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1. American Sphinx: The Character
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2. Assassination Vacation
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3. My Life
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4. Theodore Roosevelt: The 26th President
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5. America's Queen: The Life of Jacqueline
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6. Benjamin Franklin : An American
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7. Active Side of Infinity
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8. John Glenn: A Memoir
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9. Witness to Hope : The Biography
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10. John Adams
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11. Traveling Mercies
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12. The Wise Man from the West
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14. Autobiography of a Yogi
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15. Truman
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16. Living History
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18. The Lives of the Kings and Queens
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19. Galileo's Daughter : A Historical
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20. Pure Heart, Enlightened Mind:

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

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

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

From Ellis we learn that Jefferson sang incessantly under his breath; that he delivered only two public speeches in eight years as president, while spending ten hours a day at his writing desk; that sometimes his political sensibilities collided with his domestic agenda, as when he ordered an expensive piano from London during a boycott (and pledged to "keep it in storage"). We see him relishing such projects as the nailery at Monticello that allowed him to interact with his slaves more palatably, as pseudo-employer to pseudo-employees. We grow convinced that he preferred to meet his lovers in the rarefied region of his mind rather than in the actual bedchamber. We watch him exhibiting both great depth and great shallowness, combining massive learning with extraordinary naïveté, piercing insights with self-deception on the grandest scale. We understand why we should neither beatify him nor consign him to the rubbish heap of history, though we are by no means required to stop loving him. He is Thomas Jefferson, after all--our very own sphinx.
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Reviews (88)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Assassination Vacation
list price: $26.00
our price: $17.16
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0743540042
Catlog: Book (2005-04-01)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Sales Rank: 809956
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3. My Life
list price: $35.00
our price: $23.80
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0739317059
Catlog: Book (2004-06)
Publisher: Random House Audio
Sales Rank: 2784
Average Customer Review: 3.19 out of 5 stars
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An exhaustive, soul-searching memoir, Bill Clinton's My Life is a refreshingly candid look at the former president as a son, brother, teacher, father, husband, and public figure. Clinton painstakingly outlines the history behind his greatest successes and failures, including his dedication to educational and economic reform, his war against a "vast right-wing operation" determined to destroy him, and the "morally indefensible" acts for which he was nearly impeached. My Life is autobiography as therapy--a personal history written by a man trying to face and banish his private demons.

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

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

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

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

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

Reviews (463)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The warm and knowing biography traces Roosevelt's involvement in the politics of New York City and New York State, his celebrated ,military career, and his ascent to the national political stage.Caricatured through history as the "bull moose", Roosevelt was in fact a man of extraordinary discipline whose refined and literate tastes actually helped spawn his fascination with the rough-and-ready world of war and wilderness.
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Reviews (8)

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

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

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

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

5-0 out of 5 stars Bully Moose
ully Moose

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

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

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

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

5. America's Queen: The Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (Nova Audio Books)
by Sarah Bradford, Sandra Burr
list price: $34.95
our price: $29.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1587881446
Catlog: Book (2000-10-01)
Publisher: Nova Audio Books
Sales Rank: 1050369
Average Customer Review: 3.81 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

The definitive biography of Jackie Kennedy Onassis from the bestselling author of Elizabeth

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis has captivated the American public for more than five decades. From her introduction to the world as "debutante of the year"in 1947 to her untimely death in 1994, she has truly remained America's answer to royalty. In America's Queen, the acclaimed biographer of Queen Elizabeth and Princess Grace reveals the real Jackie in a sympathetic but frank portrait of an amazing woman who has dazzled us since her teenage years.

Using remarkable new sources--including in-depth interviews with Jackie's sister Lee Radziwell, lavish illustrations, and previously unseen photographs from family sources--Sarah Bradford has written a timely celebration of a life that was more private than commonly supposed. Jackie's privileged upbringing instilled rigid self-control while her expedient marriage into the overwhelming Kennedy clan consolidated her determination. Revealing new testimony from many of the couple's friends shows the profound complexities both of this apparently very public relationship and of her controversial marriage to Aristotle Onassis.Here is the private Jackie--neglected wife, vigilant mother, and working widow--whose contradictory and fascinating nature is illuminated by all that Bradford has discovered. ... Read more

Reviews (27)

5-0 out of 5 stars the most wonderful book
This is my ultimate favorite book. I have read it a million times just because it's so fun and exciting to read.
What a glamorous life one had! She also led the most complex and interesting life with Jack Kennedy and Onassis. Sadly she had to face too many deaths of her loved ones during her life time, but she endured it with dignity and class.
I honestly think there is no one one can compare with Jackie Kennedy concerning elegance and feminism. She truely is a symbol of intelligence, wealth, fortune. That's one reason I like her so much- not only was she beautiful but also intelligent and smart.
Sarah Bradford is one of my favorite writers. Her writing is simply elegant and honest and so detailed. It's unlike any other book I have read. I often wonder how she gathered all this information and how she managed to get these rare interviews from all these people who were very close with Jackie. Sometimes I think it's more of her writing that interests me more than Jackie's actual life.
I strongly recommend this book to everyone. It's fast paced and simply too good not to read.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Real Jackie Kennedy
I highly recommend this biography of Jackie. It is, by far, the best I've read. Bradford shows us a real woman, not a myth, and there are so many stunning details. The personality of Jackie's mother particularly shocked me. How did Jackie survive the terrible, manipulative environment of her childhood? This biography highlighted such salient details, such as: - her mother's prevention of her being escorted down the aisle by her father on her wedding day; - Jackie and her sister Lee taking a back seat in the Auchincloss step family; - Jackie's unique contribution to American history through her championing of the arts (redecorating the White House, securing the Egyptian exhibit for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, preserving the Grand Central Station in NYC, and so much else) - Most of all, the strength of her marriage to JFK. Bradford did a better job than any other biographer, of explaining the complex and developing relationship between the two. I highly recommend this book!

5-0 out of 5 stars A truly well-balanced account of an extraordinary person
This elegant biography of Mrs. Kennedy-Onassis may very well be the most insightful work to gain a hold on this elusive American legend for some time to come. Unlike the many other Jackie biographies out there, this one is neither worshipful nor excessively fault-finding with its subject. Yet, while exposing the more unpleasant sides of Jackie's character (in essence, bringing her down to earth with the rest of us), "America's Queen" takes a decidedly more sympathetic route, with numerous sentences that begin "To be fair to Jackie...", etc, that assures that her virtues are still underscored while her faults are not smoothed over. In other words, skip the Christopher Anderson/Edward Klein accounts if you opt for exhaustively researched information and intimate analyses rather than sensationalistic prose and shameless cashing-in on Jackie's fame.
I also think it is a tribute to the author as much to the subject that this book is so exceptional. I think Jackie, lover of literature that she was, would have appreciated the numerous literary passages preceding some of the chapters. Despite her distaste for exposure, I think she would have felt in fairly good hands had she known the diligence, sensitivity, and, most of all, sense of morality and balance that went into this work.

4-0 out of 5 stars Shares a variety of views on JKO
"America's Queen" was an interesting read. The first chapter on her family tree was complicated and hard to follow due to the introduction of so many names. However, as the book began to tell the story of how Jackie came to be was great because of the many different point of views that were presented by those who knew Jackie.

2-0 out of 5 stars Have read better regarding this remarkable woman.
I have read right many books regarding Jackie, and I just didn't like this book. It was scattered and didn't always concentrate on her story. The whole book seemed to make her out as a money hungry thoughtless woman. I didn't like how it portrayed her at all. Very disappointed. ... Read more

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

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

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

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

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

Reviews (98)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reviews (26)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8. John Glenn: A Memoir
list price: $27.00
our price: $27.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0553526642
Catlog: Book
Publisher: Random House Audio
Sales Rank: 904069
Average Customer Review: 4.24 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

He was the first American astronaut to orbit the Earth. Nearly four decades later, as the world's oldest astronaut, his courage riveted a nation. But these two historic events only bracket a life that covers the sweep of an extraordinary century. In this engrossing book, John Glenn tells the story of his unique life--one lived at the center of a momentous time in history by a man who helped shape that history.

He is the kind of hero who resists being called a hero. And yet his exploits in the service of his country, his dedication to family and friends, and his rock-ribbed traditional values have made this small-town boy from the Midwest a true American icon.

John Glenn's autobiography spans the seminal events of the twentieth century. It is a story that begins with his childhood in New Concord, Ohio, in the aftermath of World War I. It was there that he learned the importance of family, community, and patriotism. Glenn saw firsthand the ravages of the Depression and learned that determination, hard work, and teamwork could overcome any adversity. These were the values he carried with him as a Marine fighter pilot during World War II and into the skies over Korea, for which he would be decorated for his courage, dedication, and sacrifice. Glenn flew missions with men he would never forget, from baseball great Ted Williams to little-known heroes who would never return to their families. Always a gifted flier, it was during the war that he contemplated the unlimited possibilities of aviation and its next frontiers: speed and space.

John Glenn takes us into the cockpits of the experimental planes and spacecraft he flew to experience the pulse-pounding excitement of the early days of jet aviation, including his record-setting transcontinental flight in an F8U Crusader in 1957, and then on to his selection for the Project Mercury program in 1959. We see the early days of NASA, where he first served as a backup pilot for astronauts Alan Shepard and Gus Grissom and helped refine some of the initial cockpit and control designs for the Apollo program. In 1962 Glenn piloted the Mercury-Atlas 6 Friendship 7 spacecraft on the first manned orbital mission of the United States. Then came several years in international business, followed by a twenty-four-year career as a U.S. senator--and in 1998 a return to space for his remarkable Discovery mission at the age of seventy-seven.

This extraordinary book captures the unique alchemy that brings a man to the forefront of his time. Married to a woman he first met when they were both toddlers, known for his integrity, common sense, and leadership in the Senate, John Glenn tells a story that we must hear. For this narrative of steadfastness, devotion, courage, and honor is both a great adventure tale and a source of powerful inspiration for an age that needs John Glenn's values more than ever before.
... Read more

Reviews (34)

3-0 out of 5 stars Delightful biography, but short on space hardware
John Glenn became the first American in orbit when he circled the Earth three times aboard Friendship 7. The most senior of the original Mercury astronauts, he was trumpeted as a hero upon return, but left the space program shortly thereafter because NASA wouldn't give their famous spokesman a second, potentially disastrous flight. Not until almost thirty years later, that is, when Senator Glenn returned to space at the age of 77, amidst a roar of publicity that rivalled his first mission. In the meantime, he had embarked upon a political career that included a shot at the presidency. A rather distinct biography.

In "John Glenn: A Memoir", the Marine turned Astronaut turned Politician shares with the world his life story, which spans the better part of a century and saw aviation progress from biplanes to the Space Shuttle. Yet this is a deliberate and slow-moving book, written in earnest and matter-of-fact prose. It progresses in strictly chronological order, spends a great amount of nostalgic detail on Glenn's childhood - including mother's cooking and playpen stories -, then moves on to the Marine days flying planes in World War II and Korea, then to his test pilot career. Always one step at a time, one little story after the other.

The results are a mixed bag: while the drama-oriented readers will call it outright dull, others might find the leisurely pace quite immersive and captivating. At the least, it is refreshing to read an astronaut biography that does not suffer from tunnel vision. The space program is not as much as mentioned until about half-time, and even recounting his NASA days, Glenn focuses on the big picture - the political and ideological implications of the space race - rather than technical detail. While the accounts of his actual Mercury and Shuttle flights are vivid and gripping, on the whole there is nothing about the space program that could not be found in most other, specialised books. Not surprising, given that Glenn's astronaut career was illustrious but brief, and something that the die-hard space buffs should consider.

The part between Glenn's flights focuses on his political career, his friendship with the Kennedys, and law making as an Ohio Senator. There is more talk about his loved wife and family, and more emphasis on duty, country, values. In truth, it must be said that the only things arguably more all-American than John Glenn are baseball and apple pie; he constantly reflects on his beliefs and guidelines, and never seems to waver in his uncomplicated optimism and patriotism. More remarkably, it all seems genuine, too: no image polishing, that's just the way he is. Indeed, Glenn colours his omnipresent love of America with plenty of humour and palpable feeling, and comes across not as preachy, but entirely likeable.

The concept of such an awfully nice moralist seems strange in today's cynical times, and this is perhaps the most telling point of all: the text seems like a document from a different age. Like the photographs that come with it, showing Glenn's wedding ceremony in uniform, or piloting Corsairs in World War II, this tale is something out of our reach, something delightfully dated. And "John Glenn: A Memoir" sure is a delightful book. Readers looking for a remarkably rich and varied life story can hardly make a better choice. Space enthusiasts lusting for nuts and bolts might want to think twice.

5-0 out of 5 stars A thrilling, exhiliarating autobiography
Marine Colonel John H. Glenn, Jr., was selected as one of the original seven Mercury astronauts in 1959, and made his historic orbital flight aboard Friendship 7 on February 20, 1962. But as this book reminds us, Glenn was involved in many other grand events in our nation's history. He was a fighter pilot in the Marines during World War II and Korea in the 1940's and 1950's, he served in the Senate for four terms in Ohio, and finally, in the fall of 1998, he made a historic return to orbit aboard the space shuttle Discovery. This book captures the details of those events, sweeping the lifetime of this small town boy from the midwest, a true American icon. I thought it was very thrilling, and was interested in hearing of his accounts of his spaceflights , Senate career, and combat flights in the wars. Others have said it was boring because Glenn has almost never faced adversity in his life, but I thought it was entertaining nontheless. His accounts of the Friendship 7 and Discovery missions are nearly minute-by minute, very detailed, and I thought it was very well done.

3-0 out of 5 stars The Story of a Perfect Life?
Based on this book John Glenn never got out of line, never got in any serious trouble or caused anyone else to get into trouble, had a perfect wife and family who always supported him 100%, even if it meant his being away from home for long periods of time. He even goes to the extreme of discounting a story about his concern over his height exceeding the max requirement for space travel. I found many parts of this book enjoyable, but left feeling I had only been reading a whitewashed version purified for mass consumption. On slight hint at the "real" John Glenn may be revealed in his writing a letter to NASA in an effort to overturn the decision to have Alan Shepard and Guss Grissom fly in space before him. This book left me with many more questions about the real man. Showing more of his human, occassionally risking and failing side would have added much to my enjoyment. Unfortunately this was missing.

4-0 out of 5 stars Critical Reflections
There have been many assessments of John Glenn since February 1962, but perhaps none so critically important as those he has made in his Memoir's. All of us have fallen short of fully living our values and maintaining our ethical standards as we move through a life filled with temptations; we are but mortal. While Glenn is certainly an American hero of the highest caliber, and one of my favorites, his shortcomings remain a puzzle to me. The paradox of John Glenn is found in the staunch moralistic tone of his life before his Senate career, and his stance after taking that oath of office.

His criticism of the moral behavior of his fellow Mercury astronauts in 1960 is in stark contrast of his support for a president who was equally as guilty some 40 years later. His support for a political agenda that represents a normalization of deviancy leaves me wondering if his professed Christianity is truly a "born again" commitment or simply cultural attribute that can be influenced by power.

Glenn agonizes over his "guilt by association" in the Keating affair and presents a rather weak defense. He states that one of his reasons for entering politics was to prove that good men can survive and triumph in an atmosphere where power corrupts. Yet he leaves himself open on several occasions to simply reinforce the notion.

Glenn reviews his life in a manner that I found interesting and informative. As an avid space historian, he filled in a few areas of his life and the early manned space program that were unknown to me. Of interest too, are the occasional factual errors that have crept into the book, perhaps because much of the final composition was probably done by his co-author, Nick Taylor (who, overall, did a great job). Gordon Cooper's flight did not terminate early because "his spacecraft lost orbital velocity" but went the full 22 orbits. And, Gus Grissom was not "the first person to fly in space three times". He would have been had he not been killed in the Apollo fire. That privilege belongs to Wally Schirra who was the only astronaut to fly Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo.

John Glenn accomplished more in his three careers (Marine, Astronaut, Senator) than most of us will do in any one lifetime. We pray that his legacy will truly be greater than three Migs, 137 orbits and 9,414 senate votes.

3-0 out of 5 stars Fireflies in space
John Glenn is a space pioneer and knows first hand that there is a "lot more water than land on earth". You feel his honesty in his writing, his no-nonsense approach to every day of his life. And then at age 70 he goes out into space again. Flying "Friendship 7" around in space is the climax of his life for this "down-to-earth" man. The forceful fist of destiny came down on Glenn in the form of his image, the mirror, which knocked him out of politics; he thought he dropped out, but he was dropped out until after Watergate when the Senate calls him. Up to date nobody seems to know: what were the "fireflies" in the night of space surrounding "Friendship". There is this mystery in the otherwise "nuts-and-bolts" story of John Glenn. ... Read more

9. Witness to Hope : The Biography of Pope John Paul II
by George Weigel
list price: $29.95
our price: $20.96
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0694522279
Catlog: Book (1999-10-19)
Publisher: HarperAudio
Sales Rank: 546265
Average Customer Review: 4.73 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Given unprecedented access to Pope John Paul II and the people who have known and worked with him throughout his life, George Weigel presents a groundbreaking portrait of the Pope as a man, a thinker, and a leader whose religious convictions have defined a new approach to world politics--and changed the course of history.

John Paul II has systematically addressed every major question on the world's agenda at the turn of the millennium: the human yearning for the sacred, the meaning of freedom, the glories and challenges of human sexuality, the promise of the women's movement, the quest for a new world order, the nature of good and evil, the moral challenge of prosperity, and the imperative of human solidarity in the emerging global civilization. By bringing the age-old wisdom of biblical religion into active conversation with contemporary life and thought, the Pope "from a far country" has crafted a challenging proposal for the human future that is without parallel in the modern world.

Weigel explores new information about the Pope's role in some of the recent past's most stirring events, including the fall of communism; the Vatican/Israel negotiation of 1991-92; the collapse of the Philippine, Chilean, Nicaraguan, and Paraguayan dictatorships during the 1980s; and the epic papal visit to Cuba. Weigel also includes previously unpublished papal correspondence with Leonid Brezhnev, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Deng Xiaoping, and draws on hitherto unavailable autobiographical reminiscences by the Pope.

Witness to Hope also discusses the Pope's efforts to build bridges to other Christian communities, and to Judaism, Islam, and other great world religions; presents an analysis of John Paul's proposals for strengthening democratic societies in the twenty-first century; and offers synopses of every major teaching document in the pontificate.

Rounding out the dramatic story of Pope John Paul II are fresh translations of his poetry; detailed personal anecdotes of the Pope as a young man, priest, and friend, sketched by those who knew him best; and in-depth interviews with Catholic leaders throughout the world.

A magisterial biography of one of the most important figures--some might argue, the most important figure--of the twentieth century, Witness to Hope is an extraordinary testimony to the man and his accomplishments, and a papal biography unlike any other.

... Read more

Reviews (41)

5-0 out of 5 stars Witness to the Pope
Along with a hearty recommendation forWitness to Hope comes a caveat that the excellent book is NOT an easy read. George Weigel undertook this comprehensive biography as a labor of love and researched it meticulously. Reading the finished product is a laborious task but worth the effort.

Mr. Weigel was afforded unprecedented access to the pontiff and scoured the world interviewing his peers, subordinates, admirers, detractors, colleagues, childhood friends, former supervisors (wherever possible), and just about anyone with cogent insights into the inner workings of John Paul II. Even when the details appear superfluous (reports of Mrs. Wojtyla's pushing baby Karol in his carriage, et al), they assist us in comprehending the historic churchman. Karol lost his mother as a young boy, and his father and only brother both died before he was fully mature. The author explicates how the loss of his entire close family imbued the future pontiff with an unshakable devotion to the sacredness of family life. His youthful pain positively manifested itself in copious papal support for the traditional family structure.

The Pope's unwavering commitment to the sanctity of human life in the face of often vitriolic criticism is likewise shown to have grown from personal hardships. Nazism devastated Poland, and Karol Wojtyla lost many lifelong Jewish friends to the scourge. Active in the underground--especially a clandestine theater--he struggled to stay a step ahead of the nazis. Seeing many of his loved ones and exterminated, and his own mistreatment by the nazis shaped him in ways the world would observe decades later.

Ironically, those who often fault the pope for unambiguously opposing abortion often praise him for his equally stern disapproval of capital punishment, and vice-versa. His ineluctable reverence for the sanctity of all life was chiseled in his heart by Nazi brutality and undergirded further by communist atrocities--all witnessed firsthand.

The Vatican's love-hate relationship with the United Nations provides some of the book's most telling sections, explaining how some of the strangest bedfellows ever came together, and also provides an examination of how strained Vatican--U.S., ties grew due to the radical agenda of the Clinton Administration. The center of world Catholicism worked harmoniously with Libya, Iran, and several other radical Islamic countries regarding issues of abortion, homosexuality, and the family structure while vigorously opposing the United States (during the Clinton years) on these very same issues.

The Clinton administration's drive to have deviant definitions of the family as well as support nefarious population control measures (including involuntary sterilization) given U.N. sanction seemed destined to succeed despite Vatican efforts to insert common sense into the argument

While Clinton's representatives had assiduously prepared for the Vatican's stance and adroitly maneuvered to deflate the Holy See's influence, they did not anticipate one insurmountable obstacle--nearly worldwide disgust at their extremist plans. At that same conference, a scheduled welcoming speech--expected to be neutral in tone--by then-Pakistani Prime Minister Benazair Bhutto condemned abortion as a crime against humanity and established a theme that was reiterated by the majority of participants from Africa, Asia, and South America. What Clinton's out-of-touch appointees dismissed an Catholic rigidity turned out to be almost catholic sentiment and squashed efforts to declare new norms of family structure.

Since the pope has interacted with virtually every mover and shaker of the past three decades, Mr. Weigel includes a plethora of notable vignettes regarding a veritable who's who of world figures. Describing Mikhail Gorbachev's unprecedented visit to the Vatican during the Soviet Union's twilight, Weigel ponders "he must have had some intuition of what this moment meant historically. By the mere fact of his presence at the Vatican, the system he represented was acknowledging that it had been wrong about the relationship between Christianity and genuine humanism, about Christianity and human liberation."

He wisely includes comments from Vaclav Havel's greeting to the Pope in Czechoslovakia, "I dare say that at this moment I am participating in a miracle: the man who six months ago was arrested as an enemy of the State stands here today as the president of the State and bids welcome to the first pontiff of the Catholic Church in history to set foot in this land."

Other interesting tidbits include crossed paths with the like of Ronald Reagan, Mother Theresa, Fidel Castro, Ed Koch, Billy Graham, and Morocco's King Hassan who arranged for John Paul to address what may have been the largest assemblage of Muslim youth ever.

In an unfortunate case of timing, Witness to Hope was released a few years prior to the two incidents that could become the most salient demerits on John Paul's broad and noble legacy. Laying any blame for the American clergy's sex scandal in the Vatican is somewhat of a stretch, but fallout from the headline-making disgrace is landing at John Paul's feet. More directly linked was the pope's bewildering disagreement with the American-lead liberation of Iraq. Not since the allied assault on nazism has the case for a just war seemed so clear. Why John Paul did not at least maintain a silent neutrality is a subject that historians will debate for decades. Some have speculated that accusations--often devoid of facts--that Pope Pius XII was silent during the Holocaust--will be echoed about John Paul regarding the Iraqi situation.

Witness to Hope's appeal is truly catholic (with a small "c") because John Paul's influence has extended far beyond the Roman Catholic Church, and any treatment of major world events is incomplete without his views.

5-0 out of 5 stars No. 3 on my list of best books
At least one seminary requires those in spiritual formation to read this biography of Pope John Paul II. I rank the book just below the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church in my list of books that are important to read. I can usually summarize a book in a page or two, but not this one. The book offers so much that I filled thirteen pages with terse notes written in paragraph form.

The first 250 pages of the book inspire the reader, who realizes the great hardships the Pope endured from his early life through his priesthood under Nazi and Communist rule. His work with the Church's intellectuals and performing artists developed the cultural base that succeeded in combating these totalitarian regimes. His discussion groups tolerated all ideas, provided that all were striving for truth. His development of a new Christian Humanism was, and still is, effective in combating social and spiritual ills everywhere.

The remaining 600 pages show how the Pope dealt with specific problems in the Church and in the world. He approaches all as a sincerely holy, humble, and reverent pilgrim, full of hope for humanity. He apologizes for the failures of Catholics. He invites those who oppose him to join him in dialog, yet he never compromises Church principles. The book covers each such case, including each encyclical, with sufficient detail that the reader learns from the Pope throughout the book.

Because I have read probably every encyclical and many of the apostolic letters written by the Pope, much was familiar to me -- after the book jarred my memory. The most important new point that I learned from the book pertained to a question I have asked many a philosopher: Can every philosophy describe all of the truths of the Catholic faith? The Pope answered that some philosophies are so poor or so closed as to make any real dialog impossible.

5-0 out of 5 stars The best biography of Pope John Paul II
This is by far the best biography of Pope John Paul II. It covers so many events of his episcopacy and papacy. It is certainly worthwhile reading.

George Weigel, moreso than other writers, is able to write on John Paul II's philosophy. The teachings of John Paul II will be studied long after his death. It is often forgetten that Pope John Paul II is an intellectual. He studied in Rome under the great Thomist Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange. And while he favours the moderate realism of St. Thomas Aquinas, the Pope by no means continues to work in that field alone. He has integrated into his philosophy the insights of phenomenology and personalism. The latter philosophy has proven especially important to him, and the insights of personalism appear often in his encylicals and other teaching documents.

In short, this is the perfect introduction to John Paul the Pope and John Paul the intellectual.

5-0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary book on an extraordinary man
Comprehensive, definitive biography of one of the great Popes of all time. A must read for anyone seriously interested in the Catholic faith or in religion in general.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Fine Work - But Mainly About Him as The Pope
Karol Wojtyla is a Pole from the Krakow area that rose to great prominence. This is a fine work about a remarkable man. Regardless of his religion (I am not catholic) he has led a life where he has set a high moral goal for others to follow.

The book is suitable for general readers (like myself) and has lots of details about the man starting from his youth and college days in Poland. There are many interesting insights and analysis. The book has 900 pages of details and stories with over 100 pages of references and footnotes. It contains two groups of about 20 photos per group showing his stages of development before and after becoming the Pope.

As an book reviewer I want to make a few comments on the biography as a biography. Only about 10% of the book or the first two chapters of the 15 chapters is given over to his life and development outside being a priest. He was made a priest not many years after becoming an adult, so although the "biography" does cover his non religious life up to a point, the book is mainly about his rise through the catholic church and a lot of time - the vast majority - is given to discussing what he did, his religious beliefs, and what he thought as the Pope and how he executed his beliefs and put them into action. After a brief two chapter review on his youth, there are four chapters on his rise and then nine chapters on his life and philosophy as Pope.

Recommended as an outstanding book even if you are not a catholic, but again it is 60% about his actions as the Pope.

Jack in Toronto ... Read more

10. John Adams
by David McCullough
list price: $35.00
our price: $23.10
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0743504739
Catlog: Book (2001-05-01)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Sales Rank: 62263
Average Customer Review: 4.62 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

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

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

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

Reviews (536)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11. Traveling Mercies
list price: $25.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0375405976
Catlog: Book (1999-01-19)
Publisher: Random House Audio
Sales Rank: 439361
Average Customer Review: 4.31 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

3 cassettes / 4 hours
Read by the Author

"Eloquent, detailed, emotionally honest . . . Lamott deserves a prize for telling it like it is." - People

From the bestselling author of Operating Instructions and Bird by Bird comes a chronicle of faith and spirituality that is at once tough, personal, affectionate, wise, and very funny.

With an exuberant mix of passion, insight, and humor, Anne Lamott takes us on a journey through her often troubled past to illuminate her devout but quirky walk of faith.In a narrative spiced with stories and scripture, with diatribes, laughter, and tears, Lamott tells how, against all odds, she came to believe in God and them, even more miraculously, in herself.She shows us the myriad ways n which this sustains and guides her, shining the light of faith on the darkest part of ordinary life an exposing surprising pockets of meaning and hope

Whether talking about her family or her dreadlocks, sick children or old friends, the most religious women of her church of the men she's dated, Lamott reveals the hard-won wisdom gathered along her path to connectedness and liberation.

"Anne Lamott is a cause for celebration.[Her] real genius lies in capturing the ineffable, describing not perfect moments, but imperfect ones . . .perfectly. She is nothing short of miraculous." - The New Yorker
... Read more

Reviews (240)

5-0 out of 5 stars Only for those with a wry sense of humor
I can't fault this book, only praise it. For who else has written in such a unique way about a faith journey? Lamott makes it real (for someone of her age [middle-aged] and from a definitely Californian point of view.) But, her observations and the way she writes about them are universal. And funny.

If you can't laugh at yourself, your foibles, and even at God, don't read this--you'll start feeling self-righteous and will be quickly entering a "how dare she?" review. You will, of course, have totally missed the point.

Everyone can learn something about the way LIFE has a sneaky way of surfacing painful and joyous memories and feelings. These emotions are triggered by life's details, which Lamott expertly captures. She finds the most unassuming triggers to release a flood of feelings about various topics. The stories she tells are God-given, precious moments. Perhaps we don't "see" these moments and reflect on them enough in our lives. Is that why Lamott touches us? Thankfully, she remind us that they are there.

Read and savor this book, if you are open to what makes someone an imperfect person--and a Christian.

5-0 out of 5 stars Never written a review or letter to author before....
Have been an avid reader for 30 years, but never before felt compelled to write a review or letter to an author before...This book, perhaps more than any of the thousands of others I have read, struck a chord in my soul. On the recommendation of a friend I had read "Operating Instructions" about three years ago. While thumbing through a Book of the Month Club type catalog I ran across the photo of a white woman in dreadlocks and was struck with admiration for the woman who would present such a public image. I was pleasantly surprised to read that her name was Anne LaMott. I ordered the book "Traveling Mercies" and was delighted and completely engrossed by it. Ms. LaMott puts words to emotion I cannot personally express when she speaks of her "Christian-ish" life-orientation, her likening of her personal experience of coming to the Lord as to that of a stray cat trying to enter her life, and the pain and sublime joy of rearing her Sam. Like Annie,(oddly enough the name my own mother, a story in and of itself, was called as a girl) I came to a personal relationship with God through voyeurism into a congregation of Black believers, and like her, was taught life lessons I didn't know I needed through my interaction in fellowship with them. I thank God for the talent with words he has bestowed upon Anne, ask his blessings upon her and her loved ones, and recommend this book to anyone who finds him/herself surprised at the move of the Holy Spirit in his/her life.

5-0 out of 5 stars Hooked
This is the book that got me hooked on Anne Lamott. Most poignant and precious are the insights about life as a recovering alcoholic. Raw facts about motherhood were astounding, too. Her word choice at times caused my gut to spasm, but I survived and went on to read all of the book she had previously written. To my delight and the benefit of mankind, Lamott's newest book, Blue Shoe, avoids profanity.

4-0 out of 5 stars my kind of christian
Until I read Anne Lamott I associated the word "Christian" with holier-than-thou, priggish, etc. Now I see clearly that that's just a stereotype. It IS possible for a Christian to be a liberal with a wicked sense of humor.

Lamott isn't afraid to present herself in a less than flattering light whether it's secretly hating her mom or yelling out of frustration at her young son. We all do these things, but most of us prefer to show the world the "good" side of ourselves. Lamott is wonderful when it comes to making the everyday petty irritations of life funny, so that you empathize with her rather than judging.

Lamott writes about children, her friends, relatives and church. She writes about the competitiveness that can develop among parents of young children, and she writes about the path she took to becoming sober. Unlike some reviewers, I don't think it's going to be detrimental to her later relationship with her son when she makes him go to church. There could be a lot worse things she could force him to do.

In one essay, she writes about feeling unattractive after standing with a group of teenage girls waiting for a bus back to her hotel. Then she realizes that no one in the group is probably satisfied with her body, and this is something I've started to tell myself when I find myself in that kind of situation, too.

This atheist gives this book two thumbs up.

5-0 out of 5 stars Outside my experience
This book should be an eye-opener for anyone who is prone to believing in "cookie cutter christians"...

Read with an open heart. God will bless... ... Read more

12. The Wise Man from the West
by Vincent Cronin
list price: $69.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1850897476
Catlog: Book (1994-04-01)
Publisher: ISIS Audio Books
Sales Rank: 645541
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

A fascinating insight into the history of Europe and China, and a first bridge built between two civilizations.

Matteo Ricci, an early recruit of the Jesuit order, was sent to China as a missionary in 1582. If he approached the Emperor with a Bible in one hand, in the other he carried the accumulated technological and philosophical wisdom of late Renaissance Europe, and thus found favor among the Mandarins, the men of learning in the imperial court. But his progress was not unopposed, and the Wise Man from the West came to be seen as an unsettling element in a too settled society. Ricci died in 1610, disappointed in his ambition to convert the Emperor and his people to Christianity. But the seed was sown and the crop, undaunted even by several decades of atheistic Communism, continues to grow in modern China.

The Wise Man from the West is among the first of a new list of nonfiction paperbacks published as Harvill Press Editions. ... Read more

Reviews (1)

5-0 out of 5 stars An utterly charming introduction to Fr. Matteo Ricci, S.J.
If one had the option to read just one book about China, the Catholic Church, Jesuits, missions or anything related, this would be the book. Cronin's style is enchanting and romantic.That is not at all to say thathe exagerates or romanticizes his subject, Matteo Ricci.Rather, Cronintells the facts and the truth of Ricci's life and work better than I'veread in ages.It was really a joy to read.

Although it was written manyyears ago, it is not out of date and still well respected. It is a greatbook, as said in the headline, to introduce yourself to Ricci.

There areother good books about Ricci and the Jesuit missions in China, including'The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci' (which is excellent) but it would payto read Cronin first to set the background for the rest.

After reading"Wise Man Form the West" you will have a much better sense ofthose first tentative steps of Orient-Occident relations, a deep respectfor the old Jesuits Missionaries, the Chinese who welcomed and taught them,and most especially, for Matteo Ricci himself. This is, of course, thepurpose of Cronin's book, and he does so magnificently. ... Read more

by Hackworth
list price: $14.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0671684507
Catlog: Book (1989-04-01)
Publisher: Audioworks
Sales Rank: 469990
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (65)

5-0 out of 5 stars Another Hero has entered Valhalla
The Good Colonel just passed on to the Big O Club in the Sky today. None the less he has left a great legacy in this book. To call it one hell of a story would be an understatement of the 1st degree. It is a classic story of a poor hard scrabble kid who goes out and finds himself a home in the US Army. Hack was really one of the lucky ones who found a place where he could really excel. I found myself actually feeling sorry for the Enemy and some of his idiotic Superior Commanders. He must of been a hand full is all that I can say.

5-0 out of 5 stars Vietnam - a defining point of his life
[Sadly for all of us, Col David Hackworth died shortly after I wrote this review. Nothing about him or my review of his works needs revision. Hack - we will miss you!]

Say what you want about Hackworth - you can't deny him his valor or experiences in the Army. "Hack" continues to thrive on controversy - one who is not afraid to stir the pot. This book was his first view on the public stage after his Vietnam exit from the Army.

As a young officer - I first read this book in the career stage of my commission - as a Major - and came away with mixed feelings about his views and attitudes. Hackworth's Vietnam experience - like that of John Kerry's, was a defining point of his life. Both came away from that service determined to change the way government uses the military. Kerry became an anti-military cynic; Hackworth lashed out at the systems' waste and stupidity - in an attempt to make the system better.

During war, Hack would be a leader one would wish to serve under. In peacetime - like so many other warriors - he'd be a disaster in the mind numbing training environment of a peacetime army. Like a fire extinguisher - keep under glass until an emergency demands his use.

The book is what it is. Many of his positions are factual and cannot be argued. When he drifts to politics - watch out! He has no friends in either political party.

Some favorite segments I carry with me from the book are paraphrased as follows ... 'after spending 2 trillion dollars to modernize the military, our boys went to war in Desert Storm [Iraq 1991] with duct tape covering air holes in the combat boots to keep the sand out' ...another ... 'while the rest of the world was using cell phones ... our military continued use of radio sets with lead acid batteries weighing over 25 pounds that didn't work as well' ...

If you have never served - and are thinking of signing up - maybe this will give you pause. If the world awaits you as a grand adventure - do what he did - and wear the uniform proudly for a majority of your adult life. At the least - Hackworth made me stop and think along the way. My latter years in uniform were constant battles against mind numbing stupidity and for care and protection of our countries' most valuable assets - the men and women who served under my leadership. I have learned much from this soldier. Buy and read the book. You will come away a changed person.

5-0 out of 5 stars Odyssey it is
This isn't a mere bio, it's a walk thru Dave Hackworth's life...minefields (physical and mental). He seemingly holds back nothing. Parts war duty in Germany...but that's Army life. It's not as on the edge as his recollections of combat, but that's the way it was.
His writings on Korea alone make this a must read.
But it keeps going, giving you his evolving perspective on what was and wasn't happening in Vietnam. He calls a spade a spade.
There is a little overlap (not much), but I would read this first, then Steel My Soldier's Hearts. Then, look at his webpage and Soldiers for the Truth. He's squarely on the side of the dogface soldier for whom few speak for fear of their career. If I could chose the man to lead my Sons into war, it would be Hack.

5-0 out of 5 stars WELL WORTH THE READ - WARTS AND ALL
I really hate military autobiographies.That being said, I must say I enjoyed this one.Col. Hackworths career is fastinating. Being a career military person myself, I could certainly relate to much he said.On the other hand, he was rather heavy handed with his ego thing.I doubt if he and I could ever be "buds" but we would, admittedly, be in better shape had we had more officers like him over the past 40 years.The writing is clear, enjoyable and informative.We get a very good historical overview of semi-recent military history and some wonderful "war stories" thrown in.All in all I have to recommend this one (I must admit to have read it twice).A very interesting life.

5-0 out of 5 stars Try .
I've learned more about winning thinking and leadership in this book than I have from officers in the past eleven years of navy service. Shame these things are not practiced and taught as widely as they used to be. ... Read more

14. Autobiography of a Yogi
by Paramahansa Yogananda, Ben Kingsley
list price: $48.00
our price: $40.80
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0876120850
Catlog: Book (1996-12-01)
Publisher: Self-Realization Fellowship Publishers
Sales Rank: 414921
Average Customer Review: 4.43 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (167)

A spiritual classic would be to grossly understate its potential effects; this book of truth and divine wisdom in this age makes it a true-godsend from one united with the Lord. Reading it a few months ago, I couldn't help but realize how all the people in our world could enlarge their realm of happiness with the tinge of divine sweetness by grasping this book's eternal essence and practicing its doctrines to lead one to soul freedom. Meditation on the Lord is our eternal birthright and duty, without it, that "something" else will never appear. Please, I urge anyone to read this book and practice the science of Kriya Yoga. Give it a try, for a day, a week, or month; however longer you persevere the effects of harmony will increase. I speak from my practical experience, to those that scoff at the possibility of the human soul and vitalism, I ask then, what do we then live for? A hundred hours of sensual satisfaction can not dare compare to the gentle aura of soul bliss one can experience during attempts at God-communion. When we once realize the eternal soul as Paramahansaji states, that something else has been realized.

Set aside your beliefs and pre-suggested notions of life for one moment, spend a few dollars for eternal knowledge that will unlock the door to the realm of infinite bliss, and you will see the practicality of the book will in itself lead you to seeking more. In that pursuit, you will find yourself!

As a long time student of comparative religion the discovering of this spiritual classic "Autobiography of a Yogi" set my thinking and life experience in a very new and unexpected direction. Until I became familiar with the great avatar "Paramahansa Yogananda" my superficial philosophical adventure seemed fulfilling enough. Now I am seeing the deeper aspects of the spiritual life and many new understandings and revelations are being opened to my consciousness.

I also read the original edition of this book, which I find somewhat incomplete, as Yognanda himself began seriously revising this book with each new edition. So the reader will get the most complete and most accurate teachings of this great Yogi from the latest editions published by Self-Realization Fellowship publishers, via Amazon books.

I highly recommend this edition to all truth-seekers and students of comparative religion as a major key to unlocking our past conditioning and broadening many narrow views that we become attached to in our earlier development. Here is a balanced and insightful approach to world religion and spirituality that gives true ecumenical recognition to all the worlds major saints and prophets. This spiritual classic will contribute much to bringing harmony, peace and mutual respect to this world of so many varied belief systems.

The author, with his unique blend of wit, wisdom, insight and intuition has shown us the primary elements and truths that are the foundation of all religions. He does this without criticism, judgement, or error. His is the same eternal message that was given the world by other great saviors such as Krishna, Buddha and Jesus.

I have no doubt that millions of lives have already been changed by this sacred literary revelation................

This is surely the work of a God-Realized bieng, a wonderful experience awaits the sincere reader. Don't make the mistake of only reading it once!!!

LIST OF SUBJECTS: Author's early life... Meeting your Master... The Master-Disciple relationship... The Science of KRIYA YOGA... Meditation and prayer... Lives of many modern Eastern and Western Saints.. Law of they work... Principle of Raja Yoga... How great masters teach their disciples... the inner meaning of Christ and Krishna... The Astral world... Reincarnation and Karma... How to find your true Path... Travels in India... The Spiritual heritage of India...

the Importance of Yogananda's founding of the Self-Realization Fellowship as his only authorized channel for His writings and Kriya Yoga............ Footnotes on yoga and religious history.. Mans purpose and goal in life.......... AND MUCH MORE-------------

ALSO RECOMMENDED: Man's Eternal Quest... Divine Romance... Journey to Self-Realization... The Science of Religion... God Talks With Arjuna(Bhagavad Gita)... Where There is Light...

1-0 out of 5 stars A WORK OF FICTION
The panegyrics stinks.

Individualistic biases and notions of the famed author-guru built and sustained VERY BIASED and very romantic notions that later cramped and hampered a realistic outlook on the nation India, Indians, and *having sex* - which is not specially advocated in the book - and far, far less among monks and nuns that publish it. Said a lay members wife once about Yogananda, "He has destroyed my marriage."

The work carries with it some negative effects.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Revelation for Sincere Seekers in the worlds Religions
A Monastic Yogi was invited to represent Hinduism by the American Unitarian Association in Boston in 1920.

In so doing this great mystic managed to enlighten Christians and other religionists by showing the unifying principles of the great religions.
This served to bring many Christians from the erroneous dark Roman age concepts of divisiveness of exclusivity, of dogmatism and hell-fearing guilt, to the refreshing wisdom of harmonizing pluralism and the higher levels of spiritual understanding.

But the really special feature of Paramahansa Yogananda's message was that like Krishna, Buddha, & Jesus, He is a living example of that life.
A life that show to have all the light and glory of divine inspiration and presence.

He fully represented that wisdom and the life and the truth, and taught it with an unparalleled clarity.
"Wide is the gate that leads to destruction and the majority will go that way, narrow is the way that leads to life and few there will be that find it.?" JC .

Paramahansa Yogananda brought us that life giving way. Not the politically correct way of the churches - but the way the Jesus [one of the world's many Christs/Avataras] taught us.

After the passing of such a great prophet/Avatara, there will always be varying opinions as to what He actually did or represented and taught. This is especially true in the Christian tradition which not has about 2400+ cults and sects. Human nature requires that this naturally happens.

It is unfortunate that even though it takes years of study and practice to understand such a life, many fast reading intellectuals will assume they understand it from a quick glance. This is how the untrained ego misleads us. Do you want a quick assessment or an accurate report?

His wonderful teachings included various ways of transforming our identity with the limited ego into the limitless soul consciousness. Which results in the enhancement of all ones life abilities and attitudes for those who practice the methods of Yoga with regularity and understanding.

This fact in general is why Yoga is in the early stages literally sweeping the world.
Bringing with it very healthy and wonderful transformations of the Character, health, & personality of many millions. I have also personally experienced these blessings in my own life.

While reading Yogananda's writing, one is struck by the fact that He always made it clear that devotees/disciples were not serving Him, but that they were clearly Gods Disciples.

The cooperation & submission is the key to transformation, love cannot be known without surrender of ones sense of separateness and egocentric pride.

The attitude of this book shows that by the normal teacher student cooperation one can gain the greatest amount of personal growth and self-realization/Salvation. Especially if the teacher is there to show one the way. It that teacher has reached God-Consciousness, His passing will not end his personal guidance. Many testify to the ongoing help of Yogananda.

More recently, some of the stories in this book have been published by others in Yogananda's tradition as well as many others not in His tradition, and even though they are different stories, they are still very consistent with what we know about the great master.

The book has been edited and changed by the author and his trained/appointed editors in chiefs to enhance the presentations of His final teachings. The latest editions are consitent with the masters teachings.

No one ever claimed here to demonstrate infallability, a status that this world does not have the elements to support. This is one of the common errors Yogananda did not get caught up in.

The Fellowship the yogi started, has avoided becoming a cult by the open and compassionate attitudes begun by Yogananda that avoid forcing rules on followers.

Yogananda brought out the best of Krishna's and Christ's teachings to create a more compassionate and harmonious world, to show us how to reach that true state of Christ consciousness where the truths of enlightened pluralism/ecumenicism will flourish for the benefit of humanity. This is the harbinger of the world's future peace.

Be sure to read Yogananda's most recently published book, "The Second Coming of Christ; Raising the Christ Consciousness Within You." Then you will gain a clearer picture of what spiritual freedom is!

1-0 out of 5 stars GURUS AND MASTERS HAILED
A hindu monk was sent to the West back in 1920 to spread kriya yoga teachings. In so doing he infiltrated Christianity by using Hindu concepts to explain away the claims of Christianity, and let people think he stood for perfect harmony between Hinduism as taught by Krishna, and Christianity as taught by Jesus. That has probably served to take many Christians in. Some parts of these teachings entered his autobiography too.

His teachings also include demands to "kill the ego" - which is a necessary, integral part of your personality - and the demand may be used against duped followers - it serves guru dominion far and wide. Moreover, the insensible claim could work harm to the personality development.

The attitude of the book shows "devoted servility" - submission - as a means for spiritual freedom - and major effects of giving away one's natural human rights in such a vein may turn unwholesome or disastrous. The author tells many stories to drive home guru submission messages.

More recently SOME of the stories of this book have been published by others in Yogananda's tradition, and suffice to say they are different, and by far less fanciful in those other versions - and that many interesting stories of the guru's autobiography bear some resemblance of tales from Arabian Nights too. However, Yogananda, who was sent to address scientists and great minds, according to the book, has by and large omitted given proper documention of some of his most remote claims. They involve converting the body into light and resurrections. Lots of evidence for many of the claims is lacking.

The book has been edited many times after the guru's death, and some changes don't seem to have been done by the author. Odd, very queer misconceptions have entered at least one peculiar footnote about maya.

The fellowship the yogi started, has been called a cult with more than one disappointing sides to it - A few years ago one third of its monastic members quit.

Here I have focused on showing important sides of the book in wider contexts. Much and deep submission is found and may be generated on top of the book as well. It is done in part by swollen, irksome claims - for example of many baffling "Hindu Christs". There are such mentions in the book too. It may be good to beware of Hindu infiltration that gives wrong premises to base one's life on. ... Read more

15. Truman
by David McCullough
list price: $26.00
our price: $17.16
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0671798871
Catlog: Book (1992-12-01)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Sales Rank: 23931
Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Hailed by critics as an American masterpiece, David McCullough's sweeping biography of Harry S. Truman has captured the heart of the nation.The life and times of the thirty-third President of the United States, Truman provides a deeply moving look at an extraordinary, singular American.From Truman's small-town, turn-of-the-century boyhood and his transforming experience in the face of war in 1918, to his political beginnings in the powerful Pendergast machine and his rapid rise to prominence in the U.S. Senate, McCullough shows, in colorful detail, a man of uncommon vitality and strength of character.Here too is a telling account of Truman's momentous decision to use the atomic bomb and the weighty responsibilities that he was forced to confront on the dawning of a new age.Distinguished historian and prize-winning author David McCullough tells one of the greatest of American stories in this stirring audio adaptation of his Truman---a compelling, classic portrait of a life that shaped history. ... Read more

Reviews (172)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

16. Living History
by Hillary Clinton
list price: $26.00
our price: $17.68
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0743528336
Catlog: Book (2003-06-09)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Sales Rank: 53873
Average Customer Review: 3.05 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Hillary Rodham Clinton is known to hundreds of millions of people around the world. Yet few beyond her close friends and family have ever heard her account of her extraordinary journey. She writes with candor, humor and passion about her upbringing in suburban, middle-class America in the 1950s and her transformation from Goldwater Girl to student activist to controversial First Lady. Living History is her revealing memoir of life through the White House years. It is also her chronicle of living history with Bill Clinton, a thirty-year adventure in love and politics that survives personal betrayal, relentless partisan investigations and constant public scrutiny.

Hillary Rodham Clinton came of age during a time of tumultuous social and political change in America. Like many women of her generation, she grew up with choices and opportunities unknown to her mother or grandmother. She charted her own course through unexplored terrain -- responding to the changing times and her own internal compass -- and became an emblem for some and a lightning rod for others. Wife, mother, lawyer, advocate and international icon, she has lived through America's great political wars, from Watergate to Whitewater.

The only First Lady to play a major role in shaping domestic legislation, Hillary Rodham Clinton traveled tirelessly around the country to champion health care, expand economic and educational opportunity and promote the needs of children and families, and she crisscrossed the globe on behalf of women's rights, human rights and democracy. She redefined the position of First Lady and helped save the presidency from an unconstitutional, politically motivated impeachment. Intimate, powerful and inspiring, Living History captures the essence of one of the most remarkable women of our time and the challenging process by which she came to define herself and find her own voice -- as a woman and as a formidable figure in American politics. ... Read more

Reviews (651)

4-0 out of 5 stars Pretty good book
I just love Hillary Clinton, but this is only after I read this book. I never really cared for her, but I decided to give this book a shot. Now that I've read it, I can see what an incredible woman she really is. I admire her greatly.

As for the book itself, it wasn't the best thing I had ever read. Some of it was a little boring, but overall I thought it was worth reading. I enjoyed reading about her childhood and I loved hearing about her getting involved in politics. I now see her relationship with Bill in a new light, and I am glad she didn't dwell on the Monica Lewinsky scandal. She had a much bigger story to tell, and I am glad she did it.

The reason some people may not like this book is because it reads more like a political manifesto rather than an out-and-out memoir. The times when she went into too much detail on foreign policies were things I could have done without. Still, I am glad I gave this book a shot because it really does make you see her in a new light. She is no longer the ice woman I once thought she was. Then again my family is predominantly Republican, so it's no wonder I thought that. It's hard for me to think I once thought so little of this incredible woman.

Another reason people may not like this is because they were expecting a juicy gossip rag about the Lewinsky scandal. Like I said earlier, Ms. Clinton does not dwell on this and I love her for that. That is a time in her life she has moved on from and we should all take a page from her book.

I have a newfound respect for Hillary Clinton. She has inspired me to become more involved in politics and I think she is just an amazing woman. Thanks to her, I have come to embrace my liberal views and am not afraid to be the only Democrat in a family full of Republicans. Go out and buy this book to get a glimpse into who this woman really is. She will get my vote if she ever decides to run for the presidency of the United States.

4-0 out of 5 stars History Light
I must admit that this is the first memoir I have ever read that was by the First Lady and given this one is graded as one of the better ones, I think it may be my last. It was not that the book was badly written, it was just that the majority of what the First Lady does is not all that interesting to me. Reading about this fund raisers, good will trips or party planning are not my idea of thrilling political insider info. I am more interested in the hard fought, inside the beltway battles that make major decisions. I obviously new this book was about the First Lady, but given the Clinton Presidency, I assumed that it would cover more in depth the political battles the administration faced. Then again the book was about her.

The next compliant I would have about the book is that the author seamed to take the high road on all the areas you thought she would come out with both guns blazing on. Her comments were so bland that they almost acted to diminish or completely disregarded the very negative attacks the Clinton's faced during their terms. Sure she touched on the items of major interest, heath care reform, the full independent counsel investigation, Monica and the Senate race, but it seamed to be at such a high level that all the real nasty, dirty inside details were left out of the book. Ok I know that she has a new job now so that she did not what to lay waste the political landscape that she will be working in and one could make the argument that the First Lady needs to stay above the partisan attacks, but hey this is the edge of the seat reading I wanted.

Lastly I wanted more detail. Now given that she had lead a rather full life, Governors wife, working on the Nixon impeachment, First Lady and now Senator, to get a real detailed account of all of these areas she would have needed a much larger if not multiple volume book. I guess I would have just liked her to focus on the First Lady section of her life and have gone into more detail. Just as the book seamed to be getting into a topic, the chapter was over and on to the next installment of Hilary on the move.

Even though I have focused on the areas I disliked with the book, overall I thought it was probably better then most books dealing with the Clinton years. I did think the writing was better then average and she did have an interesting story to tell. The details she did given about the life of the First Lady and some of the inside information about the Clinton Presidency were worth the purchase price, throw in some of the personal bit and the book was not bad at all. I also have a sympathetic spot for her, so the increased my enjoyment of the book. I guess I am just a bit disappointed that the book could have been so much better. It could have been a stinging and focused rebuttal of all the overly negative and harmful to the country attacks. Then again how could one book fight back the 8 year, over the top negative campaign focused against the Clinton's. I felt the book was interesting and enjoyable.

2-0 out of 5 stars She's a good girl...
Hillary Clinton is an interesting woman, with tremendous drive and ambition, and this will often get a woman branded as the devil incarnate. The very polarized views of her are not surprising.

What was surprising was the tone and lack of depth in this book. It reads as if she had a list of items she wanted to tick off as having explained. 'I'm a good girl, really.' was the underlying theme. I can't believe she's as naive as she portrays herself. She does admit to a few mistakes, but her apologies are all for not doing a better job, like any good girl.

The healthcare chapter is a good example. She was unable to overcome hurdles around the complexity of the legislative process involved, and she makes 'apologies' for her failure along the lines of 'well, we tried really hard & it's a good cause'. But as she & Bill are both Yale lawyers, with experience in private practice (her) and as the Arkansas attorney general (him) and as they had easy access to many of the best legal minds in the country, it is hard to understand. It comes across more like professional negligence than the naivety it is painted as. I suspect ambition (the 100 day goal) was the real cause for failure, which is a shame given how important this issue is to our country and how badly we need healthcare reform. To put something this complex under a 100 day deadline is almost sophomoric - or ambition out of control.

She is also careful to mention every person and cause that might win over supporters. An extraordinary number of her enounters seemed to have resulted in 'lifelong' friendships. Many iconic figures like Jackie Kennedy and Nelson Mandela get a lot of airtime. It's a bit too good to be true. It reads almost as if she's running for something.

Maybe Sarah Bradford, who wrote that wonderful biography of Jackie Kennedy, will write the book about Hillary one day and we'll get a better picture of who she really is - from all angles. Personally, I would have found the intelligent, ambitious Hillary much more interesting and admirable than the girl scout we hear about in this book... it's a shame powerful women still feel they have to paint themselves as 'good girls' to be heard.

5-0 out of 5 stars 10 things to love about this book.
1. Candid revelations: "It was no surprise that Bill turned out to be a cheat. He used to hang out in the parking lot of Arby's to pick up Monica types, but it still hurts."

2. On the Sixties: "Bill really did inhale, as did we all."

3. On lesbianism rumors: "I am not a Lesbian, I only tried it those times to find that out."

4. On faith: "I am a deeply spiritual Church goer, I also dabble in Voodoo and my Wicken name is priestess Dominatrix."

5. On movies: "My favorite movie is that one by Tarintino, I forget the title, something Bill."

6. On her detractors: "They call me a cold angry lady. I am just aloof and have some hate issues."

7. On the vast right wing conspiricy: "They put a computer chip in Bill's head that makes him not very particular about the ladies."

8. On forgivness: "We all make mistakes, even I can recall waking up next to Monica after a night of drinking on a few occasions."

9. On Terrorists: "Let's find out why they are unhappy, maybe they need a hug."

10. On running for President: "I understand that France hates us for being powerful so I will reduce our power to an amount equal or less than that of other countries and stop all this helping people in forign lands stuff."

5-0 out of 5 stars An intelligent account of history, (not gossip filled)
If you are looking for gossip, go read another book. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's book is as the title states: It is a Living History. It is well-written and filled with facts and stories of past generations. If you have children or grandchildren this is a book you should buy for them. It is a warm and compassionate way to learn history (as opposed to our education system that tends to teach history via war dates). Buy this book. You Won't Be Sorry!

(...) ... Read more

by Barbara Bush
list price: $25.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0671880136
Catlog: Book (1994-10-01)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Sales Rank: 595360
Average Customer Review: 3.89 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Politics aside, people worldwide have come to admire Barbara Bush's wit, candor and compassion, as well as her unswerving devotion to her husband and children.Now, she gives listeners a very private look at a life she lived in the public eye for more than 25 years.With the contemporary American history as the backdrop, Mrs. Bush remembers the experiences that led to the White House, from growing up in Rye, New York and meeting George Bush, through life as a young bride and mother and the almost unbearable pain of losing a child.She talks candidly about her years in public life in Washington, New York and China, and describes her role as the wife of the Vice President, culminating in the climactic White House years.Drawing upon excerpts from the diary she has compiled for more than 30 years, Mrs. Bush takes us behind the scenes of the Persian Gulf conflict and the end of the Cold War, and introduces us to the world leaders and their spouses with whom she has developed friendships over the years.She also talks about both the Bushes' struggle to overcome Graves Disease, the disappointment of the 1992 Presidential campaign and the joys of rediscovering private life, and tells us why she threw so much of her energy and compassion behind the important cause of making America more literate.Filled with the funny, often self-deprecating and occasionally touching anecdotes for which she is well-known, Mrs. Bush's memoir will charm her millions of admirers and earn her many more. ... Read more

Reviews (19)

5-0 out of 5 stars Takes you around the world while meeting famous people.
This is a great book. You truly see what it is like to live in the political world. Barbara Bush uses humor and moving stories to show what her life was like in China, New York, Washington, D.C., and Texas. Her positive atitude towards people is truly encouraging. I look up to her.

5-0 out of 5 stars I choose to love it!
I was 18 when Bush ran for office in 1988 and that was my first election to vote in. Needless to say, I voted for George Bush. I only wish I would have paid closer attention to his presidency then, because all dignity, grace, and respect left the White House with Barbara and he. Barbara Bush tells the story about a good life with no apologies. Everyone strives for the American dream, but few people enjoy it once they possess it. As a mother of three now, myself, I can appreciate her willingness to love and support her husband and family. I appreciate that she is a self realized person in her own right and was never threatened by, nor felt she had to compete with her husband's success. I loved being introduced to "Bar's" George Bush. Here is a loving husband, devoted father and grandfather, and a decent human being. Most of all, I appreciate the words she repeats several times in her book... "In life, we can choose to love what we do or hate it, I choose to love it" This book is very inspiring and should certainly pull the reader out of any depression or slump he may find himself in.

Finally, I will be voting for another George Bush next month!

1-0 out of 5 stars A Beautiful Mind
After reading this book, I was reminded of Richard Nixon's famous remark; "there's a woman who knows how to hate!" I've never seen a person (outside of her own son, G.W.,) with a more deceptive public persona. Maybe Kitty Kelly will one day take a crack at writing a more true to life portrayal of this hateful harridan.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Warm and Interesting Look
After reading this book, her husband's second book, and finally her second memoir, I did have a profound respect for her dignity, love for her family, and stamina. This book was an easy read and was absolutely fascinating to go along on exotic trips and learning about the side kick's day to day existence as wife to President. The book made me admire the Bush's as a couple more, the love for their kids and each other, and their principles, even if I did not agree with all of the latter.

3-0 out of 5 stars Uneven book by a nice lady
It was interesting to learn more about Barbara Bush and her life. In particular I enjoyed to read about her younger days. This was something I hadn't heard much about before, and I thought it was nice to read about her family and friends, and not the least about how she met her husband George Bush. There was so much I didn't know, and the pages turned quickly.

I also enjoyed the end of the book. It was great to learn more about how she experienced the Gulf War and, in the end, the loss in the final president election that her husband was a part of. In this part, I found what I felt was missing in the middle part of the book: I felt she was more open about what she thought about people and situations than she was when it came to the Vice President and President years. It's natural to think that she couldn't be so open about what she thought about political leaders and situations during that period. I find that understandable, but it made this part of 'A Memoir' duller to read than the rest of book.

Even so, I liked Barbara Bush, because she seemed like a nice lady. ... Read more

18. The Lives of the Kings and Queens of England [UNABRIDGED]
by Antonia Fraser, Wanda McCaddon
list price: $34.95
our price: $23.07
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1572701013
Catlog: Book (1999-05-01)
Publisher: Audio Partners
Sales Rank: 257628
Average Customer Review: 4.47 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

This is a celebration of almost 1,000 years of English history, told through the lives of England's monarchs. Antonia Fraser, an acclaimed scholar, has created both a useful reference and a fascinating history. Eight specialist contributors bring to life many royal figures such as the well-loved Victoria and the enigmatic, little-known sovereign, Richard III. This newly revised 1998 edition features expanded and timely coverage of the House of Windsor. Complete and unabridged. 8 cassettes. ... Read more

Reviews (15)

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent resource
Antonia Fraser does a great job here, outlining the lives and adventures of the Kings and Queens of England, from the time of the Norman conquest. And of course its not just a history of England that we are reading here, from time to time it was also a history of the known world - there were times when if England didn't own another country, they were coveting it, or were in some conflict with it. And what fascinating people these royal people were. They were of their times, they were shaped by the times, they were defeated by their times, and in being so helped shape the world that we see today. They were competent, insane, brilliant, loyal, lecherous and obsessive. This is a history of mankind - only far more visible!

Antonia Fraser is one of the finest historical writers today. In this book she does not have the space or time to delve into the nitty gritty of the reigns of each monarch, but she does give a fascinating and insightful snap shot of their times. This is a valuable reference book for any half serious library, as it deals not only with the people, but the times tthat they lived in.

4-0 out of 5 stars History Thru Biography
Until I read this book, the history of England and her monarchs was clouded in confusion. No longer! A beautiful book, full of color and informative graphics, "Lives" packs much information in one volume. Antonia Frazier has done a wonderful job editing the work of many authors. "Lives" draws the reader into the life and times of kings, queens, bas***ds, pretenders, earls, dukes and mistresses. The role and evolution of Parliment is explored, as well as brief outlines of the world at large in order to maintain historical perspective. Often the authors attempt to correct what they feel were previous historical inaccuracies and judge the reigns of each monarch. From the Norman conquest in 1066 to the present, the history of this great country (and Empire) is one we need to better understand because of England's great influence on not only the US, but the world. I can't wait to read the updated 1998 edition, which I just thumbed through at a local retailer.

5-0 out of 5 stars Royal Portraits
Antonia Fraser's 'The Lives of the Kings and Queens of England' has long been one of my favourite books (since my childhood, really), because it has both breadth and brevity simultaneously, a rare feat. Lady Fraser's style is evident here, a non-imposing and non-technical style, that is nonetheless satisfying to all but the most rigourous of academic historians.

Fraser's account begins with the Norman invasion; like many books on royal history, scant attention is paid to pre-Norman figures. Fraser groups the monarchs into categories:

House of Lancaster
House of York
House of Hanover
House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha
House of Windsor

Putting together the genealogical tables is a fun exercise--beware here, however, that lesser historical figures are left off the charts (thus, Queen Anne's bevy of children are not represented on the genealogy as none lived to assume the crown or perpetuate the line). Each monarch is given an article about 10-15 pages in length (a good bedtime reading length, I've found). Pictures and paintings help place visually the stories, together with the interspersed essays on coats-of-arms and other topics.

Fraser likes to find the humourous aspects whenever possible. Writing on William IV's distaste for the young Victoria's mother:' 'In 1836 the Duchess of Kent took over a large suite of rooms in Kensington Palace without the King's permission. William was furious. If he died now, Victoria would not be old enough to rule without her mother as Regent. At a public dinner, attended by more than a hundred guests, William said that he hoped his life would be spared long enough to prevent such a calamity.'

His wish was granted.

An ideal gift for anyone, child to adult, who has an interest in the history of the British royals, and a good ready-reference for students, this book is first-rate.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Overview Of The Monarchs Of England!
If you are not aware of whom the Kings and Queens of England are, or if you are a novice in understanding who these colorful individuals are this is a wonderful book to introduce you to them. This book covers all of them from the beginning (Norman Rule) to present day, and even takes a look at the future of the monarchy. Short biographies on each monarch as well as color photos help put a face and personality to each monarch.

Don't expect this book to offer a detail explanation and action of each monarch since that would require the book to be way to extensive. This is a brief intoduction to each and a wonderful first look. This book is great for either pleasure reading, or reference material.

4-0 out of 5 stars Useful for the novice.
As someone who is not already well-read on the subject, this was a very handy introduction. I'm sure that it is of limited value to someone already versed in the subject, and I admit to wishing that it had not started with William the Conqueror; I don't know much about it, but I DO know that there were Kings in England before 1066. But it does what it sets out to do well: a brief recitation of the Kings and Queens since the Norman Conquest, with a bit of detail about each. ... Read more

19. Galileo's Daughter : A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith and Love
list price: $39.95
our price: $26.37
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0375409408
Catlog: Book (1999-11-02)
Publisher: Random House Audio
Sales Rank: 305829
Average Customer Review: 4.13 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Read by George Guidall
Seven Cassettes, 11 Hours

Galileo's Daughter introduces us to the man whose belief that the Earth moved around the sun caused him to be brought before the Holy Office of the Inquisition, accused of heresy, and threatened with torture.In contrast, his daughter Virginia chose the quiet life of a cloistered nun.Sobel takes us through the trials and triumphs of Galileo's career and his familial relationships, and simultaneously illuminates an entire era of flamboyant Medici Grand Dukes, the bubonic plague, and history's most dramatic collusion between science and religion.
... Read more

Reviews (195)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

20. Pure Heart, Enlightened Mind: The Zen Journals and Letters of Maura "Soshin" O'Halloran
by Maura O'Halloran, Mare Winningham
list price: $17.95
our price: $17.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1574530488
Catlog: Book (1996-12-01)
Publisher: Audio Literature
Sales Rank: 686630
Average Customer Review: 4.64 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (11)

5-0 out of 5 stars zen with a heart
this book is one of my favorite books in my library . this diary of an irish american searcher of zen cuts to the heart. ive read the book and have the abridged book on tape. though the tape is a shorter version of the book mare winningham brings the words alive with an irish charm. this book gives an insiders look at the heart zen as it is practiced in a japenese zen monastery. it is not only eyeopening it is enduring.

5-0 out of 5 stars Zen is eternal life!
A marvelous book from beginning to end. The utter unpretentiousness of Maura O'Halloran's rich spiritual journuey is a miracle to encounter. It's so difficult, at book's end, to take leave of this shining young person, this quiet buddha , but she strengthens us for the inevitable by teaching so pure, so real, so necessary, that the natural world of our own lives is changed forever, charged with her abiding and beholden to her example. Others here have stated well the 'content' one finds in these pages; I wish only to say thank you to Maura's wise and devoted family for making the effort to provide us with these journals and family letters. Her mother's Introduction, with its simple and moving veneration of her daughter's life, sets a loving compass for the journey ahead; her sister Elizabeth's drawings are clearly pulled from her own heart, and her brother's afterword together give us an infinitely deep understanding of the means behind the meaning of this extraordinary young woman's life's journey. This is a book of great hope, abundant humor, and sure grace for anyone who reads it. Abundant recommendation without reserve; read it and walk anew the paths of love.

5-0 out of 5 stars An Irish voice
What moves me very much is the lilting, playful, droll voice of Maura O'Halloran. You would imagine that the Irish character and the Buddhist tradition are poles apart. Maura's passion whirls them together in an instant.
This book is a good companion indeed.

5-0 out of 5 stars As simple as a....b.....c.............
This book is a lovely tale of a life well lived. It is told in simple, clear prose. These pages describe what it means to be fully alive to reality. Maura shares with us what Zen is all about as a lived experience, rather than some abstraction, which, I suppose, is the only way it can be demonstrated. The book is full of quiet, irreverent, good humor, which is one of the qualities of Zen if I understand it correctly.

Maura tells us a lot about Zen in this book. More importantly, she tells us in poetic prose what it means to be fully attentive and absorbed in the present. What I take from this book is that living a good life, after the fog has lifted, is as simple as a...b...c.......

1-0 out of 5 stars overstated
This is a book which reads more like a hagiography than a journal. Maura O'Hallaran's both time in training and understanding were, for want of better words; brief and comparatively small. She may well have been embarrassed by the book herself if alive today. ... Read more

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