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1. Stalin : A Biography,
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2. Long Walk to Freedom : The Autobiography
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3. John Adams
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4. Alexander Hamilton
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5. His Excellency : George Washington
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6. My Life
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7. The Family : The Real Story of
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8. The Best Year of Their Lives:
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9. Thomas Jefferson : Author of America
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10. John Adams: Party of One
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11. Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion
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12. Pol Pot : Anatomy of a Nightmare
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13. Truman
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14. When Trumpets Call : Theodore
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15. American Sphinx : The Character
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16. Mornings on Horseback: The Story
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17. The Real Jimmy Carter: How Our
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18. Franklin and Winston: An Intimate
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19. When Character Was King: A Story
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20. Benjamin Harrison : [The 23rd

1. Stalin : A Biography,
by Robert Service
list price: $29.95
our price: $19.77
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0674016971
Catlog: Book (2005-04-04)
Publisher: Belknap Press
Sales Rank: 4359
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Overthrowing the conventional image of Stalin as an uneducated political administrator inexplicably transformed into a pathological killer, Robert Service reveals a more complex and fascinating story behind this notorious twentieth-century figure. Drawing on unexplored archives and personal testimonies gathered from across Russia and Georgia, this is the first full-scale biography of the Soviet dictator in twenty years.

Service describes in unprecedented detail the first half of Stalin's life--his childhood in Georgia as the son of a violent, drunkard father and a devoted mother; his education and religious training; and his political activity as a young revolutionary. No mere messenger for Lenin, Stalin was a prominent activist long before the Russian Revolution. Equally compelling is the depiction of Stalin as Soviet leader. Service recasts the image of Stalin as unimpeded despot; his control was not limitless. And his conviction that enemies surrounded him was not entirely unfounded.

Stalin was not just a vengeful dictator but also a man fascinated by ideas and a voracious reader of Marxist doctrine and Russian and Georgian literature as well as an internationalist committed to seeing Russia assume a powerful role on the world stage. In examining the multidimensional legacy of Stalin, Service helps explain why later would-be reformers--such as Khrushchev and Gorbachev--found the Stalinist legacy surprisingly hard to dislodge.

Rather than diminishing the horrors of Stalinism, this is an account all the more disturbing for presenting a believable human portrait. Service's lifetime engagement with Soviet Russia has resulted in the most comprehensive and compelling portrayal of Stalin to date.

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Reviews (5)

5-0 out of 5 stars We return again to the subject of Stalin
Gangster! Evil dictator! Georgian Al Capone!Robert Service uses all of these terms to describe Joseph Vissarionovich Dzhughashvili, known as Stalin, in this new biography.That he also uses terms such as intellectual, paterfamilias, singer of songs and lover of wine, to describe the `man of steel' disgusts and alienates some readers.Apparently, we must distance ourselves from such a man, make him somehow inhuman, in order to fit him into our modern worldview.More interesting, and more useful, is a biography that seeks to understand the human factors, for Stalin was not some alien dropped from outer space, but a man.

This is the work of a professional historian who is deeply immersed in both the primary sources (many newly available) and the historiography of Stalin. Service seeks to undertake a multidimensional approach, looking at political, economic, personal, international and many other factors of both Stalin and the world in which he lived. Among the more interesting points Service brings out, is the importance of Stalin in the pre-revolutionary period, including his importance and high place (although less visible than some of the others) in the party structure, debunking the myth that Stalin came out of nowhere, suddenly and mysteriously knocking the Bolshevik train off track. Stalin was Lenin's protégé and student, and although he differed on several key points, there was continuity between the two. In a sense this is the sequel to the author's works on Lenin.

If there is one thing I wish could be added to a generally excellent work, it would be while Service sufficiently discredits both Leninism and Stalinism I would have preferred, since he was on the subject,a discussion of the failure not only Bolshevism but of Marxism in general. Admittedly it is slightly beyond the scope, but it seems to leave open the question, could a Marxist state under some more benign leadership have worked?It is my belief that the historian of the twentieth century has already before him evidence to answer this question, and anyway, (with sincere apologies) let us hope no one will ever undertake such an experiment.That being said, in all a very good biography suitable for all readers.

5-0 out of 5 stars Yes please!
Quit Stalin (stalling) and buy this book! (that was a joke but this is a good book).

4-0 out of 5 stars A Biography That Tries To Humanize Stalin
The author tries to humaninze Stalin and view him as a more intellectual person than he is viewed in earlier biographies. Stalin's vast and terrible crimes against the persons in his own country are almost pure evil and the reader will be disturbed at the author's effort to "rehabilitate" Stalin.

3-0 out of 5 stars A Step in the Wrong Direction.
Robert Service's book is the newest addition to the recent spate of books on Joseph Stalin.While a meticulously researched effort, it is disturbing that the author is at pains to "humanize" Stalin and to understand his behaviour. I quote from a review of the book in The Economist, 6 January 2005:

"Here the reader is told that Stalin's crimes, while vast and terrible, were things which a sane, intelligent, sometimes kindly human being might do for understandable if not defensible reasons. It does not feel like a step in the right direction."

I would recommend, Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar by Simon Sebag Montefiore, and as a companion volume, Stalin and His Hangmen: The Tyrant and Those Who Killed for Him by Donald Rayfield as giving superior treatment to the subject.

5-0 out of 5 stars Ground Breaking
Reading this biography one becomes aware how much previous biographies of Stalin were affected by Trotsky's work and perspective. A good deal of scholarship about the Soviet Union depended on documents that were carried out by him and his written works were influential. Some of the more influential writers of Soviet history were in fact disciples of Trotsky such as Isaac Deutscher.

Broadly Trotsky hoped to gain power in the Soviet Union following Lenin's death. He was however outmanoeuvred by Stalin. Trotsky was contemptuous of Stalin's ability and he thought he was a nonentity. This is reflective in his writing and accounts of Stalin's career and rise. As a result he portrayed Stalin as a nothing who had arisen not through his own ability but through a mysterious numbers game in the party which preferred hacks to people of real talent.

Stalin after in his road to power was happy to portray himself in a similar way to the Trotsky caricature of him.That is an ordinary practical man who could empathise with the problems of workers and peasants and have real solutions to problems rather than overblown rhetoric.

This book suggests a very different picture of Stalin's rise. In reality he was only General Secretary of the party for a short time before the power struggle to oust Trotsky. He had little time to stack the party and the reason he won was because he was a better political operator. In fact Stalin had always been an important figure in the Bolshevik movement holding important positions such as being the editor of the party newspaper. Although a poor public speaker he was a person of considerable intelligence and he was a skilled writer. Broadly Trosky was a person who was somewhat egocentric and he had little ability to read people and depended on his charisma and ability as a speaker. By the 1920's a bit more was required to gain power in the Soviet Union.

The main power of the book is to show that Stalin was in fact an intellectual figure. It deals in less detail with the historical background of Stalin's rule skating over the oppression of the peasants and the development of industry. In fact the chapter on the second world war makes at least one mistake suggesting that the battle of Karhov was the first Soviet offensive of the war obviously forgetting the attacks on the German forces by Zhukov in late 1941.

Never the less the power and importance of the book is to show how previous biographies were written and influenced by ideas around Stalin's rise which when put to the test are shown to be wrong. In looking at Stalin's personality it is also clear that he was not a person who suffered from what would be described as a mental illness. His actions were to purposeful and systematic for that. Despite this the book is perhaps better at showing what could be described as the evil of Stalin's rule. Not only the effects on those who were killed by his regime but the brutal and irrational nature of the regime he created.
... Read more


2. Long Walk to Freedom : The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela Tag: The International Bestseller
by Nelson Mandela
list price: $16.95
our price: $11.86
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0316548189
Catlog: Book (1995-10-01)
Publisher: Back Bay Books
Sales Rank: 3000
Average Customer Review: 4.46 out of 5 stars
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Amazon.com

The famously taciturn South African president reveals much of himself inLong Walk to Freedom. A good deal of this autobiography was written secretlywhile Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years on Robben Island by South Africa's apartheid regime. Among the book's interestingrevelations is Mandela's ambivalence toward his lifetime of devotion to public works. It cost him twomarriages and kept him distant from a family life he might otherwise have cherished.Long Walk to Freedom also discloses a strong and generous spirit that refused to be broken under the most trying circumstances--a spirit inwhich just about everybody can find something to admire. ... Read more

Reviews (89)

5-0 out of 5 stars This Man Is My Hero.
I read "Long Walk to Freedom" right after I graduated from college in 1996. This is the written life of one of the absolute greatest world leaders who ever lived. I had the pleasure to visiting Robben Island, where most of its tour guides were, like Mandela, political prisoners under apartheid. Words cannot describe what it felt like to actually stand inside of the jail cell that Mandela occuppied. What is even more incredible is that, looking back, the man was not the least bit bitter or angry about what he went through (and who could blame him if he were?); in fact, he invited his former jailers to his 1994 inauguration as South Africa's first black president.

If after reading this book you do not come away with a greater sense of admiration and respect for this outstanding human being, then you are not human.

4-0 out of 5 stars A good autobiography
Long Walk to Freedom is the autobiography of Nelson Mandela, one of the greatest leaders of South Africa. It gives a detailed account of his childhood, youth, and adulthood. It takes you through his years in college and his work as a lawyer as well as all of his political struggles with apartheid including his years in jail.
The book is extremely well written and gives the detail that only someone who witnessed the events could posses. Mandela's hindsight as he reviews the events of his life shows a more personal side to him. I liked the book but anyone who is considering reading it should be reminded that it is an autobiography so it does have a bias. He wrote the book as someone who had been wronged. Long Walk To Freedom provides an interesting and detailed account of the South Africans struggle with apartheid. It details Nelson's joining of the ANC (African National Congress) his rise in the ANC, and his creation of the MK. It also gives facts about his personal life and the life of his family. It is recommended to anyone who enjoys autobiographies or to anyone who is looking to learn more about the history of apartheid and South Africa.

5-0 out of 5 stars This book is well worth of my shelf space.
You should read, at least, a book or two about biographies of such noble people as Nelson Mandela, whose lives have been a blessing to the world. This was a great inspirational book and helped me to realize how simple and small things in life could bring so much joy into one's life. Far too often, I personally take simple pleasures of life for granted. The freedom is not free and the book cites how the freedom is brought at the expense of sacrifices of our fathers. The book is very well written and what impresses me is Nelson Mandela's mastery of English language.

4-0 out of 5 stars LOOOOONG Book
This book kept me in prison for a long time. It really bogs down in the middle and then hurries to wrap up. It's a much more "satifying" read in the first 1/3 of the book.

4-0 out of 5 stars THE DETERMINATION OF ONE MAN- A MUST READ!
After reading LONG WALK TO FREEDOM, I came away with a sense of awe for a man who spent 27 years in prison but never gave up the hope for his freedom and the freedom of his country.

Communicating was key to keeping the "freedom fighters" on the outside informed and encouraged. One way this was done was to write in tiny, coded script on toilet paper. The paper was so small and easily hidden that this became a popular way of smuggling out messages. When the authorities discovered a number of these communications, they took the extraordinary measure of rationing toilet paper. After awhile, only eight squares of toilet paper were given to each prisoner each day.

To live under such conditions where you can be so isolated from the world (For 27 years), that you contemplate conversing with a cockroach, is a test of the human spirit. To sacrifice the obligations of family so that a nation of people can breath in freedom is nothing short of courageous with a fiercely determined spirit. Here is what Nelson Mandela writes about in his struggle for family and nation:

I did not in the beginning choose to place my people above my family, but in attempting to serve my people, I found I was prevented from fulfilling my obligations as a son, a brother, a father, and a husband.

In that way, my commitment to my people, to the millions of South Africans I would never know or meet, was at the expense of the people I knew best and loved most. It was as simple and yet as incomprehensible as the moment a small child asks her father, "Why can you not be with us?" And the father must utter the terrible words: "There are other children like you, a great many of them....." and then one's voice trails off.

Nelson Mandela is a man that has a spirit and determination that is above and beyond most people or leaders today. READ THE BOOK!! It will open your eyes and in the end, it'll make you feel good about the human spirit. ... Read more


3. John Adams
by David McCullough
list price: $35.00
our price: $23.10
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0684813637
Catlog: Book (2001-05-22)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Sales Rank: 6626
Average Customer Review: 4.62 out of 5 stars
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Amazon.com's Best of 2001

Left to his own devices, John Adams might have lived out his days as a Massachusetts country lawyer, devoted to his family and friends. As it was, events swiftly overtook him, and Adams--who, David McCullough writes, was "not a man of the world" and not fond of politics--came to greatness as the second president of the United States, and one of the most distinguished of a generation of revolutionary leaders. He found reason to dislike sectarian wrangling even more in the aftermath of war, when Federalist and anti-Federalist factions vied bitterly for power, introducing scandal into an administration beset by other difficulties--including pirates on the high seas, conflict with France and England, and all the public controversy attendant in building a nation.

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

Reviews (536)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


4. Alexander Hamilton
by Ron Chernow
list price: $26.00
our price: $12.24
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0143034758
Catlog: Book (2005-03-29)
Publisher: Penguin Books
Sales Rank: 11047
Average Customer Review: 4.65 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

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

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

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

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

Alexander Hamilton was one of the seminal figures in our history. His richly dramatic saga, rendered in Chernow's vivid prose, is nothing less than a riveting account of America's founding, from the Revolutionary War to the rise of the first federal government.
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Reviews (51)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


5. His Excellency : George Washington
by Joseph J. Ellis
list price: $26.95
our price: $16.17
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1400040310
Catlog: Book (2004-10-26)
Publisher: Knopf
Sales Rank: 10
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Amazon.com

As commander of the Continental army, George Washington united the American colonies, defeated the British army, and became the world's most famous man. But how much doAmericans really know about their first president? Today, as Pulitzer Prize-winner Joseph J. Ellis says in this crackling biography, Americans see their first president on dollar bills, quarters, and Mount Rushmore, but only as "an icon--distant, cold, intimidating." In truth, Washington was a deeply emotional man, but one who prized and practiced self-control (an attribute reinforced during his years on the battlefield).

Washington first gained recognition as a 21-year-old emissary for the governor of Virginia, braving savage conditions to confront encroaching French forces. As the de facto leader of the American Revolution, he not only won the country's independence, but helped shape its political personality and "topple the monarchical and aristocratic dynasties of the Old World." When the Congress unanimously elected him president, Washington accepted reluctantly, driven by his belief that the union's very viability depended on a powerful central government. In fact, keeping the country together in the face of regional allegiances and the rise of political parties may be his greatest presidential achievement.

Based on Washington's personal letters and papers, His Excellency is smart and accessible--not to mention relatively brief, in comparison to other encyclopedic presidential tomes. Ellis's short, succinct sentences speak volumes, allowing readers to glimpse the man behind the myth. --Andy Boynton

Amazon.com Exclusive Content
Curious about George?
Amazon.com reveals a few facts about the legendary first president of the United States.

Washington bust by Jean Antoine Houdon.
Courtesy of the Mt. Vernon Ladies' Assoc.

1. The famous tale about Washington chopping down the cherry tree ("Father, I cannot tell a lie") is a complete fabrication.

2. George Washington never threw a silver dollar across the Potomac River--in fact, to do so from the shore of his Mount Vernon home would have been physically impossible.

3. George Washington did not wear wooden teeth. His poorly fitting false teeth were in fact made of cow's teeth, human teeth, and elephant ivory set in a lead base.

4. Early in his life, Washington was himself a slave owner. His opinions changed after he commanded a multiracial army in the Revolutionary War.He eventually came to recognize slavery as "a massive American anomaly."

5. In 1759, having resigned as Virginia's military commander to become a planter, Washington married Martha Dandridge Custis. Washington’s marriage to the colony's wealthiest widow dramatically changed his life, catapulting him into Virginia aristocracy.

6. Scholars have discredited suggestions that Washington's marriage to Martha lacked passion, as well as the provocative implications of the well-worn phrase "George Washington slept here."

7. Washington held his first public office when he was 17 years old, as surveyor of Culpeper County, Virginia.

8. At age 20, despite no prior military experience, Washington was appointed an adjutant in the Virginia militia, in which he oversaw several militia companies, and was assigned the rank of major.

9. As a Virginia aristocrat, Washington ordered all his coats, shirts, pants, and shoes from London. However, most likely due to the misleading instructions he gave his tailor, the suits almost never fit. Perhaps this is why he appears in an old military uniform in his 1772 portrait.

10. In 1751, during a trip to Barbados with his half-brother Lawrence, Washington was stricken with smallpox and permanently scarred. Fortunately, this early exposure made him immune to the disease that would wipe out colonial troops during the Revolutionary War.

Timeline
Important dates in George Washington's life.
Engraving of Mount Vernon, 1804. Courtesy of the Mt. Vernon Ladies' Assoc.

1732: George Washington is born at his father's estate in Westmoreland County, Virginia.

1743: George’s father, Augustine Washington, dies.

1752: At age 20, despite the fact that he has never served in the military, Washington is appointed adjutant in the Virginia militia, with the rank of major.

1753: As an emissary to Virginia Lieutenant Governor Robert Dinwiddie, he travels to the Ohio River Valley to confront French forces--the first of a series of encounters that would lead to the French and Indian War.

1755: Washington is appointed commander-in-chief of Virginia's militia.

1759: He marries wealthy widow Martha Dandridge Custis.

1774: Washington is elected to the First Continental Congress.

1775: He is unanimously elected by the Continental Congress as its army's commander-in-chief. Start of the American Revolution.

1776: On Christmas Day, Washington leads his army across the Delaware River and launches a successful attack against Hessian troops in Trenton, New Jersey.

1781: With the French, he defeats British troops in Yorktown, Virginia, precipitating the end of the war.

1783: The Revolutionary War officially ends.

1788: The Constitution is ratified.

1789: Washington is elected president.

1797: He fulfillshis last term as president.

1799: Washington dies on December 14, sparking a period of national mourning.

... Read more

6. My Life
by Bill Clinton
list price: $35.00
our price: $21.00
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Asin: 0375414576
Catlog: Book (2004-06)
Publisher: Knopf
Sales Rank: 35
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


7. The Family : The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty
by Kitty Kelley
list price: $29.95
our price: $17.97
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Asin: 0385503245
Catlog: Book (2004-09-14)
Publisher: Doubleday
Sales Rank: 705
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Kitty Kelley, author of exhaustive and highly unflattering biographies of Frank Sinatra, Jackie Onassis, and the British royal family,among others, has never received much cooperation from her subjects. Likewise, none was given for The First Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty, and it's not hard to understand why. In the book, the family that has produced two presidents as well as an assortment of other politicians, businesspeople, and a number of lesser-known black sheep is portrayed as a powerful empire that leverages wealth and influence to grow ever stronger while stringently covering up numerous instances of drug abuse, infidelity, poor judgment, and scandal. While charges about George W. Bush, including that he snorted cocaine at Camp David while his father was president, garnered the most attention upon the book's release, Kelley's history goes back several generations, detailing the rise to power of Senator Prescott Bush and his son, the first President Bush. Those seeking a salacious peek at the inner sanctum of a wealthy and powerful family will not be disappointed by The First Family--Kelley always delivers on that count--and will likely devour allegations of Barbara Bush's sour temperament, George H.W. Bush's long-standing affair with aide Jennifer Fitzgerald, and George W. Bush's obnoxious drunken frat boy days that stretched, according to Kelley, well into adulthood. Those seeking a rock-solid and airtight indictment of the Bushes, however, will be disappointed, since Kelley leans on anonymous sources and rumors for some of the juicier bits. Interestingly, although it tells the stories of a family built on politics, The First Family mostly avoids the subject, clearing the decks of all political substance in order to put the style on wider display. --John Moe ... Read more


8. The Best Year of Their Lives: Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon in 1948: Learning the Secrets of Power
by Lance Morrow
list price: $26.00
our price: $17.16
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Asin: 0465047238
Catlog: Book (2005-03-01)
Publisher: Basic Books
Sales Rank: 4077
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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The Best Year of Their Lives is not a typical presidential biography in that it forgoes the comprehensive approach to history. Instead, Lance Morrow shows why 1948 was a watershed year not just for John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Richard Nixon personally, but for the nation as well. That is the year that Johnson, in his bid for the Senate, used huge sums of corporate money to bombard the media with lies about his opponent, finally stealing the election by 87 votes by having a ballot box stuffed (thus earning the nickname "Landslide Lyndon"). Had he lost, he would have arguably been out of politics forever and the course of history would have been changed. At the same time, Nixon, as a freshman congressman, launched his political career by using his seat on the House Un-American Activities Committee to relentlessly pursue Alger Hiss, making himself a prominent national figure in the process. (Four years later he became Eisenhower's running mate.) Meanwhile, Kennedy was working hard to suppress the fact that he had Addison's disease. He continued to lie about his health for the rest of his life just as he later hid his reckless personal behavior. Through anecdotes and analysis (including personal contact; all three were presences in Morrow's childhood), Morrow shows how secrets and lies were to shape the behavior of all of them. This "convergence of personal ambition with secrecy, amorality, and a ruthless manipulation of the truth" would have tremendous implications for the country. The events of 1948 also foreshadow the tragedies and scandals that would end all three of their administrations.

Externally, the three presidents were radically different. Internally, argues Morrow, they were identical in many ways in that they "shared a tendency toward elaborately deliberated amorality; all three behaved as if rules were for others, not for them." Along with a rapidly changing American society, the start of the Cold War, and looming atomic destruction, 1948 ushered in modern politics and these men were the embodiment of it. Absorbing and unconventional, The Best Year of Their Lives adds to the considerable bodies of work already available on all three presidents. --Shawn Carkonen ... Read more

Reviews (3)

5-0 out of 5 stars Magisterial yet accessible - a new way of looking at history
Forget what "overblown silliness" says below. Lance Morrow's 1948 is one of the freshest, most insightful pieces of popular history to come around in ages. In looking at both the lives of JFK, LBJ, and Nixon in 1948 and the historical significance of that year for the United States as she really came into her own in the post-war world, Morrow gives an incredible insight both into the lives of the respective politicians, and the country itself.

What is most interesting, though, is that underlying all the post-war rah-rah optimism, Morrow captures a current of worry, of anxiety, and of moral unease: the US won World War II, Morrow suggests, but also lost a certain innocence in the process. New technologies (atom bombs, television) and a new breed of politician all came on the scene in this critical year, and Morrow's book captures it brilliantly.

This book is a must-read for anyone who is interested in modern American history, and how we became what we are today.

1-0 out of 5 stars Overblown silliness
This is truly one of the worst books ever written, a huge disappointment to anyone reading about U.S. domestic politics in the 20th century.The topic had great promise, but readers would be much better served picking up Christopher Matthews` book on Kennedy and Nixon or Robert Caro`s multi-volume biography of LBJ.Morrow`s prose is overwrought with far too much armchair psychologizing.He also has a dreadfully annoying, almost juvenile habit of using motion pictures to illustrate the points he wishes to make.It is a very unsuccessful literary device.Who at the publishers let this project see the light of day?

5-0 out of 5 stars Three Men Face Decisions in 1948 That Lead to Their Fate
This fascinating book chronicles a pivotal year in the lives of three ambitious politicians each of whom became President. In 1948, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Richard M. Nixon were all on the rise as young congressmen who according to author Lance Morrow, went to great pains - physically, psychologically and morally - to ensure their place on the American political scene.Like David Halberstam who wrote the classic "The Best and the Brightest", journalist Lance Morrow is able to shape a cohesive chapter of American history through seemingly unrelated events and brings a present-day relevance to what he writes.

LBJ won the U.S. senate seat for Texas by a highly suspicious 87 late-counted votes over the more popular Coke Stevenson. In one of the bellwether events of Communist witch-hunting, Nixon used the headline-grabbing Alger Hiss case as a springboard for national prominence, and it indeed led to him to become Eisenhower's running-mate in 1952. And JFK, despite the image of youthful vigor, was dealing with the death of his glamorous sister "Kick" (Kathleen) and hiding the debilitating effects of Addison's disease. Morrow does a superb job intertwining these three men by focusing on the secrets each kept to move to the next level of political ascendancy.Why this takes on a greater relevance is what the year 1948 represents in American history - the redefining period between the end of WWII and the crystallization of the Cold War. Many held secrets far larger in scope than these three. After all, the Cold War was all about Communist infiltration within the U.S. government, concealed knowledge courtesy of informers under the guise of friends, clandestine acts of espionage and who would end up detonating the A-bomb.That's why the secrets held by LBJ, JFK and Nixon seem so indicative of the prevalent behavior - LBJ did anything, no matter how unscrupulous, to take attention off the controversial votes that sent him off to the Senate; Nixon destroyed civil liberties and took witch-hunting to a new level with his obsessive pursuit of Hiss and Whittaker Chambers; and JFK went to great lengths to hide his medical condition knowing he would never otherwise have a chance to become President. Each drama turned on secrets.

What Morrow does best is show how the rather amoral behavior of each shaped each of their destinies and how each was challenged later on when Vietnam brought down LBJ and Watergate did the same for Nixon. Vietnam almost proved to be JFK's undoing, though we'll never know as his life was cut short in Dallas. Each was not so much into breaking rules as much as they saw them as irrelevant to them. Their shared priority was in creating their legacies no matter the cost. 1948 saw many more prominent turning points - Gandhi's assassination, the birth of Israel, the Kinsey Report was published - but this comprehensive history book really shows how the next generation of leaders were formed and ultimately damaged by the decisions they made at that critical juncture.Strongly recommended. ... Read more


9. Thomas Jefferson : Author of America (Eminent Lives)
by Christopher Hitchens
list price: $19.95
our price: $13.57
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Asin: 0060598964
Catlog: Book (2005-06-01)
Publisher: Eminent Lives
Sales Rank: 346686
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10. John Adams: Party of One
by James Grant
list price: $30.00
our price: $19.80
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Asin: 0374113149
Catlog: Book (2005-03-16)
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Sales Rank: 1615825
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Book Description

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

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

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

... Read more

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

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

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

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

Reviews (23)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

This powerful biography reveals that Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge were not a one-off aberration but instead grew out of a darkness of the soul common to all peoples. Cambodian history and culture combined with intervention from the United States and other nations to set the stage for a disaster whose horrors echo loudly in the troubling events of our world today.
... Read more

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

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

Reviews (172)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Reviews (3)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--- Reviewed by Colleen Quinn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


15. American Sphinx : The Character of Thomas Jefferson
by JOSEPH J. ELLIS
list price: $29.95
our price: $19.77
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Asin: 0679444904
Catlog: Book (1997-02-04)
Publisher: Knopf
Sales Rank: 7135
Average Customer Review: 3.92 out of 5 stars
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Well timed to coincide with Ken Burns's documentary (on which the author served as a consultant), this new biography doesn't aim to displace the many massive tomes about America's third president that already weigh down bookshelves. Instead, as suggested by the subtitle--"The Character of Thomas Jefferson"--Ellis searches for the "living, breathing person" underneath the icon and tries to elucidate his actual beliefs. Jefferson's most ardent admirers may find this perspective too critical, but Ellis's portrait of a complex, sometimes devious man who both sought and abhorred power has the ring of truth. ... Read more

Reviews (88)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


16. Mornings on Horseback: The Story of an Extraordinary Family, a Vanished Way of Life and the Unique Child Who Became Theodore Roosevelt
by David McCullough
list price: $16.00
our price: $10.88
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Asin: 0671447548
Catlog: Book (1982-05-12)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Sales Rank: 5999
Average Customer Review: 4.41 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Mornings on Horseback is the brilliant biography of the young Theodore Roosevelt. Hailed as "a masterpiece" (John A. Gable, Newsday), it is the winner of the Los Angeles Times 1981 Book Prize for Biography and the National Book Award for Biography. Written by David McCullough, the author of Truman, this is the story of a remarkable little boy, seriously handicapped by recurrent and almost fatal asthma attacks, and his struggle to manhood: an amazing metamorphosis seen in the context of the very uncommon household in which he was raised.

The father is the first Theodore Roosevelt, a figure of unbounded energy, enormously attractive and selfless, a god in the eyes of his small, frail namesake. The mother, Mittie Bulloch Roosevelt, is a Southerner and a celebrated beauty, but also considerably more, which the book makes clear as never before. There are sisters Anna and Corinne, brother Elliott (who becomes the father of Eleanor Roosevelt), and the lovely, tragic Alice Lee, TR's first love. All are brought to life to make "a beautifully told story, filled with fresh detail", wrote The New York Times Book Review.

A book to be read on many levels, it is at once an enthralling story, a brilliant social history and a work of important scholarship which does away with several old myths and breaks entirely new ground. It is a book about life intensely lived, about family love and loyalty, about grief and courage, about "blessed" mornings on horseback beneath the wide blue skies of the Badlands. ... Read more

Reviews (32)

5-0 out of 5 stars Mornings on Horseback debunks Roosevelt myths
David McCullough is a master at revealing history as it truly took place, and people as they truly were. His account of Teddy Roosevelt's remarkably innocent childhood debunks the myths that have long clouded Roosevelt biographies. While TR would grow to be a fearless Rough Rider and a President who took on corporate monopolies, he began his life as a pathetically weak, asthmatic boy clammering for his parents' attention. It was through the love, rather demanding at times, of Roosevelt's wonderfully demonstrative father that Teddy grew into his tough adult self. Mornings on Horseback challenges the notion that yesterday was more idyllic than today. Though Roosevelt had a close family, they did not remain unscathed by the Civil War, nor by illnesses that have since fled the earth. Throughout it all, it was their sense of family, as well as their great self-motivation to improve the lot of the world, that pushed them beyond misfortune. McCullough is a patient historian. He does not abide by myths, or falsehoods. His prying beneath the historical record is done with sound tools of investigation. Throughout it all, his voice is so entrancing, and his capture of detail so intricate, that we come to feel that we truly understand his subjects. When they are tossed about by fate, we regard their misfortunes with empathy. McCullough knows how to make history as readable as fiction.

4-0 out of 5 stars Another great book from McCullough
Historian David McCullough is a national treasure. The author of an excellent history of the building of a Panama Canal ("The Path Between the Seas") and a biography of former President Harry Truman ("Truman", my all-time favorite book), McCullough also wrote an excellent biography of President Theodore Roosevelt's early years.

Following close on the heels of Edmund Morris "The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt", "Mornings on Horseback" looks at Roosevelt's formative years, when the man who would one day become one of America's greatest Presidents came of age. Though not quite the equal of Morris book, McCullough's is a somewhat more critical look at the extraordinary life the President led as a young man.

This is a book for those who want to know what made this President tick.

5-0 out of 5 stars A portrait of a family
This book is the first concentrated work I've ever read on the life of Theodore Roosevelt. But it would not be accurate to call this work a biography of TR, rather it is the story of his entire family and the way in which his upbringing shaped the man he was to become.

The book chronicles "Teedie's" life from birth up until his second marriage to once childhood friend, Edith Carow. The author goes into great detail about the family's struggles with Theodore's asthma, their trips abroad which included a year long exploration across Europe and a boat trip down the Nile, the beginnings of Theodore's life-long interest in natural science ( which even extended to taxidermy), his years at Harvard and his first significant jump into the political arena at the Republican National Convention in 1884. Like anyone else, Theodore's life was not untouched by tragedy but still it comes as a devastating blow when both his first wife, Alice Lee, and his mother pass away on the exact same day. Theodore then retreats to the Badlands where he is enthralled with the idea of being a cowboy and spends a total of three years pursuing this interest while regaining his focus on life.

Yet for all the biographical information included in the book its most enduring theme is the importance of Theodore's family life, especially the tremendous influence of his father, Theodore Roosevelt senior ( Greatheart), an influence that would remain with him his entire life. Mr. McCullough also brings to life a marvelous portrait of Theodore's mother, Mittie, a strong and resilient Southern born beauty who was greatly adored by Theodore and his three siblings.

If you have even the slightest interest in reading about one of our greatest Presidents, this book would definitely be worth your time. It is not a dry sort of biography but instead a warm and intimate look at a family of extraordinary wealth and privilege leading a life with very ordinary values and morals.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Character Study, Not A Biography
"Mornings on Horseback" is more of a character study than a biography. Stretching from TR's birth until his marriage to Edith Carow, McCullough's purpose is to cover the factors which molded TR into the man that he became. The book ends when, McCullough believes, TR's character was formed.

What I found most interesting about this book is not only what is featured, but what is not. McCullough obviously believe that family played a major role I shaping TR's character. The first, and probably greatest influence on TR was his father, Theodore Roosevelt, Sr., Greatheart to his family. It was his father who was his role model and whose charitable works planted the seeds of TR's social conscience. It was Greatheart who opened TR's mind to foreign cultures during the trips across Europe and on the Nile. It was his father's observation that TR had the mind but not the body which started TR on a body building program to give him a body to match his mind.

Miscast as a business man, Greatheart used his inheritance in philantrophic work, supporting the Children's Aid Society, the Orthopedic Hospital, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the American Museum of Natural History, living his belief that social status came with accompanying duties. Out of deference to his Georgia born wife, Mittie, Greatheart hired a substitute to take his place in the Union Army, while he initiated programs to help the soldier and his dependents, meeting Abraham Lincoln in the process. This action is often cited as having created a debt which TR sought to pay during the Spanish American War.

Greatheart's death at age 46 was one of the greatest tragedies of TR's life. During his first day in the White House, TR felt as if his father's hand was on his shoulder.

Other significant familial influences on the youthful TR were his uncles, James and Irvine Bulloch. Exiled to England after their service in the Confederate States Navy, James, particularly, played a major role in developing TR's interest in naval affairs.

McCullough obviously believes that TR's youthful asthma was a major factor in molding his character. The reader receives a medical education on asthma, including the theory that its attacks are often anxiety driven. McCullough then explains how he believes that TR's asthma attacks reflect what was happening in his life at the times of the attacks.

Alice Lee, TR's first wife, completely captured TR's love before her passing drove him into cattle country exile.

The critical high points in TR's early political career are well reported. The incidents of his entry into politics, an unseemly profession for most of his class, the challenges and disappointments of his legislative career all lead up to the 1884 Republican National convention, after which TR, frustrated in his efforts to deny nomination to James G. Blaine, chose to stick with party rather than to bolt to the Reformers.

Some of the topics which fill so many pages in standard biographies are deamed to be less important to the theme of this book. TR's early interest in animals and natural history barely attracts McCullough's attention, probably because after its abandonment, it had little lasting effect on his character. While attention is devoted to his time in the Bad Lands and his hunting trips, they do not receive the attention that they do in standard biographies.

"Mornings On Horseback" is written in a style which will always hold the readers' interest. Unlike some books dealing with a subject's youth, this one focuses on TR's experiences which had lifelong impacts.

I do not recommend "Mornings On Horseback" as an introduction to TR. I do recommend it as a character study for those who are already familiar with the facts of TR's life and who desire to develop a deeper understanding of his character. For this it is excellent.

5-0 out of 5 stars The Delightful Perceptions of a Master
The distinctive quality of David McCullough's works is that he refuses to insult his reader with a less than honest view of his subject while making allowances for the fact that in writing history, he was not present to be able to interpret what the circumstances were, or what they might have been. He is an intellectual's author in expressing, as well as he can, the intricacies of well defined patterns of communication that existed at the time that likely made an impact on his subject to define his perspective and his action. This is a solid effort to give both character and accuracy to the personality as he might have been, and probably was, without attributing his own knowledge of today's events onto his subject, a tendency of increasing frequency. The reason for this is his dedicated and meticulous research into his subject, a model of historical recording, without unduly influencing the reader. The value of reflecting the accuracy of historical events is that it offers the reader his own perspective to interpret historical events rather than a canned version by the author. Of course, McCullough may draw upon unique events to help identify information previously glossed over in his attempts to portray that accuracy. This is an acceptable license in biographical accounts though not always followed with such careful editing. The exciting part of McCullough's writing is that he has the humility to identify his subjects as extraordinary, and is a willing participant in helping the reader to see that as well, a real credit to his choice of subject. His fascination is transmitted to the reader in a thoughtful measure of the man, or the event, he has researched, the mark of a very distinguished writer who adores his work, and is successful for that reason. ... Read more


17. The Real Jimmy Carter: How Our Worst Ex-President Undermines American Foreign Policy, Coddles Dictators and Created the Party of Clinton and Kerry
by Steven F. Hayward
list price: $27.95
our price: $27.95
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Asin: 0895260905
Catlog: Book (2004-05-01)
Publisher: Regnery Publishing
Sales Rank: 139959
Average Customer Review: 3.38 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (34)

1-0 out of 5 stars hayward and dan quale: 2 sides of the same phony coin
when former vp dan 'potatoe' quale heard that former president jimmy carter was being sent by the president bill clinton to negotiate peace talks, all mr quale could say was ' hes just trying to win a nobel peace prize'. hayward is of the same ulra right mentality. his previous book which practically cannonized ronald reagan, completely ignored the reagan regime's 'suprise' release of the hostages on the eve of reagans inaguration and the whole of reagans activites in the iran contra hearings. hell, hayward even negelected to mention that reagan once coddled with joseph mccarthy and turned many 'suspect commuinists in to the house unamerican committe and destroyed many lives.
of course hayward likens carter to the 'despicable' clinton and kerry and worships at the feet of dubya; the most radical extreme militant right wing president in history.
instead hayward goes after that 'softie' carter.
for a man supposeldy having liberal ulterior motives carter 's forming of 'habitat for the humanities' seems perplexing. of course hayward doesnt go there.
instead he echoes the sentiments of possibly the dumbest vp in history; dan quale (who began his illustrious career in the senate with this: he was running against birch bayh and ran a plethora of tv ads portraying bayh as lazy and uncaring about his constituants. his evidence in these ads? well bayh had missed more days in the senate in the previous year than any other senator. of course quales ads forgot to mention that bayhs wife was at home dying of cancer during that previous year. so what did dan family values quale criticze bayh for? for having family values.
the unpardonable hypocricy of the conservative party is blatantly obvious in types like hayward, quale and the bushs and they scream vehemently ugly accusations whenever a liberal like carter or clinton or kerry makes an attempt towards change.
but progress is inevitable and when the smoke clears and history has its say clinton and carter will go down as two leaders who strived for humanitarian progress

1-0 out of 5 stars Shameful Book from a man without Honor
I have a real problem with these types of authors and character assassins. These are people that live in the shadows, finding fault with others. If you want to be critical of a public figure that is fine. However, to go at it with such a hate-filled diatribe, what is your problem. Jimmy Carter was not the greatest President ever, but he was 1000X more honorable than Ronald Reagan. No, he did not trade arms with Islamic extremists to get hostages back or supply cocaine traficking rebels in Central America, like Reagan. What he tried to do was serve with honor and make the US a more honorable place. And the career politicians tore him up for it. How dare you, Hayward! I suppose Mr. Carter could have just charged a trillion dollars worth of spending to remedy the economy, but he knew that would come back to haunt us later. Mr. Carter wanted real solutions, not quick fixes like Reagan. And by the way, Hayward, what about those Marines that died in Lebanon? What reaction was there of Reagan? He cut and ran, like the coward he was.

4-0 out of 5 stars Short, But Entertaining and Accurate
This book could be better as a "book". This is an interesting book and the idea is good, but the contents do not exactly match the advertising and book jacket - plus it is very short. The text on the cover of the book implies that the book is about the former President Carter and his mostly unwelcome meddling in foreign affairs since 1980.

But that it not exactly what the book is about. As acknowledged by the author on page 233 this book is really just a short biography of Carter just 193 pages long to bring younger readers up to speed on Carter to the year 1980, and this covers all of Carter's life to that point in time including his runs in Georgia. The same or similar biographies are available elsewhere in a number of lengthy books. What is new here is an added further 38 pages in the final three chapters about Carter post 1980 and his mistakes in foreign affairs - to bring the book to 231 pages plus notes and comments.

So the book is short, does not match the advertising and hype for the book, but still the book is interesting and a good read.

The concept for the book is great and long overdue. The author obviously has a strong negative bias - but he is not writing fiction - the facts speak for themselves and they are not pretty. Many things such as Carter's help at Habitat for Humanity have been exemplary, along with acting as an election monitor and fighting disease in the third world. These are clearly acknowledged in the book and are well known. If Carter had stopped there he might have been the greatest former president.

But he has not had the self control to stop with good works. He has undertaken at best what can be described as a misguided and ill conceived foreign policy interefence of both democratic and republican administrations, from Reagan to Clinton, to Bush, and I stress all administrations post 1980. He has made a series of solo trips largely against the wishes of the US government, befriended tyrants, accepted cash from the likes of BCCI, encouraged the PLO, and attempted to broker peace deals on his own but portraying himself as a US government agent. The Carter story is bleak and hidden behind much false PR and Carter's ego and his inability to let go of his short time in power (1976-1979), especially in foreign affairs.

I found particularly funny the inside joke (in the book) that in the Clinton administration that the leader of North Korea died of laughter after signing an agreement with Carter over nuclear weapons. That pretty well sums up the situation.

One is left shaking one's head in amazement and one really must ask the question: what is he doing? He has fooled Mandela and others and won his Nobel prize. But sadly after 24 years out of power he believes his own PR and propaganda. If he would just stick to charities, the third world, and the homeless he would be great.

Good read but just 3 or 4 stars as a book, maybe 3.5 stars.

Jack in Toronto

1-0 out of 5 stars Lesser Person Trying To Bring Down A Great Person
You know things are bad, when Stephen Haywood, an American Enterprise Institute (AEI) man, has to take a hatchet to the Noble Peace Prize winner, James Earl Carter. I never experience America so divide... I wonder where it all will lead?

But the AEI, with the likes of James Woolsey, Richard Perle, Henry Kissinger and other et al neocons who believe that the new world order must includes preemptive attacks/wars around the globe, make yours and my foreign policy, rather than the US Senate and then complain when Mr. Carter tries to affect global change by strengthening democratic institutions/health care, in a nonviolent fashion.

I read the book, but I just don't buy it!

1-0 out of 5 stars He's preaching to the choir - but what about the rest of us?
The United States has had several 'bad' presidents, ranging from the corrupt (Nixon, Grant) to the inept (Andrew Johnson) to the inefficient (Harding, Harrison). So when I picked up this book and saw the hyperbole of the subtitle, I immediately decided that the author had better make a good case for why he considered Jimmy Carter not simply a 'bad' president, but the 'worst'

Unfortunately this book happens to be short on insight and long on venom. It's decent if you're preaching to the choir, but those looking for a fair and legitimate argument would be best off going elsewhere. Although Hayward does acknowlege some of Carter's achievements for charity, such as Habitat for Humanity, he derides any good that came out of Camp David, the peace talks, etc and consistently chooses to assign only the worst, most calculating speculations towards Carter's motives. Hayward also ignores that some of his charges towards Carter may be levelled against each and every president that has ever sat in the Oval office. For example, he lashes Carter for negotiating with and 'coddling' dictators. However, this can also said about Reagan (South Africa and Apartheid, Gorbachev), Nixon (the China talks), Roosevelt (ignoring the rise of Hitler), Bush Jr (Negotiations with North Korea). Negotiations and compromise - what Hayward calls 'coddling' is part of being a skilled politician

Hayward also fails to discuss both the pros and cons of Carter's policies, refusing to analyze whether the peace talks in Korea suceeded in delaying the rise of nuclear weapon development and the climate of optimism and hope that was briefly created from the talks in th Middle East. He also complains that Carter has 'undermined US foreign policy' but fails to make a good case for why. US foreign policy is constantly evolving and Carter worked FOR it as ambassador during the Clinton Years. Finally, he fails to analyze Carter the man and understand him with all the faults, virtues and contradictions that any person has. Hayward judges Carter as a man with a mean streak by the company Carter keeps and citing particular incidents in which Carter acted petty and/or self-centered. But where is the balance? How did Carter then develop a reputation for kind-heartedness and integrity? Saying that he 'got a pass from the liberal media' is not a good argument, it's prejudiced and just plain lazy. All presidents have contradictions and complications - Reagan 'the family man' whose relationship with his own family was tenuous at best, Freedom advocate and slaveholder Jefferson -where's the complete picture of Carter the man?

Anyone who has ever done a research paper knows that in order to make a good case, you must present the facts, analyze them and then present your conclusion. This book starts out with the conclusion, then concentrates on presenting facts that support its conclusions and any study that approaches its subject in this manner must be taken with a pound of salt. I could make a very good case for why Jesus Christ was one of the most inept leaders to ever live, were I to ignore all he achieved and instead concentrate on the high mortality rate of his disciples, the 'calculating nature' of his actions and how he 'undermined' the Old Testament by encouraging us to forgive rather than judge. Would it be convincing? Perhaps, but it would not be fair, conclusive or comprehensive. The same goes for this book - the author should have just printed up a pamphlet instead - his agenda would have seemed more honest ... Read more


18. Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship
by JON MEACHAM
list price: $29.95
our price: $19.77
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Asin: 0375505008
Catlog: Book (2003-10-14)
Publisher: Random House
Sales Rank: 322
Average Customer Review: 4.43 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

The most complete portrait ever drawn of the complex emotional connection between two of history’s towering leaders

Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill were the greatest leaders of “the Greatest Generation.” In Franklin and Winston, Jon Meacham explores the fascinating relationship between the two men who piloted the free world to victory in World War II. It was a crucial friendship, and a unique one—a president and a prime minister spending enormous amounts of time together (113 days during the war) and exchanging nearly two thousand messages. Amid cocktails, cigarettes, and cigars, they met, often secretly, in places as far-flung as Washington, Hyde Park, Casablanca, and Teheran, talking to each other of war, politics, the burden of command, their health, their wives, and their children.

Born in the nineteenth century and molders of the twentieth and twenty-first, Roosevelt and Churchill had much in common. Sons of the elite, students of history, politicians of the first rank, they savored power. In their own time both men were underestimated, dismissed as arrogant, and faced skeptics and haters in their own nations—yet both magnificently rose to the central challenges of the twentieth century. Theirs was a kind of love story, with an emotional Churchill courting an elusive Roosevelt. The British prime minister, who rallied his nation in its darkest hour, standing alone against Adolf Hitler, was always somewhat insecure about his place in FDR’s affections—which was the way Roosevelt wanted it. A man of secrets, FDR liked to keep people off balance, including his wife, Eleanor, his White House aides—and Winston Churchill.

Confronting tyranny and terror, Roosevelt and Churchill built a victorious alliance amid cataclysmic events and occasionally conflicting interests. Franklin and Winston is also the story of their marriages and their families, two clans caught up in the most sweeping global conflict in history.

Meacham’s new sources—including unpublished letters of FDR’s great secret love, Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd, the papers of Pamela Churchill Harriman, and interviews with the few surviving people who were in FDR and Churchill’s joint company—shed fresh light on the characters of both men as he engagingly chronicles the hours in which they decided the course of the struggle.

Hitler brought them together; later in the war, they drifted apart, but even in the autumn of their alliance, the pull of affection was always there. Charting the personal drama behind the discussions of strategy and statecraft, Meacham has written the definitive account of the most remarkable friendship of the modern age.
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Reviews (23)

4-0 out of 5 stars Two lions roaring at the same time....
Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill are two of the most influential men of the 20th Century, and Jon Meacham's Franklin and Winston is a commendable effort. How the friendship between these two men evolved is a fascinating read. Theirs was a friendship forged from the war, and Churchill cultivated the relationship knowing that help from the US was the only way to defeat Nazi Germany. All relationships have their ups and downs, and Churchill and Roosevelt were no exception. Franklin's treatment toward Winston was downright shabby when they started dealing with Joseph Stalin. Still, in their many fact-to-face meetings, they were able to do much together including tracking the progress of the war, coordinating allied activities and especially, cutting through red tape when it came to equipment and supplies.

There have been other books written about these two giants, but Meacham had the advantage of some newly discovered letters in the FDR library, as well as personal interviews with Mary Soames (Churchill's daughter), Pamela Harriman (Churchill's ex-daughter-in-law), and Robert Hopkins (son of FDR aide and cabinet member, Harry Hopkins).

Churchill was a man who wore his emotions for all to see. It was obvious that he loved and revered FDR and was crushed by his sudden death. On the other hand, FDR could be a very cold and unemotional man. He was also a man who used people, and then wrote them off when they were no longer of use to him. We are left to wonder how their friendship would have survived after the end of the war if FDR had lived--especially after Churchill's defeat as Prime Minister only months after the war ended. The changing world scene may have also served to shift the balance of their friendship. Before WWII, the United States and England were two dominant world powers. After the war, China and the Soviet Union replaced the British Empire as a major force. I wonder if FDR would have treated Churchill in a diminished capacity as the fortunes of the British Empire waned.

I especially enjoyed the many stories and anecdotes about these two men. Churchill, especially, can best be described as a character! He was a heavy handed drinker and a demanding guest. He loved to stay up late and seemed to do his best work after midnight. Winston didn't like American whiskey or Roosevelt's nightly cocktails. Both men had strong, intelligent wives, although Eleanor and Clementine didn't particularly like each other. While Clementine couldn't keep up with Eleanor, Franklin had a difficult time matching Winston's energy and stamina.

All in all, Meacham has provided us with a very good sketch about two great men.

5-0 out of 5 stars A friendship forged in war
This is an extremely informative and well-written book about the wartime friendship between Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston S. Churchill. The author makes the point that, were it not for this close bond between the two great leaders of the Western democracies, the entire history of World War II, and the subsequent peace, might have been quite different. The book shows the initial, desperate courting of the American president by the Prime Minister of an embattled nation, with the result that a very close, personal relationship sprang up between them. The author does not gloss over the imperfections of the men, particularly the way Roosevelt, later in the war, took to belittling Churchill in front of Stalin to impress the Russians. The Yalta Conference, while it does not occupy a lot of print pages, does show Roosevelt trying to cajole the Russians into his point of view, with the intention of getting them to confront the Japanese to save additional American casualties, which Churchill didn't appear to realize (possibly because he was not informed of this strategy by FDR), being more concerned with the preservation of the British Empire and its overseas possessions. There is the belief by the author that, had Roosevelt lived, he would have taken as strong a stand against Communism as Churchill, and his argument is fairly persuasive. All in all, this is a book well worth reading, as it casts an interesting light on a friendship that saved the world from tyranny.

5-0 out of 5 stars The friendship that made our world possible
This is the story of a human and a political friendship. A seemingly unlikely friendship between a Tory Prime Minister and a Progressive President. A friendship between an extroverted, warm human being and an introverted, many layered and often secretive man. A friendship between two men who lived in a time not so very different from our own, when certainties were few, enemies seemed to spring up like mushrooms, and the whole world in danger.

Their friendship did much to save that world. It was a friendship that made D-Day possible; and it was in part thanks to that friendship that Winston and Franklin made a joint decision to avenge, not save the victims of the Holocaust. Their decisions saved and cost millions of lives. They were two friends, doing their best in a world plunged into darkness. And they brought it out again-together.

Winston Churchill led Britain when that island stood alone against Hitler for one year; Franklin Roosevelt patiently prodded an isolationist nation into accepting the responsibility that comes with power. And in the end, they made a "world that is for many a better one than existed before" (283).

Thanks to their efforts, when "an American President and a British prime minister [today] walk through the woods of Camp David, or confer on a transatlantic telephone, they are working in the style and in the shadow of Roosevelt and Churchill. [They are reaffirming] the Anglo-American alliance [that] has been the bedrock of global order for decades" (366).

A bedrock Winston and Franklin created in those fraught years of a world war.

5-0 out of 5 stars Well-done reference that paints a very close friendship
Although the two men who would most impact the eventual course of the Second World War greatly disliked each other at first (they met decades before either one was a national leader), Jon Meacham is able to interestingly draw a reader into the warming of their friendships and then the critical heat of battle they enjoyed together.

Using a wide variety of sources, Meacham's book charts the course of their upbringing on opposite sides of the Atlantic, and the adventurous travels they embarked upon that led to their early encounters. Both were similar in their interests in government and politics, and were very ambitious. Yet, the two men grew toward each other with the passage of time, and by the Second World War, were able to respect the other's personality and intelligence greatly. Whether it was in their late-night drinking sessions as they dreamed up ideas and hatched plots, or aboard their ships off Newfoundland, or to their secret conferences in Casablanca or Teheran or elsewhere, it was the closeness of these two men that formed the glue that bound the Anglo-American alliance against the Axis.

This book warmly portrays both men through the author's access to letters, diaries, and people who knew them, and admirably makes both men stand out as if alive. When confronted with the most challenging decisions and situations a leader could ever face, these were two of the greatest the world has ever known, and Meacham has done a brilliant job desribing not only the situations and potential repercussions, but also the two men, their countries and their friendship we still hold dear to this day.

5-0 out of 5 stars Economics and Social Progress during FDR?
Don't know much about algebra or geometry of FDR's New Deal; too young then, and insufficient history training. But the social legacy left from the times of WWII and the impact upon thousands of Jewish people who migrated here is unmistakeably hard to justify. Whether by FDR or his cronies, it seems unlikely that the blackballing that occurred during this period is anywhere near the excellence that America expects of her people, and its current views concerning humanity, humane rights, and discrimination. Since discrimination is such a fundamental harm to people, it seems logical that every generation needs to look backward, and clear the cob webs of what may have been unfair discrimination at the time to release the energy and motivation of new opportunities to reconcile unfortunate aspects of history and relegate them to the flaw they were at the time. There is no reason to suspect that in any period of American History, there has ever been a time when discrimination and discriminatory effects were not harmful, and were legitimately defensible, whatever the circumstances. We simply haven't taken up the task to bring the reality into focus as it should be, and as it should have been. How can any society move on without recognizing its own flaws, and choosing to bury them under its rugs of history, and idolization of popular and favorable personalities? Americans have an obligation not to fall into that well from which no one may emerge because of the slippery walls of algae surrounding them. ... Read more


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God bless Ronald Reagan.

STEVEN TRAVERS
AUTHOR OF "BARRY BONDS: BASEBALL'S SUPERMAN"
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20. Benjamin Harrison : [The 23rd President 1889-1893] (The American Presidents)
by Charles W. Calhoun
list price: $20.00
our price: $13.60
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0805069526
Catlog: Book (2005-06-06)
Publisher: Times Books
Sales Rank: 119725
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Book Description

The scion of a political dynasty ushers in the era of big government

Politics was in Benjamin Harrison's blood. His great-grandfather signed the Declaration and his grandfather, William Henry Harrison, was the ninth president of the United States. Harrison, a leading Indiana lawyer, became a Republican Party champion, even taking a leave from the Civil War to campaign for Lincoln. After a scandal-free term in the Senate-no small feat in the Gilded Age-the Republicans chose Harrison as their presidential candidate in 1888. Despite losing the popular vote, he trounced the incumbent, Grover Cleveland, in the electoral college.

In contrast to standard histories, which dismiss Harrison's presidency as corrupt and inactive, Charles W. Calhoun sweeps away the stereotypes of the age to reveal the accomplishments of our twenty-third president. With Congress under Republican control, he exemplified the activist president, working feverishly to put the Party's planks into law and approving the first billion-dollar peacetime budget. But the Democrats won Congress in 1890, stalling his legislative agenda, and with the First Lady ill, his race for reelection proceeded quietly. (She died just before the election.) In the end, Harrison could not beat Cleveland in their unprecedented rematch.

With dazzling attention to this president's life and the social tapestry of his times, Calhoun compellingly reconsiders Harrison's legacy.
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