a slip-covered collectors edition, but have bought many used copies to give to friends as gifts (plus a few for myself). If you like truthful history written with style and professionalism... this in a book to own.

5-0 out of 5 stars A great book by a great historian and a great prose stylist
This remains the definitive biography of Columbus. Morison was one of the greatest historians ever to practice the craft--his scholarship still holds up today. He was also a master of the written word, unlike most professional historians today.

Morison enumerates the reasons why he admires Columbus, but he also catalogs the man's misdeeds--for example, Morison uses the word "genocide" to describe Columbus's treatment of the Indians as governor of Hispaniola. Morison gives his readers the facts they need to form their own opinion of Columbus. (I do not share Morison's admiration for the man.)

I must correct the astonishingly ignorant remarks of the reviewer who identified himself as "A reader from New York City" and entitled his review "So much ignorance my God..."

Here goes:

1) The reviewer asserted that Morison was not, in fact, an admiral. Actually, Morison did receive the title. FDR made Morison an honorary admiral when he commissioned the scholar to write the naval history of the US role in WWII. (Morison produced a 12-volume epic. It's still in print.)

2) The reviewer regurgitates a number of questions about Columbus's origins that he apparently drew from another book by a revisionist historian (Kirkpatrick Sale?). The questions the reviewer repeats are good ones, but they are questions that remain open because the evidence to answer them conclusively probably does not exist. If the reviewer were a trained historian, he might understand that. ... Read more

125. Illuminations
list price: $15.00
our price: $10.20
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0805202412
Catlog: Book (1969-01-13)
Publisher: Schocken
Sales Rank: 7459
Average Customer Review: 5 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Studies on contemporary art and culture by one of the most original, critical and analytical minds of this century. ... Read more

Reviews (7)

5-0 out of 5 stars Benjamin's Greatest Hits
This is the only theoretical text that I have read, with pleasure, in recent memory. Given the conventional prolixity, obfuscation, and circumlocution of contemporary academic prose in the humanities, the fact that you can read Benjamin with pleasure marks him as outstanding.

Benjamin's project was itself outstanding. He aimed at a synthesis of Marxism, mysticism, German romanticism--in a sense, theology, materialist philosophy, and poetry. His critical approaches and thinking embodies the characteristics he praises in literary texts; Benjamin thinks poetically.

This eclectic collection of material, emphasizing Benjamin's later (and more Marxist) ideas, is not unlike a sampler of related but different confections. It's mistaken to think of Benjamin's various intellectual leanings as discrete ideologies or outright contradictions; instead, to borrow from Wittgenstein, consider his ideas to be different members of a family that resemble one another and are clearly related but live different lives in different contexts.

Benjamin's essay "Unpacking my Library," for example, looks on the surface like a confession of self-indulgence, but (in my opinion) deals in a clever and powerful way with the ways in which we inherit, buy, trade, classify, and value our heritage and cultures. This is truly fascinating material!

5-0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, every sentence an insight
Benjamin is one of the few 20th century philosophers who can convey profound thoughts in language that isn't at all opaque. His sentences are always perfectly clear - no pretentious literary or Marxist jargon (thank God). The only thing that makes it slow reading is that you always want to stop, put the book down, and think about what he's just said.

For example, a passage from his essay on Kafka:

'The definition of it which Kafka has given applies to the sons more than to anyone else: "Original sin, the old injustice committed by man, consists in the complaint that he has been the victim of an injustice, the victim of original sin." But who is accused of this inherited sin - the sin of having produced an heir - if not the father by the son? Accordingly the son would be the sinner. But one must not conclude from Kafka's definition that the accusation is sinful because it is false. Nowhere does Kafka say that it is made wrongfully. A never-ending process is at work here, and no cause can appear in a worse light than the one for which the father enlists the aid of these officials and court offices . . . '

This is not opacity for the sake of being opaque; he is trying to get at something incredibly complex, something that (unlike most literary criticism) actually helps you appreciate Kafka and understand him a little better. Benjamin doesn't peel away layers of an onion to arrive at a single shining insight; he presents a simple idea, expands on it a little, and lets you put on the layers of complexity yourself. Read these essays carefully, and it will be obvious why entire schools of thought have sprung up around single paragraphs, why people have devoted their lives to figuring out the ramifications of a single sentence . . .

Benjamin accomplishes something rare: in writing about art, he succeeds in telling us something about life in modern times. And his insights never seem forced; they flow naturally from what he is discussing. For example, his essay on Leskov, "This process of assimilation, which takes place in depth, requires a state of relaxation that is becoming rarer and rarer. If sleep is the apogee of physical relaxation, boredom is the apogee of mental relaxation. Boredom is the dream bird that hatches the egg of experience. A rustling in the leaves drives him away. His nesting places - the activies that are intimately associated with boredom - are already extinct in the cities and are declining in the country as well. With this the gift for listening is lost and the comminity of listeners disappears. For storytelling is always the art of repeated stories, and this art is lost when the stories are no longer retained."

A simple little paragraph on storytelling, but soon you start thinking about how the art of writing has changed since Benjamin's time, and what effect television and the movies have had on the way we live, on "boredom" and mental relaxation . . . anyway, I'm probably starting to get pretentious which Benjamin, thankfully, never does.

Above all this entire collection is filled with something increasingly rare nowadays, a genuine love of books. Forget all the Marxist stuff in other reviews, all Benjamin is really doing, finally, is talking about some books that he likes. That he succeeds in doing much more is a testament to his brilliance.

5-0 out of 5 stars Talking Walls
For Walter Benjamin, the defining characteristic of modernity was mass assembly and production of commodities, concomitant with this transformation of production is the destruction of tradition and the mode of experience which depends upon that tradition. While the destruction of tradition means the destruction of authenticity, of the originary, in that it also collapses the distance between art and the masses it makes possible the liberation which capitalism both obscures and opposes. Benjamin believes that with the destruction of tradition, libratory potentialities are nonetheless created. The process of the destruction of aura through mass reproduction brings about the "destruction of traditional modes of experience through shock," in response new forms of experience are created which attempt to cope with that shock.

Allegoresis and collection are the twin foci around which the elliptical writings of Walter Benjamin orbit. The former, as a mode of criticism, transforms the latter practice into a version of materialist historicism. Instead of constructing further barriers between his own practice and the practices of the historical moment he would transcend, Benjamin embraces the underside of his own theories in "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction." There he proclaims the disintegration of the aura and champions the revolutionary potential which is thus released. It will be of use therefore, to look at some of his other references to the aura. It's as though Benjamin takes more seriously than Marx the notion that capitalism contains its own subversion--the path to subversion is not to resist and revolt, but to accede and accelerate...

5-0 out of 5 stars Worth the effort
Walter Benjamin put everything he knew into everything he wrote. It all resonates. This makes for challenging reading - at times, it seems like what he is saying is simply too much at a tilt with everything one thinks one knows to seem comprehensible. Then, suddenly, one tilts, and the extraordinary reach, eloquence and power of this man's reading hits home. Benjamin is difficult in the only legitimate way - because what he is trying to say can be said no other way.

5-0 out of 5 stars Perfection
This book is a must read for students of literature, philosophy, history, or aesthetics. ... Read more

126. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (Dover Thrift Editions)
by Benjamin Franklin
list price: $2.00
our price: $3.99
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0486290735
Catlog: Book (1996-05-01)
Publisher: Dover Publications
Sales Rank: 6150
Average Customer Review: 4.12 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

One of the most popular works of American literature, this charming self-portrait has been translated into nearly every language. It covers Franklin’s life up to his prewar stay in London as representative of the Pennsylvania Assembly, including his boyhood years, work as a printer, experiments with electricity, political career, much more.
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Reviews (40)

5-0 out of 5 stars Franklin's informal account of his remarkable life
In many ways, this is, to someone coming to it for the first time, a very surprising book. For one thing, it is amazingly incomplete. Franklin is, of course, one of the most famous Americans who ever lived, and his accomplishments in a wide array of endeavors are a part of American lore and popular history. A great deal of this lore and many of his accomplishments are missing from this account of his life. He never finished the autobiography, earlier in his life because he was too busy with what he terms public "employments," and later in life because the opium he was taking for kidney stones left him unable to concentrate sufficiently. Had Franklin been able to write about every period of his life and all of his achievements, his AUTOBIOGRAPHY would have been one of the most remarkable documents every produced. It is amazingly compelling in its incomplete state.

As a serious reader, I was delighted in the way that Franklin is obsessed with the reading habits of other people. Over and over in the course of his memoir, he remarks that such and such a person was fond of reading, or owned a large number of books, or was a poet or author. Clearly, it is one of the qualities he most admires in others, and one of the qualities in a person that makes him want to know a person. He finds other readers to be kindred souls.

If one is familiar with the Pragmatists, one finds many pragmatist tendencies in Franklin's thought. He is concerned less with ideals than with ideas that work and are functional. For instance, at one point he implies that while his own beliefs lean more towards the deistical, he sees formal religion as playing an important role in life and society, and he goes out of his way to never criticize the faith of another person. His pragmatism comes out also in list of the virtues, which is one of the more famous and striking parts of his book. As is well known, he compiled a list of 13 virtues, which he felt summed up all the virtues taught by all philosophers and religions. But they are practical, not abstract virtues. He states that he wanted to articulate virtues that possessed simple and not complex ideas. Why? The simpler the idea, the easier to apply. And in formulating his list of virtues, he is more concerned with the manner in which these virtues can be actualized in one's life. Franklin has utterly no interest in abstract morality.

One of Franklin's virtues is humility, and his humility comes out in the form of his book. His narrative is exceedingly informal, not merely in the first part, which was ostensibly addressed to his son, but in the later sections (the autobiography was composed upon four separate occasions). The informal nature of the book displays Franklin's intended humility, and for Franklin, seeming to be so is nearly as important as actually being so. For part of the function of the virtues in an individual is not merely to make that particular person virtuous, but to function as an example to others. This notion of his being an example to other people is one of the major themes in his book. His life, he believes, is an exemplary one. And he believes that by sharing the details of his own life, he can serves as a template for other lives.

One striking aspect of his book is what one could almost call Secular Puritanism. Although Franklin was hardly a prude, he was nonetheless very much a child of the Puritans. This is not displayed merely in his promotion of the virtues, but in his abstaining from excessiveness in eating, drinking, conversation, or whatever. Franklin is intensely concerned with self-governance.

I think anyone not having read this before will be surprised at how readable and enjoyable this is. I think also one can only regret that Franklin was not able to write about the entirety of his life. He was a remarkable man with a remarkable story to tell.

5-0 out of 5 stars You will be richer from reading this book
Benjamin Franklin's autobiography is the story of one man's efforts to integrate certain principles and habits - integrity, humility, fidelity, temperance, courage, justice, patience, industry, simplicity, modesty - into his life and to embed them deep within his nature. Franklin was a scientist, philosopher, statesman, inventor, educator, diplomat, politician, humorist and man of letters who led a very full life. He was also a moralist and humanitarian who was happy to be considered unconventional by doing things the way he thought they should be done. His was a life well lived and a model from which we can learn much. In the introduction we are told: "Himself a master of the motives of human conduct, Franklin did not set out to reveal himself in his autobiography. Rather, he intended to tell us (insofar as we, the nation, are the 'posterity' to whom he addressed himself) how life was to be lived, good done, and happiness achieved - how the ball was to be danced."

Franklin did not have an easy life as the tenth son of a candle maker whose education ended at the age of ten. But by hard work and careful planning he was able to retire from business at the age of forty-two and devote his time to science and politics. He was sent to England in 1764 to petition the King to end the proprietary government of the colony. Soon after the Revolution began he was sent to France to negotiate an alliance with Louis XVI. He was a member of the committee that drafted the Declaration of Independence. It is difficult to image anyone not coming away richer from reading this book.

3-0 out of 5 stars A Book Of Firsts
Said to be the first work of American literature, by America's first citizen: Ben Franklin's autobiography has certainly drawn a lot of praise.

Written in several pieces, it takes his life just past his electrical experiments, ending with his ambassadorial trip to London in 1757 on behalf of the Pennsylvania Assembly to argue that the Proprietors (the descendants of William Penn) should accept a tax to fund the raising of a militia.

Ben's early life story is familiar to all, coming penniless from Boston to Philadelphia, etc. particularly these days when new Franklin biographies seem to appear almost monthly. It is an interesting book, particularly because it was written by Franklin himself. But the breathless praise that is everywhere showered upon it seems a bit over done. First of all, it's incomplete, and secondly, it's not nearly as witty as Poor Richard.

5-0 out of 5 stars An Unfinished Autobiography of the Consumate American Life
Franklin wrote this autobiography as a letter of instruction in the ways of the world to his youthful and illegitimate son of 40. It only covers the first half or so of his incredible life, so the things that really made him well-known are not covered, but there is plenty here anyway.

Franklin recounts his family's modest life in England and the circumstances that brought them to Boston. He was among the youngest of a very large family, ultimately finding his way to Philadelphia to find work as a printer when an apprenticeship with an older brother turned sour.

We always think of Franklin as being a slightly older statesman among the Founding Fathers, when in fact he was a full generation older than Washington or Jefferson. Unlike popular perception, he was an athletic and vibrant youth, who rescued a drowning Dutch companion and taught swimming to children of London's elite.

Philadelphia in the 1720's and 1730's was a small town, never sure if it would really take off as a settlement. Franklin quickly befriended key politicians who felt Philadelphia had grown sufficiently to have a world-class print shop. He played a key role in the town's development, leading civic groups in establishing libraries, fire companies, meeting halls, and street cleaning services. Of course, he was also the consummate politician, serving in office, and networking his way to his first fortune by publishing government documents and printing the first paper currency. He also had a knack for working with the several important religious sects of that time and place, especially the pacifist Quakers, even though Franklin was a deist.

Franklin was a clever businessman. In today's lexicon, he effectively franchised across the colonies his concept of the publisher/printer who would provide both the content and the ink on paper. By age 30, he had set up his business affairs so that his printing businesses in several colonies were operated by partners and he received a share of the profits, allowing him to pursue other interests.

The autobiography is unfinished, so we don't hear his account of his pursuits of electricity, which made him as famous and well-known as Bill Gates is today, nor his thought on the Revolution. Franklin did play a key role in establishing logistical support to the British during their fight with the French in the New World. At that time and during his years in Europe, he was generally perceived as a Tory supporter.

Read this book to learn how Franklin devoted himself to self-improvement by establishing clubs, lending libraries, a sober lifestyle allowing time for study, and his methods for measuring his personal performance against metrics he had established for a proper lifestyle. One will also gather a new appreciation for the fullness, utility, and richness of the English language when put on paper by a master.

3-0 out of 5 stars Read as a companion to Isaacson
Ten years ago, I purchased the paperback and could not get past the first few chapters. Five years ago, I bought the cassette version and could not get much further. After finishing and enjoying Walter Isaacson's Franklin bio immediately prior to this third attempt, I was finally able to enjoy "The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin". Fredd Wayne brings Franklin to life with what seems like a perfect portrayal. He *performs* rather than narrates.

Without the insight from Issacson, or, I suspect, from any decent biography of Franklin, the autobiography is disjointed, as he wrote different sections at different times of his life, and some time periods are eliminated completely. And it seems to have multiple personalities, struggling between the subjects of self-help, biography, history and simple meanderings and ruminations of an old man.

As a companion book - 5 stars; as a standalone - 2-3 stars ... Read more

127. No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II
by Doris Kearns Goodwin
list price: $18.00
our price: $12.24
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Asin: 0684804484
Catlog: Book (1995-10-01)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Sales Rank: 8329
Average Customer Review: 4.65 out of 5 stars
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A compelling chronicle of a nation and its leaders during the period when modern America was created. With an uncanny feel for detail and a novelist's grasp of drama and depth, Doris Kearns Goodwin brilliantly narrates the interrelationship between the inner workings of the Roosevelt White House and the destiny of the United States. Goodwin paints a comprehensive, intimate portrait that fills in a historical gap in the story of our nation under the Roosevelts. ... Read more

Reviews (80)

5-0 out of 5 stars An Unprecedented Account of the Roosevelts and Their Time
No Ordinary Time presents a compelling social history of both Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and the development of American society during the war years. Both are exposed for their flaws and both are extolled for their virtues. Doris Kearns Goodwin interweaves an impressive array of primary resource material in chronicalling international and domestic developments. For example, the emotional ups and downs of the Allied war effort are counterposed with excerpts from the diary of Nazi propaganda leader Joseph Goebbels. The progressive views and policies of the Roosevelt administration are aptly pitted with letters to the White House demonstrating the stubborn racism and apathy of many in WWII American society. In the end, Goodwin paints an illustrative picture of both the Roosevelts and their time -- with wonderful accounts of events and attitudes that will surprise a number of readers.

Because of Goodwin's approach, the book is equally valuable for what is says about the Roosevelts as what it says about American society during WWII. The Roosevelt marraige is displayed in all its beauty and ugliness. Goodwin aptly demonstrates the irony of the live of the Roosevelts: while they strove ceaselessly to improve the lives of every Amercian, they often manipulated and harmed the very people closest to them, especially each other.

At the same time, through splendid research and organization, Goodwin follows America's attitudes on such varied subjects as race, gender equality, labor relations, politics, and the war production effort. No item of domestic concern seems overlooked. In her portrayal of domestic developments, Goodwin chronicles the true beginning of modern American society. And once again, as with her descriptions of the Roosevelts, Goodwin does not hesitate to present American society in all its glory and shame. The wonders of American ingenuity and dedication are countered with the ugliness of the Japanese-American internments and racial biases.

Goodwin's account is simply a unique piece of history. While most authors would be unable to portray either the Roosevelts or American society in such brilliant detail, Goodwin pulls both off together in a seemless and impressive account. It is no wonder that this book won the Pulitzer Prize.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating Portrait of FDR & Eleanor and Their Times!
Once again Doris Kearns Goodwin pulls the elusive hare from the historical hat! I have been a fan of hers since reading "Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream" well over twenty years ago, and after all this time and reading a number of her books, I never cease to wonder at her incredible creative abilities, at her sheer profundity with language, nuance, and always choosing the right word to cast her narrative into exactly the right mode and string the reader along the trail of her entertaining and informative story line. This time out she tackles the single most fascinating period of modern American history, those critical years between the onset of the Depression and the end of World War Two.

Here she has chosen to thread her way through both the public and private lives and times of the Roosevelts in the throes of their four successive administrations between 1932 and 1945, in the throes of what was undoubtedly the most momentous and critical period in modern American history. Her powerful prose style lends itself magnificently to the task at hand in terms of describing the principals and the social surround masterfully, and the reader is swept into the waves and eddies of the period, sitting in the catbird's seat as Goodwin describes both the intricacies of FDR's administration and their uneasy, unconventional, and unusual marriage. This is an extremely well researched, insightful and thoughtful study of two enormously complex people at the peaks of the intellectual, social, and political powers, in the midst of a socio-political maelstrom of historical proportions.

As described by Goodwin, both Eleanor and FDR become figures of almost Biblical proportions; modern titans committed both to the nation as well as to each other. Yet these two were in many ways living separate lies, and one marvels and the degree of maturity, selflessness, and composure each had to face the issues of both their public and private obligations in the manner they apparently did. Her emerging portrait of FDR is that of a brilliant, charismatic, endlessly witty and wise patrician who steeled himself to the notion of "noblesse oblige", while Eleanor is painted in what is in many ways a much more sympathetic light, as a long-suffering, patient, loving and ultimately independent woman no longer content to stand quietly in the shadows.

This is a very comprehensive, compassionate, and compelling historical biography of the Roosevelts in the context of their times, and is an admirable addition to the growing body of scholarly yet popular works so many recently active American historians like Goodwin, Ambrose, David Kennedy, James Patterson, and Taylor Branch have contributed to our understanding of the United States in the 20th century. I really enjoyed reading this magnificent book by Ms. Goodwin, and recommend it for your history bookshelf. Enjoy!

5-0 out of 5 stars A good look at a fascinating partnership.
Doris Kearns Goodwin's book "No Ordinary Time" about FDR & Eleanor is a fine piece of writing that certainly belongs in anyone's American History library. Of course it is World History, but it is written from a very American perspective and thereby manages to relegate even Churchill to the wings.

There is a degree of nearly strident feminism in the writing, not quite what one would call shrill, but the author's sympathies seem to lean decidedly toward Mrs. Roosevelt, often based on issues of sexual inequality. To be fair, Ms. Kearns Goodwin is about as harsh in her handling of racial prejudice
and anti-semitism, both cases where FDR used Eleanor as a lightening rod.

What emerges is nonetheless what most sources reveal: he was the instinctive politician who happened to be in the right place at the right time to make magic happen while she was a tireless social activist more in tune with the masses than with any one person. He could bend his principles when needed (either for the greater good of the whole or on occasion for his own selfish indulgences) whereas she was quite rigid and nearly incapable of intimacy.

One can (or should) hardly judge them. It is enough to appreciate their complexity and their contrasts and to see how they played off one another so well. The real beauty of this book is that it allows us to do just that quite completely.

5-0 out of 5 stars the best biography
Doris Kearns Goodwin really took her time and wrote one of the best books I have ever read. She talked about Franklin and Eleanore and their influence on each other, as well as the support for each other they needed to get through WWII. I was born in 1960, and recognized many of the names in politics from my childhood, but the step by step process of the war and the thinking behind each step was just so educational for me. I chose this book for my Literature group last year, and everyone loved it. Most of the women lived through this time, and one was a nurse in the army at that time, and said this was a very accurate account, but also that she learned much more than was ever in the news. Just a great experience and definitely sparked great discussion fo hours!

1-0 out of 5 stars Roosevelt propaganda
FDR was the second worst president in U.S. history after Bill Clinton. He bankrupted the U.S. economy, he made us a socialist nation, and brainwashed us with filthy Soviet propaganda during World War II. Doris Kearns Goodwin is a Roosevelt worshipper. Steer clear of works like this and instead read John Flynn's "The Roosevelt Myth". ... Read more

128. The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin
list price: $35.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0385493282
Catlog: Book (2000-09-19)
Publisher: Doubleday
Sales Rank: 35257
Average Customer Review: 4.63 out of 5 stars
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Benjamin Franklin may have been the most remarkable American ever to live: a printer, scientist, inventor, politician, diplomat, and--finally--an icon. His life was so sweeping that this comprehensive biography by H.W. Brands at times reads like a history of the United States during the 18th century. Franklin was at the center of America's transition from British colony to new nation, and was a kind of Founding Grandfather to the Founding Fathers; he was a full generation older than George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Patrick Henry, and they all viewed him with deep respect. "Of those patriots who made independence possible, none mattered more than Franklin, and only Washington mattered as much," writes Brands (author of a well-received Teddy Roosevelt biography, T.R.: The Last Romantic). Franklin was a complex character who sometimes came up a bit short in the personal virtue department, once commenting, "That hard-to-be-governed passion of youth had hurried me frequently into intrigues with low women that fell in my way." When he married, another woman was already pregnant with his child--a son he took into his home and had his wife raise.

Franklin is best remembered for other things, of course. His still-famous Poor Richard's Almanac helped him secure enough financial freedom as a printer to retire and devote himself to the study of electricity (which began, amusingly, with experiments on chickens). His mind never rested: He invented bifocals, the armonica (a musical instrument made primarily of glass), and, in old age, a mechanical arm that allowed him to reach books stored on high shelves. He served American interests as a diplomat in Europe; without him, France might not have intervened in the American Revolution. He helped draft the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. He possessed a sense of humor, too. In 1776, when John Hancock urged the colonies to "hang together," Franklin is said to have commented, "We must indeed all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately." Franklin's accomplishments were so numerous and varied that they threaten to read like a laundry list. Yet Brands pours them into an engrossing narrative, and they leap to life on these pages as the grand story of an exceptional man. The First American is an altogether excellent biography. --John J. Miller ... Read more

Reviews (111)

5-0 out of 5 stars The polymath who gave America a fine start
Being a scientist and the son of a printer, I have always been intrigued with Franklin, the man who encompassed all my family's interests single-handedly. H. W. Brands' book is a wonderful addition to the school of knowledge of one of our most interesting founding fathers. Well written, this book is notably more readable than the typical arid biography. Especially laudable is Brands' coordination of simultaneous events in the colonies and Europe, which he relates in a clear, coordinated and concise manner, avoiding confusing backtracking in parallel timelines.

Brands' theme in this book clearly tracks the arc of Franklin life, from loyal English colonial subject to American Revolutionary advocate. While building a strong career as publisher, Franklin manages to build an infrastructure of public works in Philadelphia, including library and fire department, a colonial postal system, and defense force against hostile Indians. All the while, he gains an international reputation as a scientist and philosopher, and late in life, statesman par excellance.

Brands is to be commended for giving us this well sourced and detailed book, which clearly relates the amazing life of a complex and fascinating American.

5-0 out of 5 stars Outstanding Biography
When I first saw this book available for sale, I could not wait to read it. Other founding fathers, such as Washington, Adams and Jefferson have had numerous biographies devoted to them and their role in the American Revolution. Benjamin Franklin was long overdue for a new biography and H.W. Brands has supplied an excellent chapter on one of the most illustrious founding fathers.

The book demonstrates the rise of Franklin from a younger son in a large family in Boston to a well known and respected printer in Philadelphia. Based on extreme hard work, frugality and ghe ability to impress power men, Franklin quickly becomes a force in the city. The most interesting think about this point in his life is the agility of his mind. Never content to simply wonder why, Franklin educates himself in such diverse areas as philosophy, science, mechnical engineering, etc. The classic American dream of rags to riches is truly demonstrate via the life of Franklin.

Later in his life, Franklin spent many years in England as the colonial agent for Pennsylvania. His fame as an amateur scientist through his experiments with electricity meant he was already well known in England. Franklin himself loved England during this time in his life and the author points out that it took quite a bit of abuse from the English politicians to turn him away from pursuing reconciliation with the Mother Country.

Once he knew that America must achieve independence and at the age of 70 (!), Franklin returned to Philadelphia and began the exciting process of fighting for independence and setting up a new country. Soon after, he went to France to persuade the French government to help the fledgling country. Later still, he worked on the development of the U.S. Constitution. In the history of man, it is difficult to find a man whose life encompasses such a wide range of achievement.

The author does a fine job of drawing upon Franklin's own words to illustrate his life. The writing flows smoothly and covers most areas of his life in sufficient detail. Only one small complaint- I wish more would have been discussed regarding his private life, especially his marrige.

5-0 out of 5 stars History Comes Alive
Although a 700+ page biography of a man dead 200 years sounds daunting, in this case nothing could be further from the truth. Franklin's story is an amazing one, which the author tells in a style both fast and entertaining. He never goes into more detail than the casual reader (me) would like, but gives just enough historical perspective and philosophical framework to place Franklin in his time. Franklin's life was so full and far-ranging that it couldn't be covered in less than 700 well-manicured pages. I found it compulsively readable, despite the size. Truly he lived in "interesting times" and showed himself to be a man equal to every challenge he faced -- and quite a few left to future generations.

The true measure of a biography may be in getting the reader to CARE about the subject, and in this Brands succeeds unconditionally. Even from the distance of 200 years Franklin's inevitable passing hit me hard, moving me to tears of sorrow.

THAT is good writing.

5-0 out of 5 stars Scholarly Work on an American Icon
H.W. Brands must have been a doozy back at school. Once given an assignment for a research paper I can see Brands asking "Can I do twice as many references as required?"

I'm poking fun a little to make the point that this is a scholarly and well-researched portrait of Franklin. Brands doesn't seem to make any points that are not backed up by some written reference, and any time there is speculation Brands' language makes it clear that this is a thought extrapolated from available knowledge.

I almost wanted to give the work 4 rather than 5 stars because my initial response was that although the book was good, I also thought that if there's anything this book needs, it's a little pruning. This biography is so exhaustively complete that there is little time to pause. ALL of the information is presented, and it got a little mentally tiring separating the wheat from the chaff. (Does this make me like the Emperor who informs Mozart his new opera has "too many notes"?) From the language of this book Mr. Franklin's early work in the printing business in Philadelphia comes across with as much force as his later participation in the drafting of the Declaration of Independence.

Brands gives us a good feel for Benjamin Franklin's standing in the world community - not only in Philadelphia and America, but also in Europe and around the world. We also get a little of a taste for Franklin's indulgences in woman and for the periods in his life when he was reluctant to assume the role of "family man".

At the end when the great citizen Dr. Franklin passed away James Madison passed the news to the new congress and suggested that a National Period of Mourning be observed - a measure that must have been one of the first official acts of Congress to pass immediately and unanimously. The word quickly spread to France where their assembly also unanimously voted to immediately don black to mourn The First American.

Among Biographies, in particular of our Founding Fathers, this one stands up well, and should for as long as people care to read about the amazing Benjamin Franklin.

5-0 out of 5 stars Ben Franklin was the prototypical geek
The founding fathers have been in danger of becoming mere icons for some time now -- Washington the military man, Hamilton the royalist, Jefferson the renaissance man, and Franklin, the comic foil. "Yes, we must indeed all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately," Franklin quipped at the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

But in this book, H.W. Brands lays out a broader, more important role for Franklin. Besides being the most famous American to the rest of the world, Brands argues, Franklin was the first American to recognize that the colonies could never achieve an acceptable freedom from Parliament within the British Empire, and would therefore have to fight to achieve full independence.

He was also the prototypical geek. Though he lacked formal education, Franklin had an amazing ability to arrive at the truth of a subject through observation and experimentation. His contributions on electricity and heating (the Franklin Stove) are well known, but Brands covers others in fields from oceanography to physiology to opthalmology.

An inveterate (if inexpert) chessplayer and skirt-chaser, Franklin's family life is fascinating and new to me. He fathered an illegitimate son, William, of an unknown mother before marrying Deborah Read; Franklin and Deborah raised him. Later, they would have a son (somewhat improbably named Francis Folger Franklin, and called Franky) who died of smallpox after the family failed to inoculate him, and a daughter, Sally. Franklin won William appointments as a deputy postmaster and later as royal governor of New Jersey, but when the revolution came, William sided with the crown. It was a blow to Franklin, who never reconciled with his son. He had a major role in raising William's illegitimate son, Temple, and another grandchild, Benjamin Bache (Sally's son).

His relationship with his wife was also somewhat curious. In 1757, Franklin essentially moved to England to represent the Pennsylvania Assembly with the English government (then under George II -- he later would be the agent of Massachusetts, Georgia, and New Jersey, as well), while Deborah stayed behind. He would spend 16 of the next 18 years in London, and 8 of the following 10 in France, but Deborah stayed in Philadelphia. She claimed a fear of ocean travel kept her from traveling, and Franklin wrote her constantly, but it's a heck of a way to run a marriage.

Franklin simplifies the biographer's job somewhat by the very volume of material he left behind. As a printer, he published Poor Richard's Almanac, and innumberable broadsides, pamphlets, newspaper articles, and memoirs. As a politician, he contributed to the Declaration, to several constitutions for the state of Pennsylvania (he was head of the Pennsylvania Assembly before the war, and 3 times president of the state after), and the the U.S. Constitution -- Brands credits Franklin with the compromise allowing state legislatures to elect 2 members each to the Senate, while the House of Representatives was elected by population (initial proposals would have had the Senate elected by the House). And as a celebrity, his letters were almost invariably saved, and provide insights into his remarkable perspective on the world.

There's a vogue of Revolutionary era non-fiction right now, including David McCullough's "John Adams" (Adams disliked Franklin pretty intensely, so this might be a good pair to read), "Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation," by Joseph J. Ellis, and "The American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson," but the history-minded geek will probably prefer The First American. ... Read more

129. Benjamin Franklin
by Edmund S. Morgan
list price: $28.00
our price: $18.48
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0300095325
Catlog: Book (2002-10)
Publisher: Yale University Press
Sales Rank: 24758
Average Customer Review: 3.63 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Benjamin Franklin is perhaps the most remarkable figure in American history: the greatest statesman of his age, he played a pivotal role in the formation of the American republic. He was also a pioneering scientist, a bestselling author, the country's first postmaster general, a printer, a bon vivant, a diplomat, a ladies' man, and a moralist-and the most prominent celebrity of the eighteenth century.Franklin was, however, a man of vast contradictions, as Edmund Morgan demonstrates in this brilliant biography. A reluctant revolutionary, Franklin had desperately wished to preserve the British Empire, and he mourned the break even as he led the fight for American independence. Despite his passion for science, Franklin viewed his groundbreaking experiments as secondary to his civic duties. And although he helped to draft both the Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution, he had personally hoped that the new American government would take a different shape. Unraveling the enigma of Franklin's character, Morgan shows that he was the rare individual who consistently placed the public interest before his own desires.

Written by one of our greatest historians, Benjamin Franklin offers a provocative portrait of America's most extraordinary patriot. ... Read more

Reviews (35)

2-0 out of 5 stars Unconstrained by linear logic, a difficult book to follow
Benjamin Franklin's life is one of the most fascinating in American life--he was a diplomat, legislator, printer and scientist. In this admittedly short biography in an admittedly crowded field (there have been a handful of similar books published in recent years), Edmund Morgan attempts to give us an impression of the character of the man.

He starts with his athleticism, moves on to his views of religion and morals, and so on. Those who are unfamiliar with the factual details of Franklins life will be confused by the sudden appearance of details: Referring to his wife, Morgan writes: "He spent the last ten years of her life away from her in London." This comes as a shock as we haven't yet been told he spent so much time in the mother country.

Morgan readily admits that the work is based largely on a recent compilation of Franklin documents on disk ("...and not much else")and doesn't offer original research.

In sum, this becomes a difficult book to read and cannot be recommended except perhaps as an adjunct to Franklin-devotees who've already finished reading several more orthodox biographies.

4-0 out of 5 stars insightful look at "the ornament of the New World"
"Let all Men know thee, but no man know thee thoroughly." So advised Dr. Franklin, and so he lived. It is difficult to know any historical figure, especially as his contemporaries knew him, and Franklin's being a multifaceted, sometimes enigmatic person makes knowing him particularly challenging--and also extremely interesting. But Edmund S. Morgan, relying on the thirty-six currently published volumes (with more on the way) of Franklin's writings, does an admirable job of introducing us to this famous Founder.

It is not Morgan's intention to offer an exhaustive treatment of Franklin's life. Rather, he paints a portrait of the man's character, personality, and opinions and shows how these traits came through in what Franklin did. The picture of Franklin that emerges here is one of a curious, industrious, energetic man, one who enjoys the company of others (particularly women--and younger women at that), one who is devoted to public service, one who dislikes controversy and scandal. He uses his considerable talents to benefit his fellow man (and himself) and to improve the world around him, as he did for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and eventually for the nascent United States. Morgan traces three major ideas running through many of Franklin's actions--(1) his belief in voluntary associations for mutual assistance, such as the fire company and library in Philadelphia; (2) the goal, ultimately abandoned, of uniting the American colonies with England in an Anglo-American empire, a single political community destined for greatness; and (3) his belief that what is right is that which is beneficial. It is also interesting, and more than a little surprising, to note, as well, that from 1757 to his death in 1790, Franklin spent only eight years in his native land.

Readers of this volume will inevitably want to turn to more in-depth biographies of Franklin, or perhaps even to his own writings. But for a brief and insightful picture of the man, either as introduction or re-acquaintance, I can imagine no better work than this one.

3-0 out of 5 stars Not bad, but not the one to get
I feel bad saying this, but the reality is that if you are interested in learning about one of history's most interesting and influential men, you'll be better served reading Walter Isaacson's biography of Franklin. Isaacson's is more comprehensive, more detailed, more incisive, but most of all, is a total pleasure to read, whereas I found Morgan's sometimes difficult to plow through. "Plowing through" would be worth it if this book offered perspectives and facts not found in the Isaacson book, but that is not the case.

As I said, this one isn't bad, but why get it, when the Isaacson one is superior?

4-0 out of 5 stars Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin; we know about the remarkable things he did, but how do we really know him as a man? That is Edmund S. Morgan's question. Through Franklin's letters, newspapers, discoveries, autobiography, and a certain disk entitled, the Papers of Benjamin Franklin, Morgan has been compelled to write this book to give the world a taste of who Franklin was. Franklin was born on January 17, 1706, full of curiosity and vigor. He always felt the need to explore the world around him and to study the things that most took for granted. He could often be found outdoors walking about, taking in the scenery around him. He had an uncanny ability to look at everyday things with surprise and inquisitiveness. This endowment is what drove Franklin to make so many advances in human knowledge. He also thoroughly enjoyed being in the company of good friends; playing chess, telling jokes, and singing songs. He was a very sociable and companionable man; he was always looking to help people. Franklin also had his own views of religion. When Franklin was young he did a lot of thinking and writing on his morals. He came to believe that "Sin is not harmful because it is forbidden, but it is forbidden because it is harmful...Nor is a duty beneficial because it is commanded, but it is commanded because it is beneficial." Franklin never attended a church regularly and didn't take kindly to the Bible, though he undoubtedly believed in God as the creator. Franklin did not believe in a God who divided his people into those he intended to welcome to heaven and those he would condemn to Hell. Franklin even went on to write a lengthy list of virtues in his autobiography part 2. He always tried to do what he thought God wanted of him; he always tried to help the public and the economy. Franklin married Deborah Read in 1730 shortly after his first son, William, was born. The mother of this son is still unknown. When Franklin was entering his forties, he began studying about and experimenting with electricity. Only one kind of electricity was known back then, and that was static electricity, the kind that produces a shock. In the 1740's a collection of Leyden jars for storing static electricity was sent to Franklin by an English friend. Without delay, Franklin started experimenting with it. He soon discovered that a metal rod with a pointed end would attract a spark from a greater distance than a blunt one. He then went on to suggest the experiment with the kite and the key to prove that lightning was electric. His experiment was successful, and suddenly he was famous. Though, that is certainly not the only thing Franklin would become famous for. He helped write the Declaration of Independence, secured the Alliance with France, negotiated the treaty of peace with England, and partook in the convention that drafted the United States Constitution to replace the Articles of Confederation. Franklin once wrote to his mother that when his life was over, "I would rather have it said, he lived usefully, than, he died rich." Franklin died on April 17, 1790. However, I feel saying that Benjamin Franklin lived usefully is a blatant understatement. Franklin was a man of great heart. He accomplished more things in his eighty-four years than most men could achieve in two-hundred. Benjamin Franklin was essential to the world.

4-0 out of 5 stars Fascinating
This is both a fascinating book, and it is about one of the
most fascinating subjects, Benjamin Franklin.
The book is a little on the short side, but the author explains
he kept it a bit limited in scope on purpose. He intends for
it to be readable,and he wants to concentrate on Franklin's public service; plus, he tends to focus on his overseas assignments on behalf of the 13 Colonies, as well as his later
service on behalf of the new United States.
No hero of our Revolution is more complex and diverse than
Franklin, and his public service far exceeds that of any other
of the Founders. We tend to forget how old Franklin was at the
time of some of his greatest service. After nearly 10 years in
England, trying to pursuade the English authorities in Parliament of the wisdom of keeping their American colonies within the British Empire by giving them equal status in that
Empire, and finally failing, he returned home to Philadelphia.
And the next day, he was elected to the Second Continental Congress.
As he entered the State House in Philadelphia to begin his term
in that Congress, it is noted that he served in that same building years before in the colonial assembly. And when he
served in the colonial government, some of the greatest of Founders weren't born yet; at that time, for example, Patrick
Henry, Thomas Jefferson, John Hancock and John Adams had not even been born. Franklin served all those years, and as the
Revolution was progressing, and he was in his 70s, the new government sent him to France to procure loans and to negotiate
treaties with France to help in their fight for Independence.
That he succeeded is evident, and he spent several years in France serving his new country.
The book reveals, in very interesting detail, that Franklin was
so revered and so respected in England, that while he was living
there, fighting for better understanding by Parliament, he was
blamed for everything that was happening in the Colonies. When
an assembly in Bostom forwarded new demands to King George III,
which inflamed Parliament, the Solicitor General called Franklin
the "great director" of those events and demands. The author
very nicely points out that the probably author of those demands
from Bostom, Samuel Adams, needed no direction from Franklin on
how to inflame independence passions.
When the Boston Tea Party took place in Boston harbor, in protest against Parliament's tax on imported tea, the Secretary

for Colonial Affairs told Parliament the whole affair looked
like it came from "...the Franklin school of politics."
About that time, Franklin's English friends advised him he was
facing arrest, and many were afraid for his physical safety.
But he continued doing his job for the Colonies, and although
he met with much frustration in dealing with British authorities, he never wavered in his efforts to help the Colonies.
Franklin showed style, energy, and he exercised more diplomacy
in both England and France than we can imagine, and this author
does a nice job of pointing out his efforts and accomplishments. ... Read more

130. Remains: Non-Viewable : A Memoir
by John Sacret Young
list price: $24.00
our price: $16.32
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Asin: 0374249032
Catlog: Book (2005-05-05)
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Sales Rank: 33832
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Book Description

When John Sacret Young's cousin, Doug was killed in Vietnam, Young learned that the remains of every Vietnam casualty fell into one of two official categories: Viewable or Non-Viewable. He also discovered that such categories applied to how his New England family faced its own history.

This compelling narrative is the haunting story of a man coming to terms with himself, with his family's past, with what he knows and will never know, and with his own future.

Remains: Non-Viewable traces the close-knit lives of four men in Young's family: his uncle George, his cousin Doug, his father, and the author himself. In lyrical yet pungent prose, it illustrates how their seemingly tranquil existence on the Massachusetts shore is affected over the years by war, alcoholism, fading friendships and shifting memories of events gone by.

Beautifully written and profoundly moving, Remains: Non-Viewable, a powerful and persuasive examination of fathers and sons, of war and remembrance, and of family and self.
... Read more

131. Titan : The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.
list price: $18.00
our price: $12.24
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1400077303
Catlog: Book (2004-03-30)
Publisher: Vintage
Sales Rank: 9121
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132. Mao : A Life
by Philip Short
list price: $25.00
our price: $17.00
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Asin: 0805066381
Catlog: Book (2001-02-01)
Publisher: Owl Books
Sales Rank: 98900
Average Customer Review: 3.95 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

When the Nationalists routed a ragtag Red Army on the Xiang River during the Long March, an earthy Chinese peasant with a brilliant mind moved to a position of power. Eight years after his military success, Mao Tse-tung had won out over more sophisticated rivals to become party chairman, his title for life. Isolated by his eminence, he lived like a feudal emperor for much of his reign after blood purge and agricultural failures took more lives than those killed by either Stalin or Hitler. His virtual quarantine resulted in an ideological/political divide and a devastating reign of terror that became known as the Cultural Revolution. One cannot understand today's China without first understanding Mao, and Philip Short's masterly assessment -- informed by a wealth of new sources -- allows the reader to understand this colossal figure whose shadow will dominate the twenty-first century.
... Read more

Reviews (19)

4-0 out of 5 stars Informative and well-written
I have always been put off by Chinses history and never found it appealing in comparison with other history. But this book is a good introduction to Chinese history from 1920 to 1976, and subsequent thereto. I thought the early parts kind of a chore to read, but was very glad I kept on and the coverage for the years since 1945 was infomative and full of interest. The author spends no time considering views of Mao from outside China (except from Russia), and such I thought would have been of interest. For instance, the people who are considered so carefully in Barbara Tuchman's Stilwell and the American Experience in China (read by me with considerable appreciation in September of 1972) figure not at all in this account. What a blessing Mao's death was for China: as great as Stalin's was for Russia and maybe as great as Hitler's was for the world. The book lacks footnotes, tho there are source notes for the pages. I was dismayed to see no bibliography: I presume the author figured one could deduce such from the source notes, but I sure would have liked to see a bibliography. There are two maps, but neither shows the town where Mao was born. I think maps in a book should show every city or town mentioned in the book, if possible. But these are minor complaints and I recommend the book to those who want to read a well-written and carefully researched life of a major figure of the 20th century.

4-0 out of 5 stars A Very Good Book About Mao!
Two brand new biographies of Mao Zedong came out this year at the same time. One is by the very famous historian of China, Johnathan Spence and the other, this one, by Philip Short. Though I had heard of Spence and not of Short, I picked this one up because Spence's book was over 25$ and only about 100 pages, Shorts book is 600 pages of biography and another 100 pages of notes, pictures, cast of characters, and index. For the money, I figured this book was a better buy!

The book was excellent. The real strenght of this book was the great use of primary sources and the great job the author did on Mao's early life and the history of China from the fall of the Qing Dynasty to the founding of the People's Republic in 1949.

The only faults I had with the book were the post-1949 years with the exception of the chapters on the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. The author just did not do as good a job of the post-1949 Mao and China. However, the pre-1949 stuff was great.

The book was well written and easy to read despite the size of the book. I enjoyed reading the book and learned a lot and felt it was time well spent. HOwever, again I enjoyed the first 400 pages much more than the last 200 pages.

The author is fair showing both Mao's brilliance and ruthlessness. Having recently read A Great Wall: Six Presidents and China which looked at China from Nixon to the Present, and this book I feel am I pretty up to date on recent scholarship.

If you like Chinese history and have the time, this book is very good.

4-0 out of 5 stars Determination, stubborness, fate...
Philip Short's 'Mao: A Life' is an amazingly researched biography. Short enlightens the reader on a large portion of Chinese history. Great detail is given to the most important periods of Chairman Mao's life. The revolution of the Red Army through the awful mistakes made as a leader of the most populous nation ever were written in a way to keep you interested.

I recommend this title for those interested in: Chinese history, Socialism, Soviet history, Mao as a commander and leader, and those that are infatuated with history in general.

4-0 out of 5 stars Unbalanced but realistic, informative, and insightful
Philip Short draws a realistic picture of Mao Zedong; he strips away much mystery surrounding Mao and leaves a simple austere portrait of a complex man. Today, Mao tends to be either lionized or demonized but Short avoids sensationalism and sticks to presenting us with information, insights, and informed opinion.

The chapters on Mao's childhood and youth are particularly interesting. Short shows us how a well-to-do peasant with one or two farm hands lived at the end of the 19th century, and how an eldest son (Mao) was expected to behave. He shows us what a large Chinese town looked like at the turn of the 19th/20th century and how a young man would have felt seeing it for the first time. Short forces us to remember the obvious: at 14 years old, Mao was a boy, albeit a bright one.

A good example of the insights Short gives us can be found in his treatment of Mao's schooling. Mao was taught to read, write, and think in a traditional Confucian village school. The loud and mindless rote repetition methods worked, but they impress neither the author nor the reader. The insight we get from Short's presentation is that youths who in the 1960s memorized Mao's Little Red Book were following the same pedagogy, substituting Mao for Confucius, and youth groups for village schools.

As an example of realism, Short deflates some of the sex scandals around Mao. Yes, Mao enjoyed the company of young women, but these were enthusiastic communist girls, more like rock groupies than members of an imperial harem.

Where the book loses its balance is that not enough is made of Mao's real failures, both as a leader and as a human being. Short faces these failures square on, but late and he does not give them nearly enough emphasis. Short's evaluation of Mao as being not as bad as Hitler or Stalin fails to convince us, perhaps because the effect Mao had on China was as bad as Stalin's on Russia: millions of dead and a crippled economy that could not sustain the population.

4-0 out of 5 stars A Solid Biography Of One Of The Greatest Men Of Our Time
I would say that this is probobly the best biography of comrade Mao currently in print.It is very easy to read,despite its length.However,I would say that after 1949,the author loses much of his objectivity.He did not focous on all the great things that Mao did for China.He told many lies in the last few hundred pages.For a better understanding of Mao,I would suggest checking out the Revolutionary Communist Party. ... Read more

133. Notable Black American Men
by Jesse Carney Smith
list price: $170.00
our price: $170.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0787607630
Catlog: Book (1998-10-01)
Publisher: Thomson Gale
Sales Rank: 801416
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134. But Not for the Fuehrer
by Helmut Jung
list price: $21.95
our price: $21.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1414034458
Catlog: Book (2004-01-01)
Publisher: 1stBooks Library
Sales Rank: 613382
Average Customer Review: 5 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (1)

5-0 out of 5 stars Awesome military story!
This book is a very easy and fast read. There are no complicated military jargon, so anyone (not just military veterans) can read this. Mr. Jung's story is absolutely amazing and I am surprised at how much he endured and then lived to tell about it. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes reading autobiographies and/or military stories. ... Read more

135. Letters From Prison
by Marquis De Sade
list price: $29.95
our price: $29.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 155970411X
Catlog: Book (1999-05-27)
Publisher: Arcade Publishing
Sales Rank: 201180
Average Customer Review: 4 out of 5 stars
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The 1990s have seen a resurgence of interest in the Marquis de Sade, with several biographies competing to put their version of his life story before the public. But Sadean scholar Richard Seaver takes us directly to the source, translating Sade's prison correspondence. Seaver's translations retain the aristocratic hauteur of Sade's prose, which still possesses a clarity that any reader can appreciate. "When will my horrible situation cease?" he wrote to his wife shortly after his incarceration began in 1777. "When in God's name will I be let out of the tomb where I have been buried alive? There is nothing to equal the horror of my fate!" But he was never reduced to pleading for long, and not always so solicitous of his wife's feelings; a few years later, he would write, "This morning I received a fat letter from you that seemed endless. Please, I beg of you, don't go on at such length: do you believe that I have nothing better to do than to read your endless repetitions?" For those interested in learning about the man responsible for some of the most infamous philosophical fiction in history, Letters from Prison is an indispensable collection. ... Read more

Reviews (1)

4-0 out of 5 stars Curious Correspondence
The letters that make up this volume, written by the infamous Marqus de Sade, show more about the man himself in terms of his daily thinking than he his erotic fictions ever could. Whereas his fiction is born of his imagination, what he writes here are his own opinions and ideas of his life and his surroundings.

He writes frequently to his wife from prison and has what I think of it as, a scathingly dark sense of humor about it all. If your already a devote fan of the Marquis or just a curious reader, (then even before you pick up his own works, I would recommend reading this first to get an idea of the man) then you should find this collection of curious correspondence to your liking. ... Read more

136. Baruch: My Own Story
by Bernard Baruch
list price: $41.95
our price: $28.53
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 156849095X
Catlog: Book (1993-02-01)
Publisher: Buccaneer Books Inc
Sales Rank: 22016
Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (5)

4-0 out of 5 stars A Review on Bernard Baruch
This book was wonderful and informative. It was an autobiography on one of America's most successful political advisers and Wall Street Stockbrokers. Not only did Baruch share many life experiences, he also gave many words of wisdom that were very inspirational. I felt like I got to know Bernard Baruch and I now have a huge respect for the man he was. He truly cared about the United States and all of the people in it. He made his work personal. On page 85 he states that, "Above all else...the stock market is people (that)...pit their conflicting judgments, their hopes and fears, strengths and weaknesses, greeds and ideals." Baruch was extremely wealthy as a stock broker, yet he knew life was more than money earned. "....I realized how much there was could not be bought for money (178)" He was also very generous with the money he made. His mother told him to "do something for the Negro (289)", which he did. He donated money to help build a hospital but required that the hospital in South Carolina leave beds reserved for Negros. He also contributed money for college scholarships solely to African Americans. Overall this book showed me what a great man he was. It also gave many stories about his adventures has a stock broker and a political adviser under Woodrow Wilso and Franklin Roosevelt. Baruch found his passion in politics and economics. "A skilled operator in any field acquires an almost instinctive 'feel' which enables him to sense many things even without being able to explain them. (260)" I think Baruch had that "feel" and that is why what he did with his life was so rewarding.

5-0 out of 5 stars Stand the test of time. Excellent!
Though legislation and time changes, human minds and rules of the game dont. In this book, the great "operator" of the first half of the twentieth century (I really think only Jesse Livermore and Bernard Baruch deserve the honor) talked of his political views, family relationship, and most importantly to trader readers like me, a lot about his "operation". Dont wanna be so hard sell here. However, if you like Reminiscences of a stock operator, you shouldnt miss this. In fact, there are many commonalities between the two, like their strong avoidance of tips and influence of "insiders", searching and acting on facts and facts only, mass psychology as the dominant market driver, demand and supply as the ultimate axiom, extravagant hopes and talk of a "New Era" in advance of financial panics, the seeming almightiness of Morgan, the formation of a pool by a speculative crowd is a sign of weakness, etc etc.

I am quite surprised to have found so few reviews here about this book relative to ROSO. Anyway, dont miss this.

p.s. I would like to quote some paragraphs from the book for your reference.

1. Page 105: Speculator comes from Latin speculari, which means to spy out and observe.... To be successful all human affairs including the making of peace and war, three things are necessary. First, one must get the facts of a situation or problem. Second, one must form a judgement as to what those facts portend. Third, one must act in time before it is too late.

2. Page 183: ...when money came into the hands of people too easily. Such money did not seem real. When men tossed around such huge sums in bets....they had lost all sense of value and of economics. No market in the hands of such people could be a stable or genuine one.....behind their bantering I sensed a feeling of insecurity, as if they were talking strong to cover up their own weaknesses.

3. Page 184: To enjoy the advantages of a free market one must have both buyers and sellers, both bulls and bears. A market without bears would be like a nation without a free press. There would be no one to criticise and restrain the false optimism that always leads to disaster.

4. Page 248: The true speculator is one who observes teh future and acts before it occurs. Like a surgeon he must be able to search through a mass of complex and contradictory details to the significant facts. Then still like the surgeon, he must be able to operate coldly, clearly and skillfully on the basis of the facts before him. What makes this tasks so difficult is that in the stock market the facts of any situation come to us through a curtain of human to disentangle the cold, hard economic facts from the rather warm feelings of the people dealing with these facts.

5. Page 318: This test of our ability to govern ourselves is really threefold. First, it is a test of values, of what things we will give up in order to make other things secure. Second, it is a test of our reasoning powers, of whether we have the wit to think our problems through to an effective solution. Third, it is a test of self discipline, of our ability to stand by our values and see our policies through, whatever the personal cost.

For someone who has made a valuable contribution to American finance and poitics, there is no better person to speak about Baruch than Baruch himself! He has given a very comprehensive record of his life starting from his parents' history to his childhood days, right on to attending college and getting married then onto his career in Wall Street and Government. Baruch mentioned that many people wanted him to write about himself, supposedly that they might find "some short cut, some sure-fire formula for becoming rich." He assures everyone that Wall Street must be treated like any other profession where hard work, patience and cost pays off, not tips and rumors!

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent read
A great account of the life of one of the world's most famous investment speculators. Interesting perspective on some of Baruch's contemporaries, notably J.P. Morgan. A reader can also get a glimpse of some of the activities that inspired the insider trading laws that form the foundation for modern securities industry regulation. A very worthwhile book for those interested in finance, investing and history.

5-0 out of 5 stars One of the best books I've ever read.
This is a marvelous book, which restores your faith in the financial world. Bernard Baruch acted throughout his career on his fathers advice: let unswerving integrity be your guidline, and built two highly succesful careers. An inspiration to us all. ... Read more

137. A Lady, First: My Life in the Kennedy White House and the American Embassies of Paris and Rome
by Letitia Baldrige
list price: $15.00
our price: $15.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0142001597
Catlog: Book (2002-10-01)
Publisher: Penguin Books
Sales Rank: 69348
Average Customer Review: 3.73 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Letitia Baldrige is the woman best known as Jackie Kennedy's social secretary during the White House years. But in this fascinating memoir Baldrige reveals a career sparkling with a host of other achievements: embassy work in an era when women rarely were given jobs overseas, becoming the first female executive at Tiffany & Co., and founding one of the first companies run by a female CEO. In her amazing life story Baldrige shares her perspective as a White House insider: the hilarity of young Jackie's antics on foreign diplomatic visits, the terror of the Cuban missile crisis, and the heartbreak of President Kennedy's funeral. Stylish, chic and always polite, Baldrige reveals the determination that has made her a success and brought her the admiration of women around the world. ... Read more

Reviews (15)

5-0 out of 5 stars The Wind Beneath Their Wings
I have always been a fan of Miss Baldrige, and I have several of her books, but I really enjoyed this one. I feel it gives a more personal glimpse into the HOW behind the WOW. She really was (is) the wind beneath the wings of her glamorous employers, Evangeline Bruce, Clare Boothe Luce, Jacqueline Kennedy. Creative mind behind the clever Tiffany campaigns, and later of her own company Letitia Baldrige Enterprises.

I particularly enjoyed her telling of early life, and then of life on her own. I have always found her quite as interesting as her illustrious employers, and delight to catch her on television.

I think her chouce of "A lady, First:" says it all.
She is indeed a lady, and a very interesting one.

I recommend this book heartily.

5-0 out of 5 stars An Interesting and Amazing Woman
Tish Baldridge has led an interesting and amazing life. She wasn't blessed with great wealth or beauty yet she managed to live and work on the upper echelons of American political and social society in the 50's, 60's, 70's, 80's, and onward.
Baldridge takes you through her beginnings in the midwest, her education at Miss Porter's and Vassar as one of the less financially advantaged students, her life in Paris and Rome working for such trend setters as Clare Booth Luce, her days at Tiffany, her years in the White House with Jackie Kennedy, and her life after.

Here's what is great about this book and her story: her life didn't begin and it didn't end with her association with Jackie Kennedy. Camelot fans will get great glimpses into those years from her vantage point. But there is a lot more to this book...

I would highly recommend this book to women who love biographies on the Jackie Kennedy, Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn set. I also would recommend this book to women who enjoy the story of a self-made woman and a survivor and anyone interested in the social history of this era. I would not recommend this book to most men and I would caution all readers to note that this is a book filled with details of food, flowers, gowns, and jewels and not policy making or congressional bills. You learn about the parties that Jackie Kennedy went to in the year of the Cuban Missile Crisis not about the policy nuances behind the crisis.

I gave this book as a present to several female friends and they loved it.

5-0 out of 5 stars Class from the past!
Oh! how I wish I had a life like Tish Baldridge's! She is a gutsy and classy lady and I admire her for that. I loved to read that book because it goes to show that dreams come true when we put the energy and efforts for them to materialize.

5-0 out of 5 stars Classy!
I just couldn't put this book down! Mrs. Baldridge has led a wonderful and exciting life.

4-0 out of 5 stars Strong women with great manners are always in style ...
I thoroughly enjoyed this book as my first glimpse into the life of Letitia Baldridge ... I was consistently intrigued as to what intimate political and social disclosure the next page would bring, all the while appreciating her honest and often self-deprecating narrative. She has in fact led an extraordinary life which she often acknowledged in reflection of each experience, always seemingly thankful for the opportunity to have played small, yet significant roles in our nation's history. She also represented the classic female struggle more commonly found for today's woman ... unafraid to admit her conventional desire for an all-American red-blooded husband, while also refusing to compromise all of her intelligence, skill and experience by stopping anywhere short of being an accomplished business executive, saleswoman, philanthropist and lecturer.

Anyone who has enjoyed biographies from other great woman of the last century (i.e. Eleanor Roosevelt, Katherine Graham) would definitely enjoy this one as well ... ... Read more

138. Jackson & Lee: Legends In Gray : The Paintings of Mort Kunstler
by Mort Kunstler, James I. Robertson
list price: $34.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1558533338
Catlog: Book (1995-09-01)
Publisher: Rutledge Hill Press
Sales Rank: 300492
Average Customer Review: 5 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (2)

5-0 out of 5 stars THE EYES HAVE IT ! !
I have read and "studied" several of Mr.Kunstler's books and enjoyed them all.I particularly enjoy the artists comments as to why he does some of the things the way he does.This book is different in that his art is not accompanied by his explanations but by another writer's text.This text is very good and really brings out the personalities of these great characters.As one who believes that it is important to understand the personalities of the people involved if one is to understand why things happened the way they did;this is very well done.
As to the title of my review;I find eyes fascinating.The first thing I look at in Mr.Kunstler's paintings is the eyes.Let me point out Confederate Sunset on pg.56 both Lee's and Jackson's eyes are very beady and staring resulting in them looking like figures in a wax museum;giving the painting a posed and unnatural feeling.Other examples are of Jackson on pages 38and 40.Note the difference in Jackson's eyes on page44.Another thing I like to study is how some paintings look very stiff,posed almost like a diorama in a museum,eg.The Return of Stuart on pg.126.Compare this to The Last Council on pg.102 which is so realistic. Am I alone in seeing this aspect of Mr.Kunstler's work?

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent combination of art and history!
Outstanding compilation of information, and the best images of primiere Civil War artist Mort Kunstler. A "must have" for all serious students of the American Civil War. ... Read more

139. Kaffir Boy: The True Story Of A Black Youths Coming Of Age In Apartheid South Africa
by Mark Mathabane
list price: $15.00
our price: $10.20
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0684848287
Catlog: Book (1998-10-07)
Publisher: Free Press
Sales Rank: 33518
Average Customer Review: 4.53 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Mark Mathabane was weaned on devastating poverty and schooled in the cruel streets of South Africa's most desperate ghetto, where bloody gang wars and midnight police raids were his rites of passage. Like every other child born in the hopelessness of apartheid, he learned to measure his life in days, not years. Yet Mark Mathabane, armed only with the courage of his family and a hard-won education, raised himself up from the squalor and humiliation to win a scholarship to an American university.

This extraordinary memoir of life under apartheid is a triumph of the human spirit over hatred and unspeakable degradation. For Mark Mathabane did what no physically and psychologically battered "Kaffir" from the rat-infested alleys of Alexandra was supposed to do -- he escaped to tell about it. ... Read more

Reviews (80)

5-0 out of 5 stars Growing Up
Growing Up

The book Kaffir Boy, by Mark Mathabane is without a doubt a worthwhile read. Its unique detail and harsh reality is unparalleled by any other novel. It is the story of Johannes Mathabane, growing up in the racially unequal apartheid of South Africa. Throughout the book, he is treated under awful conditions, yet learns to persevere and comes out on top in a most heroic manner. It tells of overcoming all of the obstacles in his life - including his father, the government, and his tribal heritage. This book is not only enjoyable to read, but it is also an important book as it opens America's eyes to those less fortunate living under impossible odds.

The book takes place in South Africa, where whites predominately rule. Johannes, who later changes his name to Mark, is a young boy just beginning to experience the hatred and racism in apartheid, a ghetto in Alexandra. The book starts out immediately showing the daily terror that he had to live.  With constant raids, by the black police (headed by whites), Johannes soon develops a hate for all white people, as his parents have to constantly flee because their "passbooks are not in order". Things begin to go bad after his father is taken away to jail for a year. Poverty and hunger consumes their ever-increasing family. When his father returns, he is never the same. An internal struggle begins to develop within Johannes. He is torn between his father's tribal beliefs and the new changing era of schooling and Christianity. As he grows older his metamorphosis begins and a hatred starts to brew inside for his father. His mother turns his life around by enrolling him in school. He prospers greatly and begins to think differently of some whites as his exposure grows. Poverty is constant throughout the book, as is the disputes between him and his father. He makes it through school graduating the top of his class. It is after a few years of schooling that he is introduced to the sport tennis. This would be the changing moment in his life. Tennis opens his views to whites as he encounters those who want to help him succeed. He meets friends such as Andre and Stan who promise to help in fulfill his dreams. When everything seems to be going well in his life, revolts begin against the government which he quickly joins in. This disrupts his life and brings back his hate memories of whites. Although his life is chaotic during this period, he still manages to quench his thirst for knowledge and manages to excel in school and tennis. He begins winning tournaments as his metamorphosis slows almost to an end. He rebels against his fathers wishes, only to pursue his dream of going to America. Eventually he proves that he could overcome hate with his mothers love and embarks to an American college.

            Throughout this book, Johannes demonstrates tremendous heroic qualities in his quest for success. From the moment he is brought into the world, he is constantly defending himself and his family. He shows courage constantly during the entire story. This is demonstrated when he rebels against his father's tribal wishes, continues schooling even when it is unbearable, and when he refuses to quit playing tennis with whites even though its against the law. Another quality that Johannes has is his dedication. He refuses to quit school, because he promised his mother, and he practices tennis even when his family and political unrest go against it. He also is ambitious. He comes from a home with nothing, yet he sets high hopes and dreams and never forgets them. Also, Johannes has great resourcefulness. For his learning he was provided with very little yet he made the best of it to try and educate himself. He constantly read comics to try and prove to everyone that he is better than a "kaffir" boy. Lastly, and probably the most important quality he possesses, is that he loved his mother and never wanted to disappoint her. This was the driving force behind most of what he accomplished. All these qualities put together made Mark Mathabane a great, almost unstoppable, hero. He believed when no one else did, a very difficult yet inspiring task.

            This book is an unquestionable necessity for all to read. One reason is because of the rich detail that Mark was not afraid to write about. He crosses many racial borders and accurately describes the hell that he was forced to live in - such as the unsanitary conditions and constant fear. It is not a pretty book to read, as his truthfulness often leads to disturbing tales. But I emphasize its importance, because of its ability to grasp you and throw you right into this terrible world that most people wouldn't believe exists. This book is also very captivating. He makes you feel as if you are experiencing everything he did, a task which most writers aim for but fall short of. He powerfully conveys all his emotions- his stubbornness of his younger years, his anger at his father and his sadness at his torn family. Plainly spoken, it is a great story to hear. It's amazing that he was able to overcome such odds and hardship, and it inspires you to want to do something to end the racial oppression. The theme of a fallen, but not beaten hero appears throughout the entire book. It also does revert back to the old "good will always prevail over evil theme" as this presents itself in religion and racist disputes. This book is just as intoxicating as it horrific, which provides a sad but good read.

            When Mark Mathabane wrote "Kaffir Boy", he accomplished a great literary work, comprised of great emotion. This naked view into his life provides us with unbelievable detail. It should be appreciated not only as a book, but as his inspirational life poured onto pages. He proved to everyone that he could triumph over all the evils threatening him even if he didn't have all the necessary tools. This memoir is not to be overlooked, as his success story is like no other. He escaped degradation to accomplish his dreams. He showed heroism when it seemed unbearable and lives to this day to tell his story. This is a powerful and intensely moving story.


5-0 out of 5 stars Kaffir Boy
I'm homeschooling my 13 y.o. son & we are currently learning about South Africa and apartheid. After much research and reading 4 other books, Waiting for the Rain, Cry the beloved Country, A dry white season, and The power of One, I read Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane. Since reading this book, I have not stopped thinking about Mark and his bittersweet life, mostly bitter, anything sweet coming from his mother. The horrors he and his family endured were at times hard to read, but he and his mother were so inspiring in the way they managed to lift themselves above this horrific thing called apartheid. It is a very hopeful and uplifting book putting my own petty problems into perspective. Mathabane's gift of expression and putting words on paper that turn into pictures in your mind and deep feelings of despair and hope in your heart is exceptional. He has written 3 other books which it seems to my dissapointment are currently out of print, but I will find them and read them. I could not put Kaffir Boy down and it has changed me. I highly reccommend it.

Mari Yunker St. George Utah

5-0 out of 5 stars An example for all of us.
I could not believe such story could exist, I was shocked every moment I read this book and what is even more intense is that its his own autobiography. The hardships this man had to endure in order to make it into the land we live on, the land we sometimes take for granted. This is a true example of hard work overcoming all obstacles, I would really recommend this book to all young teenagers, it is in a way inspirational for many of us that help us keep going.

5-0 out of 5 stars Staying Strong
This book is an amzaing book.Showed the courge and strenth of a young man that was determined to make it throught the hell like life style of being a black person in South Africa. I highly recomend it to everyone.

5-0 out of 5 stars There is always HOPE
The autobiography "Kaffir Boy" by Mark Mathabane is a very engrossing and vivid novel. Mark Mathabane encountered hardships in his life that most of the people in this world cannot even imagine. Apartheid laws in South Africa affected the lives of all the black families in both their public and private lives. Mark Mathabane grew up in society where apartheid was in total effect. The gruesome experiences that Mathabane faced were sometimes too much to bear. However, with the support of his loving mother and grandmother, Mathabane succeeded in his education by being the top in his class. Aware of the unjust laws of apartheid, Mark Mathabane was determined to somehow make a change in the community he lives in. His passion for tennis was what helped him change his life. Even with all the obstacles in his life, Mathabane hopes to be able to study in America with a tennis scholarship. With hard work and perseverance his dreams came true eventually.

"Kaffir Boy" is a very inspiring novel to everyone that is ambitious and hopeful. I learned so much through reading Mark Mathabane's autobiography. There is always hope and there is nothing impossible in this world, as long as we never give up in what we want to succeed in. With no doubt in mind, this novel is outstanding and worth it. ... Read more

140. Lenin: A Biography
by Robert Service
list price: $38.95
our price: $38.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0674003306
Catlog: Book (2000-10-06)
Publisher: Harvard Univ Pr
Sales Rank: 459250
Average Customer Review: 4.65 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Lenin: His politics still reverberate around the world even after the end of the USSR. His name elicits revulsion and reverence. And yet Lenin the man remains largely a mystery. This biography shows us Lenin as we have never seen him, in his full complexity as revolutionary, political leader, thinker, and private person. Born Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov in 1870, the son of a schools inspector and a doctor's daughter, Lenin was to become the greatest single force in the Soviet revolution-and perhaps the most influential politician of the twentieth century. Drawing on sources only recently discovered, Robert Service explores the social, cultural, and political catalysts for Lenin's explosion into global prominence. His book gives us the vast panorama of Russia in that awesome vortex of change from tsarism's collapse to the establishment of the communist one-party state. Through the prism of Lenin's career Service focuses on dictatorship, the Marxist revolutionary dream, civil war, and interwar European politics. And we are shown how Lenin, despite the hardships he inflicted, was widely mourned at his death in 1924. Service's Lenin is a political colossus but also a believable human being. This biography stresses the importance of his supportive family and of its ethnic and cultural background. The author examines his education, upbringing, and the troubles of his early life to explain the emergence of a rebel whose devotion to destruction proved greater than his love for the "proletariat" he supposedly served. We see how his intellectual preoccupations and inner rage underwent volatile interaction and propelled his career from young Marxist activist to founder of the communist party and the Soviet state-and how he bequeathed to Russia a legacy of political oppression and social intimidation that has yet to be expunged. ... Read more

Reviews (17)

5-0 out of 5 stars Biography of the "bookish fanatic" who led a revolution
Service is a British historian of Soviet Russian history who has written this quite good narrative of the life of Lenin. While not definitive, it is nevertheless the best synthesis of the political and personal life of Lenin

One of the better reasons to read Service is that while he has no qualms about outlining the viciousness and brutality of Lenin and the Bolsheviks, he is also not a hard line ideologue. He is a historian and he takes history as he finds it. There is none of the strident cold-war dogmatism of Conquest or the russophobia of Pipes that often make their writings come uncomfortably close to political diatribes rather than analytical histories.

Service walks the fine line between personal and political biography fairly well. He also has the added bonus of being a good narrative historian which makes this an immensily readable book.

Lenin's early life is covered in good detail. What Service does well is to show how, after brother Alexander's excecution, the Ulyanovs were marginalized by the very class of society they had aspired to, and how this effected both Lenin and his sisters. Service goes on to show the interaction between Lenin and his female relatives and how this carried on throughout his life.

Being a total biography- personal and political- the political side gets a bit of a short shrift at times. Lenin as shown as the "bookish fanatic" and hypocondriact who is all revolution all the time with little time to spare in life for other diversions.

His single-mindedness is such that he dictates executions (never naming individuals just groups) to achieve his ends. What Service show best is how his temperament in childhood carried on to his political life- never brooking disagreement- throwing tantrums and denounciations- and rarely compromising.

And yet Lenin is at heart, a middle class bourgeois in his social manners. His personal relationships with women are not especially notorious save for a life-long relationship with Inessa Armand who may or may not have been his mistress.

Personal without being gossipy and showing Lenin's idiocincracies without being psychoanalytical, Service handles his biography well. All in all this is a highly readable, not perfect, but enjoyable biography of the life of one of the century's most notorious figures.

5-0 out of 5 stars Lenin: A Biography
Service (history, St. Anthony's College, Oxford) endeavors to rehabilitate Lenin, whose fame in his own homeland since the collapse of the USSR has been badly bruised. Not only are there studies that portray Lenin as the architect of 20th-century violence, he is considered a failed state builder whose actions ultimately led to the 1991 debacle. On a conceptual level, the author will need to compete with the works of Martin Malia, Alexander Solzhenitsin, and Dmitri Volkoganov. Although Service contends that in Soviet hagiography Lenin's biographies were taboo, the author in some parts skirts the danger of falling into an overglorified Sovietlike portrait of the first Bolshevik. This is a full political biography that covers Lenin's life from birth in Simbirsk to the end at Gorki. Regardless of the pro-Leninist tilt, this is a good read, offering a great deal about a life that since the beginning of the USSR has been abused by partisans of both sides. Surprisingly there is no reference to Stefan Possony's biography (Lenin: The Compulsive Revolutionary, CH, Jul'64.) Well-footnoted and illustrated and containing a reasonably good bibliography and sufficient index, this book is recommended for all public and college libraries.

4-0 out of 5 stars Lenin the man - superb; Lenin the Russian - needs work.
This biography is incredibly thorough, and is entirely fixated on Lenin. In fact, that would be my one complaint. The book was so thoroughly focused on Lenin (and I can appreciate how silly this must sound as the book was a biography of Lenin), that it missed properly characterizing what was going on in Russia. In certain sections the book did discuss what was taking place in Russia, but usually only within the very limited scope of how Lenin was responding to the problem. I felt the narrative on Lenin would have benefited from an expanded discussion of what was going on socially within Russia as Lenin came to power. This weakness of the book is perhaps exacerbated by the fact (something I did not know) that Lenin lived for 18 years outside of Russia as an adult man. As his ideology was developing he was fully outside of Russian culture.

Lenin was an average ideologue, but he was an above-average politician. His works on political philosophy, as Service says, were barely above the standard of a college student. They were not insightful and were not worthy of prominent distinction. Lenin was a consummate politician who did believe in the essential goals of socialism.

I believe he would have been disgusted at what Stalin did with the gulag system; however, Lenin was a pragmatist. He did not allow Stalin to rise to power on accident. Did he see Stalin as a balance against Trotski who Lenin may have feared would be more willing to compromise? The life of Lenin illustrates the core problem of socialism: it has never been embraced by people who did not prove to be brutally totalitarian and completely unwilling to allow individuality.

5-0 out of 5 stars Well written and informative
This is a well presented account. It reads very well, I finished this rather long book pretty fast. It goes over all the aspects of Lenin's life, as well as putting them in a good historical context. This is a good book to have, and a good read for anyone interested in Lenin, or Russian history. Some readers might be left wishing more a little more substance, but for the length of the book and the readability of it, it is a great account.

5-0 out of 5 stars Great writer, great book
This book reads like a good novel as the author is a decent storyteller. He also has a decent sense of humour as well. The story is a fascinating one of fascinating times and of a really ruthless man who led it all: Lenin.

Some people have said that it was solely political; there is no doubt that you will walk away from this book knowing more about the kind of theoretical aspects of Marxism that were prevalent in his times that he was involved in, however, I think that the author does his best to portray him as a man as well. ... Read more

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