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1. 1776: Print Nonfiction (Thorndike
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2. Shadow Divers : The True Adventure
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3. Duty: A Father, His Son, and the
$15.72 $5.99 list($24.95)
4. Founding Mothers : The Women Who
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5. The Quest for El Cid
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6. A Short History of Nearly Everything
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7. Midnight in the Garden of Good
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8. The Greatest Generation
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9. Only One Man Died, the Medical
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10. Our Mothers' War: American Women
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11. First Off the Tee: Presidential
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12. Victory At Yorktown: The Campaign
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13. Franklin and Winston : An Intimate
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14. Ghost Soldiers: The Forgotten
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15. Maestro Lp : Greenspans Fed And
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16. Under the Banner of Heaven (Random
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17. Last Train to Paradise: Henry
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18. Grace and Power : The Private
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19. 1939: Last Season of Peace
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20. The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe

1. 1776: Print Nonfiction (Thorndike Press Large Print Nonfiction Series)
by David G. McCullough, David McCullough
list price: $31.95
our price: $31.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0786276231
Catlog: Book (2005-06-23)
Publisher: Thorndike Press
Sales Rank: 3374
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Amazon.com

Esteemed historian David McCullough covers the military side of the momentous year of 1776 with characteristic insight and a gripping narrative, adding new scholarship and a fresh perspective to the beginning of the American Revolution. It was a turbulent and confusing time. As British and American politicians struggled to reach a compromise, events on the ground escalated until war was inevitable. McCullough writes vividly about the dismal conditions that troops on both sides had to endure, including an unusually harsh winter, and the role that luck and the whims of the weather played in helping the colonial forces hold off the world's greatest army. He also effectively explores the importance of motivation and troop morale--a tie was as good as a win to the Americans, while anything short of overwhelming victory was disheartening to the British, who expected a swift end to the war. The redcoat retreat from Boston, for example, was particularly humiliating for the British, while the minor American victory at Trenton was magnified despite its limited strategic importance.

Some of the strongest passages in 1776 are the revealing and well-rounded portraits of the Georges on both sides of the Atlantic. King George III, so often portrayed as a bumbling, arrogant fool, is given a more thoughtful treatment by McCullough, who shows that the king considered the colonists to be petulant subjects without legitimate grievances--an attitude that led him to underestimate the will and capabilities of the Americans. At times he seems shocked that war was even necessary. The great Washington lives up to his considerable reputation in these pages, and McCullough relies on private correspondence to balance the man and the myth, revealing how deeply concerned Washington was about the Americans' chances for victory, despite his public optimism. Perhaps more than any other man, he realized how fortunate they were to merely survive the year, and he willingly lays the responsibility for their good fortune in the hands of God rather than his own. Enthralling and superbly written, 1776 is the work of a master historian. --Shawn Carkonen ... Read more

Reviews (14)

5-0 out of 5 stars A wonderful account
The Revolutionary war is not without its history.However it is seldom a good, well written, flowing history comes along that rouses the emotions and brings the audience closer to the national narrative.Here we have such a rendition of the military issues during the crucial year of 1776, from the battles around Boston to the defeats at New York, and the Howe brothers.We are given portraits of commanders on both sides.The book focuses on the Northeastern theatre and this is mostly military history, told as only McCullough could do it, making the reading fascinating and history accessible.Few will be disappointed with this excellent work and its wonderful subject matter.
Seth J. Frantzman

5-0 out of 5 stars Rich detail, flowing readable prose
The reviewer who didn't like the book, saying it was a "micro version of a macro event," doesn't get it. That "micro version" is the whole, fascinating point of this wonderful book! I appreciated the in-detail focus on the military side. I liked the fresh perspective, the insights from diaries of the time, and the chance to get another, slightly different look at George Washington and King George. The book is rich in detail yet readable and flowing.I'm just about to finish it, and I'm buying another one as a Father's Day gift.

5-0 out of 5 stars Highly Recommended
A great historical piece of literature. Equally great military literature.I was captivated from beginning to end. Good Stuff.

3-0 out of 5 stars Micro view of a Macro event

I was anxious to read David McClullough's 1776, having done considerable research about this singular date in world history, when freedom triumphed with the Declaration of Independence. I attended his first public address tonight at the 92 St. Y, and he inspired the audience with his account of 1776.

However, I must say that I was deeply disappointed to find out that McClullough has mistitled this history. It should be called "Washington's 1776." It's strictly a military history, focusing almost entirely around the career of George Washington and his generals, and the battles of 1776 in Boston and New York. Yet in doing so, he virtually eliminates the critical role other founding fathers played in 1776. Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and even John Adams barely appear at all in the pages of McClullough's tale. Certainly we learn nothing about their lives and their characer, as we do with Washington. This book could have been called lots of things, but "1776" is not a fair description of everything that went on in this "annus mirabilis."

It's amazing how provincially focused this history is. Tom Paine's "Common Sense" is only briefly mentioned, even though it galvinized the Americans to support independence. Amazingly, hardly anything is said about the Declaration of Independence and how it came about in June-July, 1776.

The omission of Benjamin Franklin, considered by many historians to be a critical founding father in the American revolution, is truly shocking. Franklin is mentioned by name only three times. His trip to Canada in 1776 is ignored. He gets only one sentence regarding his crucial mission to France in late 1776 to obtain much needed financial and military aid.In one of the most understated comments in the entire book, McCullogh says, "Benjamin Franklin had departed on a mission to France." A mission? Doesn't he mean THE mission to France?

Any one who wants to know the critical role Franklin played as minister to France should read Stacy Schiff's brilliant new work, "A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France and the Birth of America." It is a comprehensive history of the role Franklin and the French played in the American revolution. It's clear from reading Schiff's history that without Franklin, France would never have provided the massive financial and military aid to America, and in almost every major American victory, it was French aid that made the difference. Most significantly, Franklin may also have been responsible for the French revolution, because France spent so much on American aid that it went bankrupt, leading to the French crisis in 1789.

On a positive note, McClullough has done a masterful job writing and researching the story he does tell, with many fascinating, little known facts and stories about citizen soldiers and generals in the American revolution. He does recognize the miraculous nature of the American revolution.And for that alone, his book is worth reading.

5-0 out of 5 stars Most Excellent!
AnroVe "Ante" of (Finland) is truly an idiot.All of his reviews are negative.

Wonderful book by Mr. McCullough.Enjoyed the read thoroughly.Not boring at all...neither was the American Revolution I am sure. ... Read more


2. Shadow Divers : The True Adventure of Two Americans Who Risked Everything to Solve One of theLast Mysteries of World War II (Random House Large Print)
by ROBERT KURSON
list price: $28.95
our price: $19.69
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0375433872
Catlog: Book (2004-06-29)
Publisher: Random House Large Print
Sales Rank: 4708
Average Customer Review: 4.56 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (32)

5-0 out of 5 stars True life action adventure!
My reading tastes have always been fiction: action, adventure, thrillers, and since going away to college two years ago I have not had time for any fun reading, But started this book last week and then could not put it down. It is TRUE action adventure!

This is the story of two deep sea wreck divers who dive into a long lost wreck in over 200 feet of water, which they identify as a German U-boat. The book follows the lives of these two men as they attempt to discover the identity of the U-boat and discover things about themselfs. There lives are greatly changed by the discovery, Jobs changed, marriages lost, diving companions killed on the wreck, and lost to the bottle.

The story is more than just about the men's dives on the wreck and there attempt to discover its identity, and the adventure involved in such an endeavor, but also about the characters (which are rich in this story) involved, the history behind the boat and Hitlers 3rd Riech. there is so much to learn on every page. In the end though it is the under water action that kept me enthralled. If you read this book you will gain an appreciation of the wonders and dangers of deep water diving.

5-0 out of 5 stars Real life thriller!!!!
My reading tastes have always been fiction: thrillers, mysteries, and Romance because I like to escape. My Husband recommended this book though and I started it last week and then could not put it down. It is a TRUE thriller! This is the story of two deep sea wreck divers who dive into a long lost wreck in over 200 feet of water, which they identify as a German U-boat. The book follows the lives of these two men as they attempt to discover the identity of the U-boat and discover things about themselfs. There lives are greatly changed by the discovery, Jobs changed, marriages lost, diving companions killed on the wreck, and lost to the bottle. The story is more than just about the men's dives on the wreck and there attempt to discover its identity, and the adventure involved in such an endeavor, but also about the characters (which are rich in this story) involved, the history behind the boat and Hitlers 3rd Riech. there is so much to learn on every page. In the end though it is the under water action that kept me enthralled. If you read this book you will gain an appreciation of the wonders and dangers of deep water diving.

5-0 out of 5 stars Super
Bought it on a whim having no real interest in wreck diving or even scuba diving. It's one of the best whim purchases I've ever made. This book reads like a suspense novel and I couldn't put it down. The story alone is facinating, and Kurson's presentation makes for a wonderful read.

5-0 out of 5 stars This book is better than the movies!
This book is riveting. The adventure, the thrill of the chase, the technical diving and the backgrounds of the men who dove to discover the identity of this u-boat is all consuming once you start to read it. I was sucked into the story immediately. The author does an excellent job of describing the dangers of this type of diving and the history of the u-boats and their importance in WW II and what a monumental thing it was to discover a sub no one had any idea about.

I highly recommend this read to anyone who loves a good adventure. I can't believe it's a true story it's so good.

3-0 out of 5 stars Loved the Play, Hated the Shooting
I absoulutely found this book to be compelling -- underwater adventure, interesting historical context, flowing narrative. But.
I was slightly offended. Ok more than slightly. Nowhere in this book does the author express sympathy for the people whose lives were destroyed by these brave submariners, who happened to be Nazis. Sure some, if not most were draftees, but I find it hard to believe that the educated captain or engineer was not a Nazi.
How about doing some research into this undiscovered mystery, Mr. Kurson? You remember the Nazis, they brought us "the Final Solution." Kurson sidesteps the whole Holocaust thing by saying "politics aside." That's like asking Mrs. Lincoln whether she liked the play.
If this is not offensive to you on its own how about the fact that the sub was shooting American vessels about a 100 miles or so from New York. Nowhere in this book does the author express his horror over this fact. A whiff of sorrow is not even expressed when one of the divers decides to lay a wreath on the submerged boat as a symbolic act to honor his German heritage.
So with those two complaints off my chest, I will admitt happily that Shadow Divers is a great read. The characters are fleshed out as the driven and committed souls that they are. Deep sea diving was and is an extremely dangerous vocation. Those that engage in it are either very, very careful or slightly off center. Let's assume the dead ones are the crazy ones.
Favorable references to "Into the Wild" and "Perfect Storm" are mentioned in the publisher's blurb, and they are dead on. I read the book cover-to-cover in three or four days and am looking forward to forgetting the whole thing so I can reread it.
Enjoy. But dont forget that the men buried undersea in this wreck are the villians in this tale that chooses not to take sides in the Last Great War. ... Read more


3. Duty: A Father, His Son, and the Man Who Won the War
by Bob Greene
list price: $25.00
our price: $25.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0060197552
Catlog: Book (2000-07-01)
Publisher: HarperLargePrint
Sales Rank: 460079
Average Customer Review: 4.43 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

When Bob Greene went home to central Ohio to be with his dying father, it set off a chain of events that led him to knowing his dad in a way he never had before--thanks to a quiet man who lived just a few miles away, a man who had changed the history of the world.

Greene's father -- a soldier with an infantry division in World War II--often spoke of seeing the man around town. All but anonymous even in his own city, carefully maintaining his privacy, this man, Greene's father would point out to him, had "won the war." He was Paul Tibbets. At the age of twenty-nine, at the request of his country, Tibbets assembled a secret team of 1,800 American soldiers to carry out the single most violent act in the history of mankind. In 1945 Tibbets piloted a plane--which he called Enola Gay, after his mother -- to the Japanese city of Hiroshima, where he dropped the atomic bomb.

On the morning after the last meal he ever ate with his father, Greene went to meet Tibbets. What developed was an unlikely friendship that allowed Greene to discover things about his father, and his father's generation of soldiers, that he never fully understood before.

DUTY

is the story of three lives connected by history, proximity, and blood; indeed, it is many stories, intimate and achingly personal as well as deeply historic. In one soldier's memory of a mission that transformed the world -- and in a son's last attempt to grasp his father's ingrained sense of honor and duty -- lies a powerful tribute to the ordinary heroes of an extraordinary time in American life.

What Greene came away with is found history and found poetry -- a profoundly moving work that offers a vividly new perspective on responsibility, empathy, and love. It is an exploration of and response to the concept of duty as it once was and always should be: quiet and from the heart. On every page you can hear the whisper of a generation and its children bidding each other farewell.

... Read more

Reviews (54)

4-0 out of 5 stars A Tribute From a Son to His Father
Bob Greene has written a touching and emotion-filled book about two men who influenced the outcome of World War II; his own father and Paul Tibbets, the pilot of the Enola Gay. Greene's father served as an infantry soldier in Italy, while Tibbets was training his men in Wendover, Utah for a mission which would hopefully end the war.

Tibbets and Robert Greene, Sr. lived in the same town in Ohio, but had never met. Bob jr. writes about how his father would speak of Tibbets and call him "the man who won the war". While Bob jr. was back in Ohio to be with his dying father, he drew on his memories of Tibbets. Finally, Bob went to meet Tibbets. What occured was the beginning of an unlikely friendship that spanned a generation and allowed Bob to discover things about his father and his father's generation that he never understood before.

Bob found Tibbets to be a very honest and straight-forward man. There was no nonsense from him; everything was in plain terms. Tibbets talked frequently about his mission to Hiroshima on that fateful day in August, 1945. He said several times that he had no regrets for what he did and he always slept easy at night. Tibbets' stories enabled Bob to see that his father and many other men just like him also played large parts in winning the war. Tibbets never liked the phrase "the man who won the war". He was always quick to give credit to the soldiers as the real heroes, just like Robert sr.

Perhaps my favorite part of the book is the several chapters which deal with the trip to Branson, Missouri. Bob, Tibbets, Tom Ferebee (bombardier), and "Dutch" Van Kirk (navigator) took a trip to Branson over Memorial Day weekend and they were treated like conquering heroes by the public. But what impressed me was the candor and openness that these men spoke with. I learned a lot about the Hiroshima mission that I never knew before.

I found this book a little slow at the beginning, but it definitely picks up over the second half. Read this book and learn about the generation of men who won the war.

4-0 out of 5 stars A Generation and Its Children Saying Goodbye
Greene is a syndicated columnist for the Chicago Tribune and Life and is the SON;FATHER is Bob's father, once a Major in the 91st Infantry Division of WW II -famed for Its role in the Italian campaign; THE MAN WHO WON THE WAR is retired Brig. General Paul Tibbets, pilot of the Enola Gay, the B29 that took the A-bomb to Hiroshima. The father lived in Columbus, Ohio and Bob had grown up there. Father would announce now and then: "That man going(standing)there is Paul Tibbets". Bob contacted Tibbets and they became friends just days before the father died . Not stated, but clear to the reader: Bob is going to be writing articles in the Tribune and, finally, this book. His quest was to understand his father's generation and to find out Paul's feelings about dropping the bomb. Bob learns about the disgust and disappointment his father's generation has for those whose freedom they preserved with such devotion to purpose. The current and older generation have quite different rules for societal conduct and that accounts for a lot of the differences. But in my view the most salient point Paul makes in their many discussions is the one about discipline. To do great things, he said, you must have discipline. We had it. Much of today's society doesn't have it and it shows in so many ways. No, Paul didn't lose any sleep over dropping the bomb. It was an 1,800 man project which he was under orders to organize and lead. Countless men and their relatives wrote him to express their thanks for saving them from a bloody invasion of Japan's home islands. The toughest people for him to make understand were those who would say, "why didn't you just tell them you didn't want to do it." But he did want to do it.

5-0 out of 5 stars A book about a hero and a father and how much are alike
A great book about a true hero and other's worthy of the same label. A very easy and engaging read. I highly recommend this book.

2-0 out of 5 stars A disappointment .
I have seen Bob Greene on some of the news stories on TV. I like his wit and sentiment. I was prepared for a great book on the great generation that produced his and my father. I was disappointed.
First, the book is disjointed. It goes from sentiment to sentiment, and then reverts back again. In his talks with General Paul Tidbitts, I thought he kept dwelling on the same emotions of a hard military decision. That decision was made long ago, and why keep hammering away at it. Bob, just get over it. The U.S. had to bomb Japan to spare the lives of American soldiers and sailors.
Another problem I have with this book is its lack of history. It tells a little of the history of his father, some of Tidbitts, and then a little on the Doolittle Raiders. Other than that, it is pure sentiment, repeated again and again. For a 300 page book, this could have been cut to 80 pages. I read this book, and it was a disappointment. If one wants to remember the Greatest Generation, read something from Ambrose.

3-0 out of 5 stars decent memoir, bad history book.
I started to read this book and at first, found it interesting. THen gradually, I became aggravated because this is really NOT a history book, but a memoir. If you are looking for information about the war and the man who dropped it, a sample of it is in the book, nothing more. I couldn't finish it. ... Read more


4. Founding Mothers : The Women Who Raised Our Nation
by Cokie Roberts
list price: $24.95
our price: $15.72
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0060533315
Catlog: Book (2004-04-01)
Publisher: HarperLargePrint
Sales Rank: 12232
Average Customer Review: 3.79 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Cokie Roberts's number one New York Times bestseller, We Are Our Mothers' Daughters, examined the nature of women's roles throughout history and led USA Today to praise her as a "custodian of time-honored values." Her second bestseller, From This Day Forward, written with her husband, Steve Roberts, described American marriages throughout history, including the romance of John and Abigail Adams. Now Roberts returns with Founding Mothers, an intimate and illuminating look at the fervently patriotic and passionate women whose tireless pursuits on behalf of their families -- and their country -- proved just as crucial to the forging of a new nation as the rebellion that established it.

While much has been written about the men who signed the Declaration of Independence, battled the British, and framed the Constitution, the wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters they left behind have been little noticed by history. Roberts brings us the women who fought the Revolution as valiantly as the men, often defending their very doorsteps. While the men went off to war or to Congress, the women managed their businesses, raised their children, provided them with political advice, and made it possible for the men to do what they did. The behind-the-scenes influence of these women -- and their sometimes very public activities -- was intelligent and pervasive.

Drawing upon personal correspondence, private journals, and even favored recipes, Roberts reveals the often surprising stories of these fascinating women, bringing to life the everyday trials and extraordinary triumphs of individuals like Abigail Adams, Mercy Otis Warren, Deborah Read Franklin, Eliza Pinckney, Catherine Littlefield Green, Esther DeBerdt Reed, and Martha Washington -- proving that without our exemplary women, the new country might never have survived.

Social history at its best, Founding Mothers unveils the drive, determination, creative insight, and passion of the other patriots, the women who raised our nation. Roberts proves beyond a doubt that like every generation of American women that has followed, the founding mothers used the unique gifts of their gender -- courage, pluck, sadness, joy, energy, grace, sensitivity, and humor -- to do what women do best, put one foot in front of the other in remarkable circumstances and carry on.

... Read more

Reviews (19)

4-0 out of 5 stars NO DOLDRUMS HERE.
One of the problems with history is that it's male orientated. There isn't much about our "founding mothers." Roberts finds most of her information in the letters and diaries of these women. At the age of sixteen, Eliza Lucas (Pinckey) ran her father's three plantations, taught her sisters and slaves lessons and wrote Wills for her neighbors. Ben Franklin's common-law wife ran his print shop and her Sundry shop while he played politics. Pamphlets were the delivery system of the colonial era and it was Mercy Otis Warren, the wife and sister of revolutionaries, who bravely published pamphlets against the British government.

_Founding Mothers_ is a fascinating read/listen. Those who consider history dull will discover this book has enough personal tidbits about our founding mothers to ward off the doldrums. Highly recommended for a personal read or for a school project.

Brenda @ MyShelf.Com

5-0 out of 5 stars It's About Time!
It's about time that a book was written about the extraordinary women who were obscured behind famous men throughout history. In this book Cokie Roberts does an excellent job in telling their much overlooked story and pointing out how important their contributions were to America. If you love history, I highly recommend it! Debbie Farmer, 'Don't Put Lipstick on the Cat'

3-0 out of 5 stars Better in the hands of Doris Goodwin or John Krakauer
The concept of this book is what interested me. I was quite inspired by the women depicted here. Unfortuantely I found the work to be poorly written. I certainly could have done without the personal commentary Cokie threaded through the book. It was as if I was being directed what to think. I "get it" I wanted to scream. The content wasn't all that bad but the book is written for the reader young reader, perhaps of high school age. I would consider it for paperback if at all.

1-0 out of 5 stars For In Style readers who've yet to graduate to People Mag
With Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation, Cokie Roberts has provided a service to remedial readers everywhere.
Writing on what appears to be a third grade reading level (which I hope reflects a choice she made and not her own reading comprehension level), Cokie's prodded her usual readers to put down their See Spot Run picture books.
Trudging through page after page of facts from other books (usually better written ones), I kept attempting to think of another writer so committed to a grace-free style.
Used to be that a writer of Cokie's ilk would put out a book (say, Joan Rivers) and no one who read it fooled themselves into thinking it was a great book or helping the nation's literacy levels. We knew it was trash and if we read it, we didn't try to justify it after the fact by praising it as anything other than a "page turner" (high praise for these type of books).
But somewhere along the way we appear to have lost our abilities for critical thought if this repetative, plodding clip-job can be seen as anything other than a hack trying to cash in with as little work as possible. (The American dream? I don't know, we used to take pride in our work.)
I made it to page 70 (and felt I lost several reading levels in the process) before I tossed this book. Couldn't even pass it on because though I do favor recycling, I couldn't in good faith risk inflicting the cellular damage this type of dull, graceless "writing" does to one's brain.
I read the reviews of this hoping to find something I'd missed in the 70 pages I had read, some level on which to appreciate it.
I didn't find any comments like that. Some argue it's "new" information. New to them, perhaps, but that's nothing they should scream from the rooftops. (Has Jay Leno's stupid American skits made people proud of their own ignorance?) I did read a review that cautioned readers not to mistake clip-jobs for books and not to mistake magpies for authors. I applaud that sentiment. It's sound, it's reasoned, it's informed, it's educated.
But clearly there's a market for this book. I've reflected on the seventy pages read for half an hour now trying to figure out whom these people are. Then it hit me, Founding Mothers is a "book" for In Style readers who've yet to graduate to People Magazine.

5-0 out of 5 stars Tough People That Weaker Sex
This book is a tremendous contribution to the historical picture. Suppose you were the wife of an upper-level Colonial Army officer who, during the annual winter pause in fighting, visits the family from November to February, then he goes back off to war and is thus not around to talk to. You, the wife, now have the management of the farm/business, with perhaps 5 children to raise, with the task of planning for the family's escape should the British invade your part of the colonies, and since women were the fighters against outbreaks of deadly infectious agents (smallpox, cholera, yellow fever, tuberculosis, measles, whooping cough, etc) you could be called into this action, and, by the way, you are 7 months pregnant. Added to this is the good chance that you could deliver the child in the heat of summer (the year being about 1780) with no electric fans, no air-conditioning, and with 1780's medical knowledge (no knowledge of viruses or bacteria, and no antibiotics). As illustrated by this book, this routinely was the situation of our Founding Mothers. And of course there is more. (By the way, window screens will not be invented for 100 years, leaving folks with the interesting choice of leaving the windows open and being eaten alive by mosquitoes, or closing the windows and sweltering.) ... Read more


5. The Quest for El Cid
by Richard Fletcher
list price: $15.95
our price: $10.85
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0195069552
Catlog: Book (1991-06-01)
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Sales Rank: 212362
Average Customer Review: 4.29 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Rodrigo Diaz, the legendary warrior-knight of eleventh-century Castile known as El Cid, is remembered today as the Christian hero of the Spanish crusade who waged wars of re-conquest for the triumph of the Cross over the Crescent.He is still honored in Spain as a national hero for liberating the fatherland from the occupying Moors. Yet, as Richard Fletcher shows in this award-winning book, there are many contradictions between eleventh-century reality and the mythology that developed with the passing years.

By placing El Cid in a fresh, historical context, Fletcher shows us an adventurous soldier of fortune who was of a type, one of a number of "cids," or "bosses," who flourished in eleventh-century Spain.But the El Cid of legend--the national hero--was unique in stature even in his lifetime.Before his death El Cid was already celebrated in a poem written in tribute of the conquest of Almeria; posthumously he was immortalized in the great epic Poema de Mio Cid and became the centerpiece for countless other works of literature.When he died in Valencia in 1099, he was ruler of an independent principality he had carved for himself in Eastern Spain.Rather than the zealous Christian leader many believe him to have been, Rodrigo emerges in Fletcher's study as a mercenary equally at home in the feudal kingdoms of northern Spain and the exotic Moorish lands of the south, selling his martial skills to Christian and Muslim alike.Indeed, his very title derives from the Arabic word sayyid meaning "lord" or "master."And as there was little if any sense of Spanish nationhood in the eleventh century, he can hardly be credited for uniting a medieval Spanish nation.

In this ground-breaking inquiry into the life and times of El Cid, Fletcher disentangles fact from myth to create a striking portrait of an extraordinary man, clearly showing how and why legend transformed him into something he was not during his life.A fascinating journey through a turbulent epoch, The Quest for El Cid is filled with the excitement of discovery, and will delight readers interested not only in Spanish history and literature, but those who want to understand how myth can shape our perception of history. ... Read more

Reviews (7)

4-0 out of 5 stars Learn about 11th Century Spain
This is more a history of 11th Century Christian and Islamic Spain than about El Cid. In fact, Rodrigo Diaz, El Cid, is hardly mentioned in the first 100 pages of the book. It is good history, though, about an era and place that most Americans know little about.

There is a belief that Spain was continually in turmoil - that the Christians and Moors were always fighting each since the beginning of Moorish rule. It is true that there were many tiny kingdoms, and often they were at war with each other. But in the 11th century and before, more often than not the wars were about territory and riches rather than religion.

Rodrigo Diaz was not a scourage of the Muslims, as he is often portrayed. Rather he was as often fighting with the Muslims as against. He also was not the only warrior of his time, there were many. But although this history dispells many of the myths of the man and the place, it is still fascinating reading. My only criticism is that the book may be a little too short. I would have liked to read more.

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent history of the Cid and the al-Andalus
Chances are, if you were famous and died a long time ago, Charlton Heston has played you in some epic film. Such is the case with El Cid, the Spanish warlord who successfully played the Christian and Muslim tensions and ended up seizing Valencia for his own. Fletcher's book cuts through the myth to explore who the Cid really was, at the same time offering very intricate portraits of the history and personality of Medieval Spain, at the time the joining of the Christian and Muslim worlds. And it succeeds admirably.

5-0 out of 5 stars El Cid, a mozarabic lord
The understanding of the reign of Alfonso VI of Leon-Castilla is basic to the understanding of the following 1000 years of Iberian History... and this text is very helpful to understand that time.
It is evident that the author has some difficulty in perceiving the social and religious coexistence of Jews, Christians and Muslim... and it is very instructive to see how a Gallo-Romano-Germanic author sees a life that is, basically, Hispano-Romano-Semitic.

4-0 out of 5 stars The facts behind the legend
El Cid was, in Spanish legend, a hero who helped to liberate Spain from the Moors; in fact he was a mercenary warlord who worked for both sides. This brief, scholarly look at his life and times attempts to separate legend from reality. The first half sets the scene by reviewing Iberian politics, religion, and society in the early middle ages; the second recounts the historical events in which El Cid played a role, relying on four near-contemporary sources (which are analyzed in a chapter that divides the two halves). A final chapter discusses when and how the legend arose.

The first half of the book is its strength. It is El Cid's context -- the interaction of peoples and states across the border between Islam and Christianity -- that intrigues, and Fletcher presents an interesting overview. The second half moves nicely through the minutiae of mid-11th-century Spanish politics but demonstrates that most of the few things history (as opposed to legend) knows about El Cid are not terribly interesting.

The book is well-written and should please those interested in its rather narrow subject matter.

2-0 out of 5 stars too dry
Perhaps this would be a good book for a hardcore medieval history buff. The author lays down facts and geographies and genealogies, but all from an observed distance. One never feels what it is like to live in those times or in that style and culture. There was no excitment; no feel for the adventure. Too dry for me. ... Read more


6. A Short History of Nearly Everything
by BILL BRYSON
list price: $29.50
our price: $19.47
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0375432000
Catlog: Book (2003-05-06)
Publisher: Random House Large Print
Sales Rank: 8286
Average Customer Review: 4.47 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

One of the world’s most beloved and bestselling writers takes his ultimate journey -- into the most intriguing and intractable questions that science seeks to answer.

In A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson trekked the Appalachian Trail -- well, most of it. In In A Sunburned Country, he confronted some of the most lethal wildlife Australia has to offer. Now, in his biggest book, he confronts his greatest challenge: to understand -- and, if possible, answer -- the oldest, biggest questions we have posed about the universe and ourselves. Taking as territory everything from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization, Bryson seeks to understand how we got from there being nothing at all to there being us. To that end, he has attached himself to a host of the world’s most advanced (and often obsessed) archaeologists, anthropologists, and mathematicians, travelling to their offices, laboratories, and field camps. He has read (or tried to read) their books, pestered them with questions, apprenticed himself to their powerful minds. A Short History of Nearly Everything is the record of this quest, and it is a sometimes profound, sometimes funny, and always supremely clear and entertaining adventure in the realms of human knowledge, as only Bill Bryson can render it. Science has never been more involving or entertaining.
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Reviews (236)

4-0 out of 5 stars Just like on PBS
I like Bill Bryson's writing style. This is a book one wishes they read as a teenager. It really brings science alive. One feels like they are witnessing events as they occur in the first person. I like how Bryson takes scientific topics and makes them simple too understand. Bryson puts numbers in perspective and helps the reader understand the spatial enormity or complexity of the elements, atom, planets, and stars. Its easy to retell a Bryson story because they have good imagination well connect ideas that flow into an interesting story without sounding too intellectual. Like, "What is it like to be inside of an Cell? How do cells work? Who discovered DNA and why?" Question like these.

I think reading "A Short History of Nearly Everything" is a great introduction to science, astronomy, biology, and geology. Bryson keeps the narrative down to earth, terminology to a minimum, and brings out interesting viewpoints on the birth of the cosmos, the self-repairing DNA, life on planet earth, and the composition of the earth.

Bryson did a job not boring the reader with the mysteries of science. Its entertaining reading and not difficult material to understand. Bryson presents thought provoking material that makes one want to read many other published books by Bryson.

5-0 out of 5 stars He Really Does Cover Nearly Everything
Bill Bryson is one of those rare non-fiction writers who can combine anecdote, humor and actual information, all in one book. Here he covers the history of the earth, starting with the big bang and covering all sorts of ground since then, including why you should be really afraid of meteors (by the time we spot the big one it'll be too late) and why you should think twice about that next visit to Yellowstone (the big one is about due).

As with most of his books it's clear he's done a lot of research, and the book is larded with the kind of stories about Famous Scientists that you've probably never heard...but also full of the sort of survey scientific information that will leave you thinking you've learned something really interesting.

Definitely worth picking up.

Who will like it: lovers of pop science, lovers of Bill Bryson, people willing to read a thick book from start to finish.

Who won't like it: people bored by pop science or any science at all.

5-0 out of 5 stars Rediscover what you learned in school and forgot
This book is aimed at people who either know very little about science, or who studied it in school and then forgot it all (my case). I read some of the reviews here and was shocked at how people criticize Bryson, especially saying he got scientific terms mixed up or had errors in his book. He is not a scientist and in my opinion that makes this book that much more impressive! Bryson devoted years of his life to learn this material, and to think we can take it all in by reading a book.. well it just doesn't seem fair! I was sad when I reached the end of the book, I wanted it to continue. I learned so much from this book, and it's interesting how many times the subject material in this book comes up in every day conversations.

Bryson approaches history from two angles: Astronomy and what we know about the universe, and Evolution and what we know about life on Earth. I learned so many things I didn't know. Fascinating facts such as that meteorites are used to date the earth with carbon dating (they're the same age). Meteorites contain proteins needed to build life. Human like species have been on Earth for 1 million years. After finishing this book, I find myself thinking about topics like these during my free time. That's how impressive this book is. If you love science, this won't be a book you just read and forget. It's a book that will teach you things you'll be thinking about for a long time.

Honestly I cannot recommend this book highly enough. If you're interested in science, it is a must read.

Michael

5-0 out of 5 stars Tabloid history of science
The book's title is very gripping but somewhat misleading - it is in fact a book of science tabloids - in a good way. It covers basic findings and histories of almost all major areas of natural sciences in a shallow but easy to follow manner. It is not intended to be introductory to science and science history (find a textbook instead), it is a fun-fact book of science and science history.

This book is full of interesting anecdotes of science and scientists behind scene, which makes the reading stimulating and gives the readers a joyful sense of "discovery". Here are just a few examples top of my mind:

- Components of your daily household cleaning powders like Comet and Ajax are made from the huge ash deposit in eastern Nebraska - they are leftover volcanic ashes from the ancient monstrous eruption of Yellowstone.

- Marie Curie, the only person to win Nobel prize in both chemistry and physics, was never elected to the French academy of sciences largely because she had an affair with a married fellow physicist after Pierre Curie died in a traffic accident. Madame Curie eventually died of leukemia and her papers and lab books (even her cookbooks) are so dangerously contaminated by radiation that those who wish to see them must wear protective clothing.

- Clair Patterson (a University of Chicago alumnus), who in 1953 gave the definitive measurement of the age of the Earth (4,550 million years - plus or minus 70 millions) by analyzing lead/uranium ratios in old rocks and meteorites, was also the leading expert in atmospheric lead poisoning and the early advocate of cleaning lead additives from manmade product. To his credit, Clean Air Act 1970 eventually led to the ban of leaded gasoline in United States in 1986. Almost immediately the blood lead level in Americans dropped 80%.

Informative tabloids like these are all over the book. Bryson did a perfect job of bringing dull facts in history of science into fun everyday life experience. He compiled a huge amount of anecdotes from otherwise hard to find sources and weaved them together seamlessly in fluid and humorous writing. It makes the reading of science fun.

5-0 out of 5 stars The best book you would be able to read in your lifetime!
By reading this book you realize how lucky you are to be here right now. To be reading this in front of your computer is an acomplishment that you may not realize. It shows how much we know about ourselves and the enviroment around us. "A Short History of Nearly Everything" explains in full detail how we became who we are, how we survived, and how impossible it is to do so. If you are interested in science and are looking for something to read, this well-written story is a great page-turner. ... Read more


7. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
by JOHN BERENDT
list price: $20.00
our price: $13.60
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0679762833
Catlog: Book (1995-05-10)
Publisher: Random House Large Print
Sales Rank: 222471
Average Customer Review: 4.06 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Read John Berendt's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil in Large Print.

* All Random House Large Print editions are published in a 16-point typeface

Shots rang out in Savannah's grandest mansion in the misty,early morning hours of May 2, 1981.Was it murder or self-defense?For nearly a decade, the shooting and its aftermath reverberated throughout this hauntingly beautiful city of moss-hung oaks and shaded squares.John Berendt's sharply observed, suspenseful, and witty narrative reads like a thoroughly engrossing novel, and yet it is a work of nonfiction.Berendt skillfully interweaves a hugely entertaining first-person account of life in this isolated remnant of the Old South with the unpredictable twists and turns of a landmark murder case.

It is a spellbinding story peopled by a gallery of remarkable characters: the well-bred society ladies of the Married Woman's Card Club; the turbulent young redneck gigolo; the hapless recluse who owns a bottle of poison so powerful it could kill every man, woman, and child in Savannah; the aging and profane Southern belle who is the "soul of pampered self-absorption"; the uproariously funny black drag queen; the acerbic and arrogant antiques dealer; the sweet-talking, piano-playing con artist; young blacks dancing the minuet at the black debutante ball; and Minerva, the voodoo priestess who works her magic in the graveyard at midnight.These and other Savannahians act as a Greek chorus, with Berendt revealing the alliances, hostilities, and intrigues that thrive in a town where everyone knows everyone else.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: A Savannah Story is a sublime and seductive reading experience.Brilliantly conceived and masterfully written, this enormously engaging portrait of a most beguiling Southern city is certain to become a modern classic.

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Reviews (405)

4-0 out of 5 stars A wonderful and intriguing story line keeps this book moving
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt made for a wonderful read. The interesting twists and turns imbedded within almost every chapter make you want to keep turning the pages. Although Midnight reads like a novel, it is actually based on historically accurate details relating to Savannah, Georgia and it's society. This creates for an interesting genre, probably falling into the realm of historical nonfiction. The entire book is based primarily on the murder of a young man in Savannah, and his supposed killer, another gentleman prominent in Savannahian society. However, leading up to the actual murder, the author introduces a series of other Savannah natives, all of them quite interesting characters. From drag queens to lawyers, businessman to hustlers, you are able to meet individuals on both ends of the spectrum. I find it rather difficult to make a comparison between this book and another of its type, being as this is the first one of the sort that I have read. I was entirely captivated by this sort of literature and would love to get my hands of another similar piece. Berendt did a great job of writing from a technical standpoint. The setting centered the book in the heart of the South, Savannah, Georgia during the 1980's. Being born and raised in Iowa, I found the sharp contrast of lifestyles enthralling. The characters, well, WOW! As I said before, there was such a dynastic scale or personas that it created for a complete surprise every chapter when he would introduce somebody new. My favorite by leaps and bounds, however, had to be Chablis. The initial description we receive creates a vivid picture in my mind: "She was wearing a loose white cotton blouse, jeans, and white tennis sneakers. Her hair was short, and her skin was a smooth mild chocolate. Her eyes were large and expressive..." Then, a few pages later, we get another entirely different scene from the author, putting almost a disturbing picture in my mind. "Chablis suddenly burst into view, looking like raging fire in a skimpy sequined dress with jagged red, yellow, and orange flamelike fringes hanging from it. She wore huge hoop earrings and a wig of long black curls. The audience cheered as she strutted down the runway, working every nuance of the rhythm, shaking her behind like a pom-pom, whipping it from side to side." As you can see from looking at the characterization in the book, Berendt also uses great description. He uses the same intense description all throughout the book, describing everything from houses to parks to squares to people. The imagery was simply amazing. I don't believe that there was any strong symbolism or theme within this piece. The author just stuck right to the main plot of describing typical Savannah life, taking us on a journey, letting us witness people and events. I wouldn't necessarily recommend this book for everybody. Those younger than "teenager" probably would find this book a bit over their heads, as it does contain some rather adult context and material. But I still hold my stance that anybody ready to read a book that will seemingly involve them in the plot should open the cover of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt.

4-0 out of 5 stars The South Rises Again
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is really two books - the first half is a present day snapshot of Savannah, Georgia, an old-style Southern city with plenty of grace and charm. The second half is the story of the murder trial(s) of Jim Williams, one of Savannah's most interesting residents. The second half is much more interesting than the first. Perhaps that is because every time Williams makes an appearance, things turn interesting very quickly. (Having seen the movie, I can't picture Williams without thinking of the remarkable Kevin Spacey). One character who draws a lot of attention in both the book and the movie is the Lady Chablis. In the movie she occupies far too much screen time - her role in the book is much more reasonable. I suppose the popularity of the Lady is due to her "exotic" nature as a drag queen, but I find her character to be pretty unremarkable - it seems faintly ridiculous to complain that she could be any ol' drag queen, but realistically, she adds nothing to the story of any substance. I wish more attention had been paid to the "occult" aspects of the story - the title seems to invite this scrutiny. The fact that an extrememly wealthy Southern man on trial for murder puts more stock in voodoo than his defense lawyers IS remarkable. I found myself wishing Berendt would have questioned Williams at length as to the reasons he chose to believe in these supernatural powers. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil does a great job of transplanting the reader into "Old South" Georgia with enough colorful characters to keep the interest level high; it's just a shame none of us will ever get invited to one of Jim Williams' Christmas Parties.

5-0 out of 5 stars Yes, Savannah is that strange....
This story is a good read about some of the wild and wealthy who lived and died in Savannah in the 1980's. My parents live in Savannah, if you have ever spent anytime in that area you would know that it is a dead on account of the people who live there... Everything from the kooky insect guy (Driggers) to the Voo Doo which goes on "religiously" just over the Savannah river in South Carolina. As usual the book and movie share the same name and thats about it (read: the movie stinks the book doesn't).

5-0 out of 5 stars It's Midnight---do you know where your children are?
This book is like two others that I've read in the past few years. The first was "The Two Mrs. Grenvilles" by Dunne, and the other was "The Bark of the Dogwood." These two, along with "Midnight" are excellently paced, gossipy, accessible, and great reads. But of the three, "Midnight is by far my favorite. "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" is really two books - the first half is a present day snapshot of Savannah, Georgia, an old-style Southern city with plenty of grace and charm. The second half is the story of the murder trial(s) of Jim Williams, one of Savannah's most interesting residents. The second half is much more interesting than the first. Perhaps that is because every time Williams makes an appearance, things turn interesting very quickly. (Having seen the movie, I can't picture Williams without thinking of the remarkable Kevin Spacey). One character who draws a lot of attention in both the book and the movie is the Lady Chablis. In the movie she occupies far too much screen time - her role in the book is much more reasonable. I suppose the popularity of the Lady is due to her "exotic" nature as a drag queen, but I find her character to be pretty unremarkable - it seems faintly ridiculous to complain that she could be any ol' drag queen, but realistically, she adds nothing to the story of any substance. I wish more attention had been paid to the "occult" aspects of the story - the title seems to invite this scrutiny. The fact that an extrememly wealthy Southern man on trial for murder puts more stock in voodoo than his defense lawyers is remarkable. I found myself wishing Berendt would have questioned Williams at length as to the reasons he chose to believe in these supernatural powers. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil does a great job of transplanting the reader into "Old South" Georgia with enough colorful characters to keep the interest level high; it's just a shame none of us will ever get invited to one of Jim Williams' Christmas Parties.

Would also recommend "The Two Mrs. Grenvilles" and "Bark of the Dogwood."

5-0 out of 5 stars Understand the comparisons
I understand the comparisons being made to Capote's "In Cold Blood" what with
the hybrid genre thing going on, but for me,
"Midnight" was more like "Bark of the Dogwood" than "In Cold Blood."
Nevertheless, this John Berendt
thriller (not in the gaudy commercial sense) is one
of the best-written books of the last century.
Truly. I avoided this for years because of the hype
and the awful movie that was made of it, but
when I did finally read it I found an almost perfect book.
My question is this: Where is Mr. Berendt now and WHERE'S his next book? We're all waiting! ... Read more


8. The Greatest Generation
by TOM BROKAW
list price: $24.95
our price: $16.47
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0375705694
Catlog: Book (1998-12-07)
Publisher: Random House Large Print
Sales Rank: 15941
Average Customer Review: 3.36 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Read Tom Brokaw's The Greatest Generation in Large Print.

* All Random House Large Print Editions are published in 16-point type

"In the spring of 1984, I went to the northwest of France, to Normandy, to prepare an NBC documentary on the fortieth anniversary of D-Day, the massive and daring Allied invasion of Europe that marked the beginning of the end of Adolf Hitler's Third Reich. There, I underwent a life-changing experience. As I walked the beaches with the American veterans who had returned for this anniversary, men in their sixties and seventies, and listened to their stories, I was deeply moved and profoundly grateful for all they had done. Ten years later, I returned to Normandy for the fiftieth anniversary of the invasion, and by then I had come to understand what this generation of Americans meant to history. It is, I believe, the greatest generation any society has ever produced."
        
In this superb book, Tom Brokaw goes out into America, to tell through the stories of individual men and women the story of a generation, America's citizen heroes and heroines who came of age during the Great Depression and the Second World War and went on to build modern America. This generation was united not only by a common purpose, but also by common values--duty, honor, economy, courage, service, love of family and country, and, above all, responsibility for oneself. In this book, you will meet people whose everyday lives reveal how a generation persevered through war, and were trained by it, and then went on to create interesting and useful lives and the America we have today.

"At a time in their lives when their days and nights should have been filled with innocent adventure, love, and the lessons of the workaday world, they were fighting in the most primitive conditions possible across the bloodied landscape of France, Belgium, Italy, Austria, and the coral islands of the Pacific. They answered the call to save the world from the two most powerful and ruthless military machines ever assembled, instruments of conquest in the hands of fascist maniacs. They faced great odds and a late start, but they did not protest. They succeeded on every front. They won the war; they saved the world. They came home to joyous and short-lived celebrations and immediately began the task of rebuilding their lives and the world they wanted. They married in record numbers and gave birth to another distinctive generation, the Baby Boomers. A grateful nation made it possible for more of them to attend college than any society had ever educated, anywhere. They gave the world new science, literature, art, industry, and economic strength unparalleled in the long curve of history. As they now reach the twilight of their adventurous and productive lives, they remain, for the most part, exceptionally modest. They have so many stories to tell, stories that in many cases they have never told before, because in a deep sense they didn't think that what they were doing was that special, because everyone else was doing it too.

"This book, I hope, will in some small way pay tribute to those men and women who have given us the lives we have today--an American family portrait album of the greatest generation."
                
In this book you'll meet people like Charles Van Gorder, who set up during D-Day a MASH-like medical facility in the middle of the fighting, and then came home to create a clinic and hospital in his hometown. You'll hear George Bush talk about how, as a Navy Air Corps combat pilot, one of his assignments was to read the mail of the enlisted men under him, to be sure no sensitive military information would be compromised. And so, Bush says, "I learned about life." You'll meet Trudy Elion, winner of the Nobel Prize in medicine, one of the many women in this book who found fulfilling careers in the changed society as a result of the war. You'll meet Martha Putney, one of the first black women to serve in the newly formed WACs. And you'll meet the members of the Romeo Club (Retired Old Men Eating Out), friends for life.
        
Through these and other stories in The Greatest Generation, you'll relive with ordinary men and women, military heroes, famous people of great achievement, and community leaders how these extraordinary times forged the values and provided the training that made a people and a nation great.

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Reviews (421)

3-0 out of 5 stars Overrated
I too was very excited when I spied "The Greatest Generation" on the shelf. Tom Brokaw always struck me as a dignified, articulate and down to earth man (on the book jacket he sports a $69 Casio watch). I still feel that way, but I don't think he's a great author or historian.

The book is an easy read. I found myself uplifted from the stories of those who came from obscure backgrounds, stared with little, faced adversity and yet managed to rise to great achievement.

About halfway through I got tired of the brass band blasting my head about how special this generation is. I got tired of hearing the oft repeated lines: "...well I guess that's just the way I was brought up...", "...it was special back then...", "...I pulled myself up from my bootstraps...", "...I guess this generation doesn't have those values anymore...", "...we had the war to define us...". Enough. It becomes like a lawn mower with a stuck throttle.

I don't want to take laurels from those folks in the "greatest generation" but this is too much. I read Andy Rooney's, "My War". Andy is unpretnetuous and his book gives you a feel what it was like to live back then without being heavy handed or pretentuous. Rooney's chapter in Brokaw's book hits what bothers me about "The Greatest Generation". The "greatest generation" had the fortune of a great depression to humble, and a world war to steel them. The war gave them the opportunity to see the world, and its horrors. It gave them a cruicible to rapidly mature. And because they happened to be born on the winning side, they got to enjoy the riches of the victory in America. Yes, they were special, only because that's they happened to be born during such an interesting time. Who is to say my children could not do the same? Other generations have made great marks (the folks who fought the civil war and then reconstructed America come to mind), but where is the brass band for them? Basically Rooney says today's generation is no worse compared to his. He is right.

If you take "The Greatest Generation" as a compilation of uplifting stories from everyday individuals it makes a nice book. But, that is not what's going on here. At the end of "The Greatest Generation" I can only hear "Looky at us yuppies, twenty-somethings, whipper snappers, we're great and you're not!"

5-0 out of 5 stars "The Greatest Spending Generation?" by RexCurry.net
Very interesting book. Another fascinating aspect of the book is that it made Tom Brokaw, and the historian Rex Curry, the first journalists honored for exposing the "National Socialist German Workers' Party" to the public in Google News' search engine. Google News shows only Brokaw's and Curry's use of the full phrase in Google News archives. Google News selects from 4,500 news sources updated continuously.

A google news search for the full phrase revealed only six uses, five belonging to Curry and one belonging to Brokaw. Brokaw's use was actually posted as a book review at MSNBC and was not actually a "news" item. All of the other uses were by Curry writing about the topic of public and media ignorance of the full phrase, including Curry's history-making story that the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance was the origin of the salute of the horrid National Socialist German Workers' Party (Nazis).

Other news journalists can still join Brokaw and Curry as the first journalists to educate the public about the full phrase in the news media. News journalists can take third place, or make the top ten.

Here's the excerpt that did it for Brokaw: "In Germany, a former painter with a spellbinding oratorical style took office as chancellor and immediately set out to seize control of the political machinery of Germany with his National Socialist German Workers party, known informally as the Nazis. Adolf Hitler began his long march to infamy."

In comparison to the above, Google News indicates that the hackneyed shorthand "Nazi" has 9320 results from various news writers who all failed to ever mention the actual name of the monstrous Party.

5-0 out of 5 stars Paying Tribute to Brave Americans
I recommend this excellent book of true stories from the memories of brave men and women and their families who lived thru the great depression and fought in the second world war.

Tom Brokaw walked the beaches of Normandy with American veterans who had returned for the fortieth anniversary of D-Day. He was inspired to reach out and collect individual stories from those difficult years so we will never forget the horrors of that war, the sacrifices by our service men and women and their families, and the results that followed.

Finally, a memorial to this generation has been dedicated in Washington D.C. on this, the sixtieth anniversary of D-Day. THE GREATEST GENERATION should occupy a place in our home library, among the works of other historians. You will recognize some of the people in this book, you will be amazed at the achievements and the courage of these ordinary people who survived a perilous time in American history, and you will reflect on your own memories of that time if you are "over sixty".

The author acquaints us with some of his own family history and why he feels it important for us to be forever grateful to all those who defend our American freedom and democracy. I thoroughly enjoyed this well researched and well written book.

5-0 out of 5 stars They saved the world...and built modern America......
The term Greatest Generation might smack of journalistic hyperbole or nationalistic jingoism, but the more I read the works of Stephen E. Ambrose (D-Day June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II, Band of Brothers) or watch any of the documentaries about World War II -- especially on this 60th Anniversary of the D-Day landings and other landmark battles of history's largest clash of arms -- that will air from Memorial Day till June 6, the more I am inclined to agree with Tom Brokaw's use of that term to describe the men and women who came of age in the 1930s and '40s and created modern America.

Brokaw, one of America's best television journalists and anchor of NBC's Nightly News, not only coined the phrase "the Greatest Generation" when he wrote this amazingly fascinating and inspiring collection of personality profiles of men and women, some famous (Bob Dole, Julia Child, George H.W. Bush), some not-so-famous but prominent (Norman Mineta, Daniel Inouye), and some neither prominent nor famous yet vitally essential (Leonard Lomell, Jeanette Gagne Norton) who either saw combat, contributed to the war effort, or endured the hardships of being separated from loved ones without succumbing to fear or giving in to selfishness or self-pity.

In the same concise yet utterly convincing style of his network news writing, Brokaw draws the reader into his chronicles of 50 men and women whose experiences encompass a wide spectrum of the American World War II experience. He captures, for instance, humorist Art Buchwald's seemingly unlikely stint as a Marine in the South Pacific, at first (and almost disastrously) loading ordnance onto Marine Corsair fighter-bombers, then more wisely reassigned to work on the squadron's newsletter and drive trucks. In five pages, Brokaw wonderfully gets the essence of Buchwald's satiric-yet-gentle personality, while at the same time revealing that the least-likely-to-be-a-Marine was given a parade by then-outgoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Colin Powell.

The Greatest Generation is full of vivid personality profiles like Buchwald's. Some, such as that of Len Lomell, highlight bravery in combat; others are like Jeanette Gagne Norton's, whose husband Camille Gagne was killed in Holland during Operation Market-Garden. The recollections Brokaw presents here are full of drama and laughter, of happiness, love, and sometimes shame, but there is no bitterness or self-pity. For these are the men and women that saved the world from tyranny...and made our country what it is today.

4-0 out of 5 stars The Greatest Generation
The Greatest Generation is a beautiful tribute to the generation whose lives were most affected by WWII. The stories put together to form this book inspire the reader to live as a hero and fight through the trials of life today in 2004. Every story helps connect the reader with the heroes of that generation. This book inspires people of today to have respect for yesterdays heroes. I would recommend this book to people of all ages. It helps connect each and everyone of us to our past and helps us to respect one another as people, as a country, and as a community. This book highlights the struggles that our grandparents had when they were young and inspires us to overcome the little trials in our everyday lives. ... Read more


9. Only One Man Died, the Medical Aspects of the Lewis and Clark Expedition
by E.G Chuinard
list price: $19.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0870621289
Catlog: Book (1998-11-01)
Publisher: Ye Galleon Pr
Sales Rank: 544389
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10. Our Mothers' War: American Women At Home And At The Front During World War Ii (Thorndike Press Large Print American History Series)
by Emily Yellin
list price: $29.95
our price: $29.95
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Asin: 0786269626
Catlog: Book (2004-12-09)
Publisher: Thorndike Press
Sales Rank: 588491
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

"Our women are serving actively in many ways in this war, and they are doing a grand job on both the fighting front and the home front."

-- Eleanor Roosevelt, 1944


Our Mothers' War is a stunning and unprecedented portrait of women during World War II, a war that forever transformed the way women participate in American society.

Never before has the vast range of American women's experience during this pivotal era been brought together in one book. Now, Our Mothers' War re-creates what American women from all walks of life were doing and thinking, on the home front and abroad.

Like all great histories, Our Mothers' War began with an illuminating discovery. After finding a journal and letters her mother had written while serving with the Red Cross in the Pacific, journalist Emily Yellin started unearthing what her mother and other women of her mother's generation went through during a time when their country asked them to step into roles they had never been invited, or allowed, to fill before.

Drawing on a wide range of sources, including personal interviews and previously unpublished letters and diaries, Yellin shows what went on in the hearts and minds of the real women behind the female images of World War II -- women working in war plants; mothers and wives sending their husbands and sons off to war and sometimes death; women joining the military for the first time in American history; nurses operating in battle zones in Europe, Africa, and the Pacific; and housewives coping with rationing.

Yellin also delves into lesser-known stories, including: tales of female spies, pilots, movie stars, baseball players, politicians, prostitutes, journalists, and even fictional characters; firsthand accounts from the wives of the scientists who created the atomic bomb at Los Alamos, African-American women who faced Jim Crow segregation laws at home even as their men were fighting enemy bigotry and injustice abroad, and Japanese-American women locked up as prisoners in their own country. Yellinexplains how Wonder Woman was created in 1941 to fight the Nazi menace and became the first female comic book superhero, as well as how Marilyn Monroe was discovered in 1944 while working with her mother-in-law packing parachutes at a war plant in Burbank, California.

Our Mothers' War gives center stage to those who might be called "the other American soldiers." ... Read more

Reviews (4)

5-0 out of 5 stars Great personal in-depth look
This isn't meant to be some exhaustive encyclopedia, but it's nevertheless a very solid thorough detailed account of what the women of the WWII generation went through, in many facets and fields.Besides just writing about the women in the military, in the factories, on the general homefront, and in the Japanese-American internment camps, there is also interesting insightful information on areas little covered, such as the women who worked at or who had husbands working at Los Alamos, prostitutes, women in right-wing pro-Fascist groups agitating against the American government, and spies.It's stunning to read about all the women of my grandmothers' generation had to struggle against to be accepted into the military, in factories, as professionals, in any capacity in fact besides that of wife, mother, sister, and girlfriend.Particularly horrifying was the section on the Victory Girls; the sexual double standard sent women (many of them proven innocent) suspected of passing VD to soldiers to jail, while giving these soldiers no punishment for cavorting with prostitutes and giving them the best care instead of forcing them to languish in dank unhygienic jail cells without medical attention.Blame the women and treat the men as innocent victims.Also shocking in modern times is how women believed to be lesbians in the military were treated, like they had a mental disorder and were deranged unnatural deviants, as well as how many women who had loyally punctually worked in the factories were handed their discharge slips on the day the boys came home.Still, even restrained by the double standard and beliefs of the era, these women had tasted freedom and greater possibilities, and thanks to everything they did, their knowledge of greater possibilities, they raised daughters who would help to bring about the womens' liberation movement in the next generation, knowing they could never go back to the limited world and possibilities that had existed prior to WWII.

5-0 out of 5 stars from homemakers to movie stars....
Very informative book on the roles that American women took on during WWII. It showed the beginning of women becoming more empowered by having to work outside of the home. This book should be required reading in all U.S. History classes.

5-0 out of 5 stars Astonishing
This is a unique compilation of astonishing research and
personal history that takes the crust off our mothers' wartime persona. Even the high profile women of WWII ? Dietrich, Lombard,
Davis, et al ? are illuminated in thoroughly surprising ways. I read slowly and savored each page, and by the end I knew my mother and grandmothers and the human spirit, better. Kudos to Emily Yellin.

5-0 out of 5 stars They deserve more credit than they have gotten.
A great read!

This book is full of surprising, well-told stories of heroic, courageous, and fascinating women.Not just another history of the "supporting roles" of women during the war.This book goes far beyond the stock portrayals of WWII women to take you into their private thoughts and fears.There are pilots, war photographers, disc jockeys, spies, soldiers, members of congress -- so many women who stepped up and took part in the war, often in spite of great opposition.(And it doesn't shy away from telling about a few women who were not so noble during the war either.)

I had never seen the women of WWII placed in this light -- as equal partners in fighting and winning.This book will make you want to know more about your own mother, your aunts, and your grandmothers.(Hopefully you still have a chance to discuss this book with them!)It should be read by every son, daughter, grandson and granddaughter of the Greatest Generation. ... Read more


11. First Off the Tee: Presidential Hackers, Duffers, and Cheaters from Taft to Bush (Thorndike Press Large Print American History Series)
by Don Jr. Van Natta, Don, Jr Van Natta
list price: $29.95
our price: $29.95
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Asin: 0786259663
Catlog: Book (2003-12-01)
Publisher: Thorndike Press
Sales Rank: 448557
Average Customer Review: 4.36 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Fourteen of the last seventeen presidents have been golfers, and in the bestselling First Off the Tee, Don Van Natta explores what golf meant to these presidents and what their games reveal about them. For history buffs and golf aficionados alike, First Off the Tee is a fantastic way to share the links with America's duffers-in-chief and to learn which of them were nearly good enough to turn pro, who was worst off the tee, and who couldn't help but cheat on the greens.

Don Van Natta Jr. is an investigative correspondent for The New York Times, where he has worked since 1995, having previously worked for eight years at The Miami Herald. He has been a member of three Pulitzer Prize-winning teams. He lives in London with his wife, Lizette Alvarez, also a Times correspondent, and their two daughters, Isabel and Sofia. ... Read more

Reviews (11)

5-0 out of 5 stars A Hole in One
This book represents a great idea, perfectly executed. Analyzing presidential personalities and styles through the game of golf is a novel, intelligent approach: it provides a tidy, concise method for making observations about the presidents, and it allows the author to deliver insights and information in an incredibly entertaining way. You don't have to know a lot about golf to find this well-written, well-organized book entertaining; you just have to have some curiosity about the men who have led the United States. Many of them, Van Natta smartly realized, liked their time on the fairway, and so he visits them there, and golf becomes the metaphor for so much more.

4-0 out of 5 stars Light History For Everyone
Dick Van Natta Jr. offers 14 mini-biographies of our Presidents in his work, "First Off The Tee", that are all engaging and fun to read. His book is well researched, documented, and could provide a catalyst for further study of these holders of the Oval Office. He does not suggest this is a serious study of political science or even character profiling of the men he writes about. Golf has played an interesting role with many of our chief executives since its introduction to the US. One president, Ulysses S. Grant, happily swung a club only outside of his country. Were this chief executive to have played on a regular basis at home, he easily would have taken the top spot as the most miserable golfer to ever occupy The White House.

The author traces the game from its start when it was a little known activity, to its growing stages when it became a political liability to play, to when a President on a golf course is no longer a negative but expected, as the game has grown in popularity. The author credits players like Tiger Woods for dramatically expanding the games audience. He also documents one President who built hundreds of courses and likely would have been the finest Presidential player before disease took away his ability to even walk. The historical record is also corrected with the President who outplayed everyone including Eisenhower, and other Presidents who would play in the fog before they would risk a photograph being taken. One other President courted and played the game with the woman who would become his wife, and is believed to have assumed many presidential responsibilities when his health failed.

This is not a heavy-handed weight of a book to be lugged around and plowed through. It is readable, accessible, and has moments of laughter. All History need not be written with such ponderous prose so as to be a chore for many to read. I think many will pursue more traditional biographies of these Presidents after being introduced to them by Mr. Van Natta Jr.

4-0 out of 5 stars Great Gift For Golfer
I don't golf. Never did. Never will. I think golf is borrrring.... but, I bought this book for a guy who loves golfing. Absolutely loves it. He claims to be good at it. Well, he loved the book. He was laughing when he told me about how much he enjoyed it. I think he really appreciated getting the book, especially getting it from someone who doesn't know a thing about golf! I recommend this as a gift for anyone who golfs. Especially someone who would enjoy the history of the presidential golfers.

4-0 out of 5 stars For Presidents, "only the golf course says no."
Author Van Natta, a New York Times correspondent and 100+ golfer, believes (like most golf-lovers everywhere) that you can learn everything you ever wanted to know about someone by watching him/her play golf. He takes it one step further, however, finding golf particularly revealing of a President's personality and values. "Nearly every person in a president's privileged life says yes...Only the golf course says no."

Accumulating fascinating anecdotes from his research into the golf games of the Presidents, and combining these with his own experience as a reporter, which includes more than two years spent covering President Clinton, he shows how a President's golf game reflects the inner man. Fourteen of the last seventeen Presidents were golfers to one degree or another, and no reader, whether a golfer or not, will be disappointed in the unique insights and revealing anecdotes the author gives us of Presidents at leisure. What makes this book different from so many others, is that Van Natta is a real writer, carefully choosing his quotations (including on-course remarks), narrating anecdotes so that they have real climaxes, and emphasizing details that are so telling that no reader will fail to see parallels between the man's golf and his Presidential administration.

Though JFK is adjudged the best player of the fourteen, with an "effortless swing," few citizens knew how addicted he was to the game, something he kept secret because, after Eisenhower's administration, golf was considered a political liability. (Ike left cleat marks in the floor leading from the Oval Office to the practice green outside his window.) Ike, JFK, FDR (who was a passionate golfer until he was stricken with polio at age 39), and Gerald Ford are considered the purists of the game, and none of them were ever caught lying about a score, using mulligans (extra shots off the tee), or tossing the ball out of the woods. Not surprisingly, Bill Clinton is considered among the White House's "most polished and prolific golf cheats." As one observer noted, "You don't have to subpoena Whitewater documents. Just watch him on the golf course." He elevated the mulligan to such a new level that it was referred to as a "billigan." Nixon, LBJ, and Warren G. Harding, were also considered cheats.

With a final section devoted to the Bushes, father and son, Van Natta closes his analysis of Presidential golf games with particular panache, since the Bushes so often play together. The book is pure delight, providing a unique take on Presidents, who, on the golf course, face the same challenges as the rest of us, with some of them responding more gracefully to the challenges than others. Mary Whipple

5-0 out of 5 stars golf widow
I'm a classic golf widow who happened to pick this book up in the bookstore for my husband. He loved it. But, to my surprise, I loved it, too. I wound up learning a lot more about presidents, and what makes them tick, than I ever expected. It's a breezy, fun read, full of quirky surprises and amusing anecdotes. Rather than bore you with too much golf lingo, the book actually brings the game and the presidents to life without tumbling into cliches. I highly recommend it. ... Read more


12. Victory At Yorktown: The Campaign That Won The Revolution (Thorndike Press Large Print American History Series)
by Richard M. Ketchum
list price: $28.95
our price: $28.95
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Asin: 0786272880
Catlog: Book (2005-03-14)
Publisher: Thorndike Press
Sales Rank: 329989
Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

From "the finest historian of the American Revolution" comes the definitive account of the battle and unlikely triumph that led to American independence (Douglas Brinkley)

In 1780, George Washington's army lay idle for want of supplies, food, and money. All hope seemed lost until a powerful French force landed at Newport in July. Then, under Washington's directives, Nathanael Greene began a series of hit-and-run operations against the British. The damage the guerrilla fighters inflicted would help drive the enemy to Yorktown, where Greene and Lafayette would trap them before Washington and Rochambeau, supported by the French fleet, arrived to deliver the coup de grâce.

Richard M. Ketchum illuminates, for the first time, the strategies and heroic personalities-American and French-that led to the surprise victory, only the second major battle the Americans would win in almost seven horrific years. Relying on good fortune, daring, and sheer determination never to give up, American and French fighters-many of whom walked from Newport and New York to Virginia-brought about that rarest of military operations: a race against time and distance, on land and at sea. Ketchum brings to life the gripping and inspirational story of how the rebels defeated the world's finest army against all odds.
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Reviews (5)

3-0 out of 5 stars Entertaining but could be better
I did enjoy reading Victory at Yorktown.I did think the title of the book was a bit misleading.As other reviewers have pointed out, about one half of the the book deals with the southern campaign.What little time is devoted to the actual Yorktown engagement is broken up by frequent wanderings into other areas, some relevant, others not.I was also a bit disappointed by the very skimpy coverage devoted to the diplomatic dealings going on during the Yorktown battle.The book, entertaining as it was, could really have improved had more attention been given to the surrender negotiations.

Even with this criticisms I highly recommend Victory at Yorktown.

4-0 out of 5 stars Lively History of End of Revolution
This history covers the period 1780-83 and not only the Battle of Yorktown.Ketchum's writing is lively and includes many personal vignettes.Perhaps the outstanding feature of the book is that he includes the writings, decisions, and actions of the British and French figures, which are often ignored in the American perspective on the Revolution.He also does well to convey the war weariness of America at this point and how nearly the Revolution did not succeed.Finally, he continues the narrative to 1783 and does not end it at Yorktown, so you get an appreciation of the uncertainty after that battle and the two-year wait for the war actually to end.

One criticism is that the book contains a paucity of maps, so it is hard to follow the battles of the southern campaign (which the first half of the book covers).Also, the guerilla warfare in the south is given short shrift, being covered from the perspective of Greene and Morgan, with only a paragraph devoted to Swamp Fox Marion.Lastly, little is mentioned about the peace negotiations or the treaty and its implications.

Overall a very good read and informative.

5-0 out of 5 stars Victory at Yorktown
After reading this book, in spite of the previous customer reviews, I am extremely disappointed in the seemingly short sighted attitude of those individuals who wrote subject reviews. I would agree that possibly the title for this book is incorrecet as it covers a lot more ground than Yorktown and goes into a significant amount of history leading up to the battle at Yorktown.

I was pleased with the overall subject and the information that Ketchum presented in a very factual and yet interesting manner. I would consider this one of the books that makes a better understanding of everything leading up to the final "full scale" battle between American and French allied forces and those of Great Britain in our fight for independence.

2-0 out of 5 stars Not as good as ketchum's earlier works
One of the things I have enjoyed about Ketchum's works is how readable they are and Victory at Yorktown is no exception. That being said,I did not enjoy this work as much as I did his previous works.One reason might be that I read Decisive Day, The Winter Soldiers and Saratoga before I knew much about the Revolutionary war, and I have read a lot of other books since then.I didn't really feel as though I learned anything new in Victory at Yorktown.It gives a brief account of the campaign in the Carolinas and Arnold's treason before delving into Yorktown. The description of the battle, and the Naval engagements prior to,seemed to lack any emotion or excitement.The personal accounts he provides are really the same ones that every other book about the revolution gives.This could be a good book for those reading about the later stages of the war for the first time, however those who are well read on the subject may want to skip it.

1-0 out of 5 stars Poorly Written and Inaccurate
A disappointing rehash of early works on the 1781 Siege of Yorktown.Half the book deals with the southern campaign of the American Revolution.The portion of the book dealing with Yorktown strays greatly from the chronological happenings of the siege.For example, the author starts detailing the story of the assaults on redoubts 9 and 10, which occurred on the night of October 14th.Before completing the account of the assaults, he jumps to the sortie by the British on the night of October 16th and then after several paragraphs goes back to the assaul on the redoubts.A better choice for those wanting to read about the siege is Henry P. Johnston's book on the Yorktown Campaign. ... Read more


13. Franklin and Winston : An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship (Random House Large Print)
by JON MEACHAM
list price: $31.95
our price: $21.09
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Asin: 0375432280
Catlog: Book (2003-10-14)
Publisher: Random House Large Print
Sales Rank: 11150
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


14. Ghost Soldiers: The Forgotten Epic Story of World War II's Most Dramatic Mission
by HAMPTON SIDES
list price: $24.95
our price: $16.47
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0375431101
Catlog: Book (2001-05-15)
Publisher: Random House Large Print
Sales Rank: 105830
Average Customer Review: 4.74 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

A tense, powerful, grand account of one of the most daring exploits of World War II.

On January 28, 1945, 121 hand-selected troops from the elite U.S. Army 6th Ranger Battalion slipped behind enemy lines in the Philippines. Their mission: March thirty miles in an attempt to rescue 513 American and British POWs who had spent three years in a surreally hellish camp near the city of Cabanatuan. The prisoners included the last survivors of the Bataan Death March left in the camp, and their extraordinary will to live might soon count for nothing—elsewhere in the Philippines, the Japanese Army had already executed American prisoners as it retreated from the advancing U.S. Army. As the Rangers stealthily moved through enemy-occupied territory, they learned that Cabanatuan had become a major transshipment point for the Japanese retreat, and instead of facing the few dozen prison guards, they could possibly confront as many as 8,000 battle-hardened enemy troops.

Hampton Sides's vivid minute-by-minute narration of the raid and his chronicle of the prisoners' wrenching experiences are masterful. But Ghost Soldiers is far more than a thrilling battle saga. Hampton Sides explores the mystery of human behavior under extreme duress—the resilience of the prisoners, who defied the Japanese authorities even as they endured starvation, tropical diseases, and unspeakable tortures; the violent cultural clashes with Japanese guards and soldiers steeped in the warrior ethic of Bushido; the remarkable heroism of the Rangers and Filipino guerrillas; the complex motivations of the U.S. high command, some of whom could justly be charged with abandoning the men of Bataan in 1942; and the nearly suicidal bravado of several spies, including priests and a cabaret owner, who risked their lives to help the prisoners during their long ordeal.

At once a gripping depiction of men at war and a compelling story of redemption, Ghost Soldiers joins such landmark books as Flags of Our Fathers, The Greatest Generation, The Rape of Nanking, and D-Day in preserving the legacy of World War II for future generations.
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Reviews (261)

4-0 out of 5 stars A gripping account of WWII POW rescue mission
I really learned a lot of things I did not know about WWII when I read this book. A relative gave it to me as a gift since military history is one of my favorite subjects. Before reading this book, I have not spent much time learning about the pacific theatre. I have always thought that the European part of WWII much more interesting. This book has completely changed my perspective.

The book focuses on the surrender of the Phillipines to the Imperiel Japanes Army, the treatment of allied POWs by the Japanese, and subsequent rescue mission by US Army Rangers. All three topics make for fascinating, eye-opening discovery. The author uses a lot of personal accounts and quotes from soldiers who lived through this saga, which adds an element of realism that I have not found in many other books. This technique drew me into the story and gave me a whole new perspective about what happened to these soldiers. Your heart will ache when you learn about the treatment of the POWs, and leap with joy during the rescue mission portion.

I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a unique story from WWII. This book is not a dry, boring history book. Instead it tells the sad story of what happened to our soldiers in the Phillipines during WWII, and the inspiring story of the men who rescued them. The fact that any of the POWs survived their ordeal is a miracle, and the story of how the US Army rangers completed this "mission impossible" is fascinating. For anyone currently serving in the military, get it and read it. It will give you a whole new appreciation of those who have gone before us (some paying the ultimaye price), and motivate you to do well the duty that lies before you.

5-0 out of 5 stars Heroism through the hardest of times ....
This book is a gut-wrenching journey that follows the plight of those 'left behind,' and those who commit themselves to their rescue. Hampton Sides does an excellent job of alternating chapters between the prisoners and the rescuers, and pulls it all together in the final confrontation and rescue. As a story, non-fiction or otherwise, this is a tale of heroism that is difficult to put down. More than a story, it is an important event in American history that could easily have been lost. I've read the book and passed it on to my Dad, a WWII vet; it will be a difficult passage for him as he reads of unpleasant events all too close to his heart. In turn, it will be handed down to each of my four children lest they forget the sacrifice their Grandfather and those like him made so that my children can enjoy the life they do. Hampton Sides deserves a sincere thanks for keeping this story alive.

5-0 out of 5 stars Required Reading for any fan of humanity
This book does not waste space with details of WWII. You will not finish this book with any understanding of the Pacific Theatre, why it started, how it ended, who the generals were and what were the broad tactics and strategies of victory and defeat. It simply recounts one daring raid. You will be horrified by what man does to man. You will be uplifted by what man does for man. The violence and cruelty, the sacrifice and selflessness. There are heroes and villains and any of us can be either at any time. This book will make you cry and when the tears of pain and loss and hope and bravery block your vision, it will be the only time you are not reading. You will not put it down until you are finished. I finished it in one sitting both the first and the second time I read it. In several months, I am sure I will finish it again in one sitting.

5-0 out of 5 stars Riveting, wrenching stuff
The great men who fought selflessly against Japan have a trustworthy champion in Hampton Sides, and one cannot but wish they were still here to be thanked. Sides brings to vivid life a horrendous ordeal. I was especially moved by soldier Henry Lee's poetry and will see if my library can obtain his posthumously-published, buried under a prisoner shack in palm-leaves volume "Nothing But Praise."

4-0 out of 5 stars Ghost Soldiers
Hampton Sides writes of a harrowing escape mission in the book Ghost Soldiers. He tells of a group of brave Rangers in the American Army who risk their lives to save the last remaining soldiers of the Bataan Death March. Throughout the book, you read about the Rangers Mission from start to finish and from the prisoners view as well. It switches back and forth until finally the camp is liberated from the Japanese. Heroes can be found everywhere, whether it be Colonel Mucci, the man who lead the operation, Clara Fuentes, who risked her life to smuggle information, food, and items to the prisoners, Captain Prince, Dr. Hibbs and so many more. Each person has their own story to tell and each had a very important role that led to the liberation of the camp at Cabanatuan. Even though the ending was no secret, it was hard to put the book down because it detailed the mission so well that I had to know what exactly was planned next. ... Read more


15. Maestro Lp : Greenspans Fed And The American Boom
by Bob Woodward
list price: $25.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0743205928
Catlog: Book (2000-11-14)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Sales Rank: 725527
Average Customer Review: 3.14 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

In eight Tuesdays each year, Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan convenes a small committee to set the short-term interest rate that can move through the American and world economies like an electric jolt. As much as any, the committee's actions determine the economic well-being of every American. The availability of money for business or consumer loans, mortgages, job creation and overall national economic growth flows from those decisions. Perhaps the last Washington secret is how the Federal Reserve and its enigmatic chairman, Alan Greenspan, operate. In Maestro, Bob Woodward takes you inside the Fed and Greenspan's thinking. We listen to the Fed's internal debates as the American economy is pushed into a historic 10-year expansion while the world economy lurches from financial crisis to financial crisis. Greenspan plays a sometimes subtle, sometimes blunt behind-the-scenes role. He appears in Maestro up close as never before -- alternately nervous and calm, plunging into mathematics one moment and politics the next, skeptical, dispassionate, always struggling -- often alone.

Maestro traces a fascinating intellectual journey as Greenspan, an old-school anti-inflation hawk of the traditional economy, is among the first to realize the potential in the modern, high-productivity new economy -- the foundation of the current American boom. Woodward's account of the Greenspan years is a remarkable portrait of a man who has become the symbol of American economic preeminence. ... Read more

Reviews (71)

3-0 out of 5 stars An Incomplete Account
Mr. Woodward's latest book is almost a mirror image of Justin Martin's biography of Alan Greenspan. Where Martin's book deals more completely with Mr. Greenspan's life but gives short shrift to his time as Fed Chairman, Maestro does just the opposite - it deals almost exclusively with Mr. Greenspan's time at the Fed to the exclusion of everything else. As someone involved with finance on a day to day basis, I am more partial to Woodward's focus, but that is probably a matter of individual taste and preference. One solution is to read both of them because together they make a halfway decent biography.

The average reader with little or no knowledge of economics will find this book readily accessible, but that is part of the problem. Mr. Woodward, as is his normal style, focuses more on the politics and personalities and less on the economic principles involved. The end result is like fat free food - easier on the waist line but ultimately unsatisfying.

Overall, this book is a decent introduction to Alan Greenspan's time at the Fed, but we will have to wait for someone else to write the definitive biography of one of the most important financial figures of the decade.

4-0 out of 5 stars Good book with some small limitations...
This book gives a view of monetary policy and financial regulation from Greenspan's perspective as close as is physically possible without employing the chairman himself as author. The biography seeks to reveal how Greenspan and the Fed operate. The author views the Federal Reserve as a very important American economic institution and Greenspan as a one of a kind Chairman of the Board of Governors. I think the author recognizes that sometimes Americans and foreigners give Greenspan too much credit for the economy. He breaks down this social phenomenon for the readers in the epilogue. "The fascination with Greenspan has become one of the ways which the country expresses confidence in itself and in its future" (228). The reader gets to listen to the Fed's internal debates and learns about Greenspan's life. The book explores how the Fed controls monetary policy and details the actions of the Fed in the Greenspan era, 1987 to 2000. The book also touches on several financial crises of the Greenspan era including: the 1987 stock market crash, the S&L crisis, the commercial banks' loan problems in the early 1990's stemming from real estate and Latin America, the Mexican Crisis, Russia currency devaluation, Long Term Capital Management (LTCM) and the stock market "bubble." These events are only briefly addressed, with the focus being how they relate to the Chairman of the Board of Governors, Alan Greenspan. The book briefly addresses current economic debates. The author was particularly interested in the high growth, record employment, low inflation and high stock market in the late 1990's that seems to defy economic theory.

The book explores some academic debates, but overall the book is not an academic work. The author does not point this out, but it is clear from the author's background in journalism and the structure of the book. The backbone of the book, its pacing, come from headlines from The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. The headlines act as sign posts of the political and stock market perception of the FOMC's stance and future actions. In regard to references, while there are "notes" in the back of the book that give further detail and some sources, other sources are not revealed. For example, in the prologue four primary sources go unnamed. While this may allow greater access for the reader, it limited my ability to appreciate the book. It is very odd how some dialogues between prominent figures are not in quotes. What is the source for this information? Is it made up dialogue? In another case, after the Sept. 4, 1987 increase of interest rates by 1/2 to 6%, the author has a long paragraph of how Greenspan felt. Woodward describes Greenspan's emotional state, "he felt almost as if an earthquake were occurring and the building were rattling" (33). Firstly, how does Woodward know how Greenspan was feeling. Even if Woodward has some special source, statements like this make me uncomfortable. Readers should be aware of this, but it should be noted that Bob Woodward's reputation is top notch, and he is known for his investigative Washington reporting. Bob Woodward is best known for breaking the Watergate story. Woodward is assistant managing editor of The Washington Post and has been a newspaper reporter and editor for thirty years. While lack of sources and unquoted dialogue are distracting and hurt the book, Woodward gives amazing descriptions of Greenspan that seem cut straight to the essence of his persona. "Greenspan radiated gloom. He spoke in a gravelly monotone, often cloaking his thoughts in indirect constructions... It was almost as if his words were scouting parties, sent out less to convey than to probe and explore" (30).

I would highly recommend this book. The behind-the-scenes descriptions of the 1987 stock market crash are worth the price of the book. Like the rest of the book, the writing gives the feeling of actually being there and the debate lets readers know the importance of the decisions being made. Greenspan once said, "If you're not nervous, you shouldn't be here" (Greenspan qtd in Woodward).

3-0 out of 5 stars Far too superficial for its topic
Bob Woodward will probably go down in history as one of America's most influential journalists. In collaboration with Carl Bernstein, Woodward publicized the Watergate scandal and helped to bring down the Nixon presidency. His efforts to reveal the truth may have single-handedly changed the relationship between the media and politics.

Woodward has already been blessed with his 15 minutes of fame. His latest work, "Maestro: Greenspan's Fed and the American Boom," represents neither earth-shattering importance nor an erudite treatment of his subject, Alan Greenspan and his reign over the Federal Reserve.

To its merit, "Maestro" does shed a surprising amount of light on a once mysterious and self-consciously secretive organization. The inner-workings of the Fed and its policy-making are depicted with excellent detail, as Woodward takes the reader through the bumpy rides of setting interest rates from 1987-2000. And for non-economic types, Woodward does a pretty decent job explaining how monetary policy works and what the implications are for increasing interest rates or expanding the money supply.

Yet it is a shame Woodward is not an economist himself because his book suffers from a lack of depth on certain issues. The work's treatment of developments over the last decade, including the savings and loan scandals of the late '80s and the Asian financial crises of the '90s, is rather superficial.

What is most bothersome about Woodward's work is its failure to point out many of the negative conclusions the details of the work might necessitate. The author's editorial on his subject is one of pure praise, as he attempts to elevate the status of Greenspan to that of a modern hero. The truth is far more complicated than the rose-colored picture Woodward would like to paint.

One of the scariest points Woodward's book fails to make is that the position of chairman of the Federal Open Market Committee is perhaps the most powerful seat of economic policymaking in the United States. Many students of the Fed's operations grow up believing that interest rates are set by the democratic vote of a committee of economists. In reality, the monetary power of the last 13 years has rested in the judgement of one man.

Greenspan's career epitomized the struggle to push the envelope on limitations to power. The chairman was the master of the FOMC, and before each meeting, he polled and called every member to figure out each one's stance on whether to raise or lower interest rates. Since the chairman always speaks last at an FOMC meeting, Greenspan often could plea for the universal support of his decisions, and his careful rhetoric frequently was enough to achieve the policy outcomes he desired. There were even times from 1988-1999, when the committee voted to allow Greenspan to make minor adjustments in the Fed Funds rate between meetings, giving him complete monetary control.

We are all lucky that Greenspan has handled the responsibility of his power with such sobriety. What if Greenspan had not been so judicious? An America where the sovereign economic policymaker was a bumbling idiot would resemble the despair of 1929, when interest rates were raised even after the stock markets crashed. The very idea that determining the Fed Funds rate could rest in the hands of a moron is a scary thought.

Another frightening notion Woodward doesn't elucidate is the number of problems with the way our system allocates its human capital. Many of those on the FOMC were there simply because they had political ties and connections. If Greenspan were to resign tomorrow, party friendships and political allies could influence the new appointment.

Often when economic policymaking is submerged in politics, short-run prosperity is prioritized, and little thought is given to where things will head five or 10 years down the road. If we had a Fed chairman who - because he was a pawn of politics - strove for break-neck growth without regard to price stability, disaster could occur. Woodward strives to make the point that Greenspan always has tried to put his job above factionalism, but Woodward fails to recognize that future Fed chairmen may not behave the same way.

Overall, Woodward's "Maestro" gives a decent overview of the history of economic developments and monetary policy in the last decade. The book's flaws lie not in the display of facts but rather in its pure, unquestioning praise of its central figure, Alan Greenspan. I would not disagree with statements that Greenspan has done his job especially well. He, however, has been fortunate, as circumstances beyond his control contributed to the record expansion of our economy and our subsequent prosperity. Greenspan's ability as Fed chairman surely will be tested as our economy slows, and whether we continue to prosper will determine if he really has, as Woodward says, a "mastery of process."

4-0 out of 5 stars Engaging, Surprising, and Informative
I read this book wanting to be better informed about how The Fed and Greenspan operate, and wound up being thoroughly educated and entertained understanding how banks, the White House and Washington DC political appointments work. I never thought I would ever use the phrase "hard-to-put-down" in connection with an economics/banking book but this one did it. It was a real page turner and definitely one of Bob Woodward's most underrated and under-discussed books. (No caller mentioned this work during his 3-hour C-Span interview a few months back.) Get your hands on a copy of this book and prepare for an interesting and enjoyable ride. My one complaint: I wish it were longer. Although this book answered all my "Fed" questions, I wished its time track would continue to the present, or perhaps delve a little deeper into the past. But this complaint notwithstanding, the book was still an excellent and engaging read.

3-0 out of 5 stars Maestro, Greenspan's "Biography"
This book was basically a miniature biography on the life of Alan Greenspan. Except this book does not really go into Greenspan's personal life, the only feature of this book that is not included about Alan Greenspan is his personal life. Although once or twice Greenspan's girlfriend, Andrea Mitchel was mentioned. For the most part this entire book solely focusses on Greenspan's work as an economist for the United States government. In my personal opinion Bob Woodward basically just stated facts and had no criticism whatsoever throughout this entire book this is the only part that bugged me. Woodward basically just wrote straight facts and tried a little too hard to make Greenspan look incredibly good in the end. ... Read more


16. Under the Banner of Heaven (Random House Large Print)
by JON KRAKAUER
list price: $28.00
our price: $17.64
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0375432213
Catlog: Book (2003-07-15)
Publisher: Random House Large Print
Sales Rank: 223908
Average Customer Review: 3.99 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Jon Krakauer’s literary reputation rests on insightful chronicles of lives conducted at the outer limits.In UNDER THE BANNER OF HEAVEN, he shifts his focus from extremes of physical adventure to extremes of religious belief within our own borders.At the core of his book is an appalling double murder committed by two Mormon Fundamentalist brothers, Ron and Dan Lafferty, who insist they received a revelation from God commanding them to kill their blameless victims. Beginning with a meticulously researched account of this “divinely inspired” crime, Krakauer constructs a multilayered, bone-chilling narrative of messianic delusion, savage violence, polygamy, and unyielding faith.Along the way, he uncovers a shadowy offshoot of America’s fastest-growing religion, and raises provocative questions about the nature of religious belief.

Krakauer takes readers inside isolated communities in the American West, Canada, and Mexico, where some forty-thousand Mormon Fundamentalists believe the mainstream Mormon Church went unforgivably astray when it renounced polygamy.Defying both civil authorities and the Mormon establishment in Salt Lake City, the leaders of these outlaw sects are zealots who answer only to God.Marrying prodigiously and with virtual impunity (the leader of the largest fundamentalist church took seventy-five “plural wives,” several of whom were wed to him when they were fourteen or fifteen and he was in his eighties),fundamentalist prophets exercise absolute control over the lives of their followers, and preach that any day now the world will be swept clean in a hurricane of fire, sparing only their most obedient adherents.

Weaving the story of the Lafferty brothers and their fanatical brethren with a clear-eyed look at Mormonism’s violent past, Krakauer examines the underbelly of the most successful homegrown faith in the United States, and finds a distinctly American brand of religious extremism.The result is vintage Krakauer, an utterly compelling work of nonfiction that illuminates an otherwise confounding realm of human behavior.
... Read more

Reviews (379)

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent
I've been a fan of Krakauer since Into the Wild debuted. Since I have many Mormon relatives (I'm not LDS myself) and have spent a good deal of time in several different parts of Utah, I eagerly anticipated the release of this book.

Krakauer presents an objective, coherent and well-researched history of the Mormon religion, with detailed biographical info on its founder, Joseph Smith, and an explanation of key elements of the Book of Mormon.

The greatest strength of this book is Krakauer's ability to introduce the reader to a wide range of people connected to Mormon fundamentalism -- fundamentalists themselves, women and children who've suffered unspeakable degradation and abuse within fundamentalist communities, and "mainstream" Mormons who claim no connection whatsoever with the fundamentalist viewpoint, despite undeniable historical and contemporary ties. Readers get to know these people, making the impact of the story that much stronger.

If you've read Into the Wild or Into Thin Air, you're familiar with Krakauer's brilliant writing style and ability to tell an incredibly compelling non-fiction story. He's easily one of the greatest literary journalists ever published and he's to be congratulated for taking on a monumental project like this, one that he knew would upset some powerful folks in a very serious way. Hopefully, the book will attract enough attention for lawmakers to finally do something to help people trapped in hellish environments run by self-proclaimed prophets and their henchmen.

There've been news reports about the LDS church's negative reaction to this book, and some of the Amazon reviewers have unfairly (IMO) labeled it a one-sided attack on the church. I didn't get that impression at all. The book is exhaustively researched and Krakauer's language is fair and objective. I get the impression that he's guilty only of bringing to light some truths that some folks would prefer stayed locked away in a Salt Lake City vault.

I hope that LDS members will take the time to read the book and fairly examine its contents and intent before making judgements against it.

5-0 out of 5 stars When Faith Goes Too Far...
Krakauer uses the 1984 Lafferty Murders in Provo to launch an
exploration into the roots and evolution of the present-day Mormon (LDS)
fundamentalist movement. Krakauer presents what may be the most
comprehensive and current assesment of the polygamous/fundamentalist
movement -- the origins, the key players, the major communes, the legal
battles, and the abuses of women, children and the welfare system.

Krakauer devotes appropriate attention to the history of mormonism,
which is refreshingly less glossy (and concerned with PR) then other
mainstream accounts have been. Krakauer, unlike many authors who need
the church's assistance with their research, is not afraid to make
frequent reference to "No Man Knows My History", D. Michael Quinn, and
numerous unflattering historical documents and sources.

Joseph Smith is portrayed as the cunning, charismatic, delusional,
egomaniacal charlatan that he was, and his frequent run-ins with the
law, the government, supporters, wives (including women that were married to other men) are laid out in
brilliant detail.

The historical background of Joseph Smith and the beginnings of Mormonism is detailed, flows well, and dares to include details that most books by LDS authors omit. The historical review covers Joseph Smith's rise to power, his unquestioned spiritual power, and his plans for glory. The reader will learn how 14 year old girls were forced to marry the prophet (or face "spiritual destruction"), and how roving bands of Mormon "avengers" dispatched those who stood in the way of Joseph's kingdom.

The story moves to Brigham Young's reign (after Joseph's assasination and a schism over polygamy), the arrival of the saints in the Salt Lake Valley and the ensuing battle with the US government over polygamy. The Mountain Meadows massacre is explored with a precision not seen since Juanita Brooks landmark work on the subject. The Massacre was the premeditated, rehearsed and sanctioned slaughter of an entire emigrant wagon train from Arkansas that was unfortunate enough to pass through Utah. Visits to the site by Federal Investigators revealed a field "strewn with bodies..." and mangled bones of "men, women, children and infants." The massacre was a sort benchmark for the church in Utah; it established that the practice of slaying those who stood in the way of the kingdom would continue in the new Zion (Utah). As the Lafferty murders clearly illustrate, this practice continues to this day.

Krakauer makes the argument that it
was polygamy, and the church's love/hate relationship with the practice,
that gave birth to the fundamentalist movement and continues to fuel it to this day.

The history of polygamy is laid out right up until the present day,
where the focus is turned to the backgrounds of the Lafferty brothers,
who brutally murdered a sister-in-law and her infant daughter.

Instead of simply retelling the sick and gory story a la "USA Movie of
the Week", Krakauer delves into the twisted psyche of the mormon
fundamentalist, and explores how these men went from upstanding members
of the church to self-proclaimed prophets to cold-blooded killers.

This detailed and well-thought examination of the knots, bumps and
bruises in Mormon history and theology is unique to non-academic
writing, and is very engaging. Krakauer effectively draws upon
testimony from the trial (psychologists, witnesses, etc) and his own
interviews with the convicted at The Point Of The Mountain to point the
blame exactly where it falls: upon the mormon church, and it's
founders and leaders.

His concluding analysis of the current state of the LDS church and its
many fractured spin-offs is refreshingly up-to-date, and the author's
after word provides valuable insight into his opinions on organized
religion, and specifically the mormon faith.

This book is a breath of fresh air into LDS studies, and has the unique
benefit of being written by an immensely well-respected nonbeliever
under a major publisher.

This is one of the strongest examinations of mormonism in print,
because it is not an "anti-mormon" work. As indicated by modern church
leadership and public relations, nothing is more "anti-mormon" then the church's own
history, leaders, and fundamentalist members. "Under The Banner of
Heaven" is a factual, analytical treatise of a religion that has an
extremely dark and bloody past, and dares to bring to light the painful
legacy that that Mormonism perpetuates to this day.

For anyone who has left the church, is investigating the church, is LDS
or knows someone who is LDS, I strongly recommend this book.

Sociology, American History, Current Affairs and Religion bookworms
will also find this to be an especially compelling read...

4-0 out of 5 stars An objective, eye-opener
I had read this author before and liked his work. I checked this book from the public library. I could not have guessed that he grew up Mormon until he tells the reader near the end of the book. There's so much here that I did not know. Fascinating.

5-0 out of 5 stars Right on the Money
Jon Krakauer is a superb writer who has taken a controversial subject and not only explained it objectively, but made it entertaining as well. I have read a great deal about the Mormons, my interest spurred by the fact that two of my grandmother's first cousins were wives of John Doyle Lee, and it is incomprehensible to me that any modern woman would tolerate for one moment the abuse and subjection that the church imposes in the name of religion. In the old days, most women were at the mercy of their husbands, but the brainwashing of today is criminal. This is a powerful plea for universal public education, as well as an alert Department of Human Services.

3-0 out of 5 stars Great story, but author interprets history
This was a fascinating book, but when I finished the last page I felt like I had read a 365-page story from the National Enquirer. The book oozes with juicy descriptions of fundamentalist Mormons, murderers who kill in the name of God, and the checkered history of the Mormon Church.

If you're expecting a clinical dissection of a murder, skip this book. It claims to focus on two brothers (Ron and Dan Lafferty) who murdered a woman and her baby two decades ago, but only one-third of the book really talks about the murder. Another third covers the history of the Mormon church, and the final third is a startling (and equally gossipy) survey of polygamist communities from Utah to Canada to Mexico.

As a story, the book hits a home run. Krakauer is a great writer, and his eye for detail is devastating. You read descriptions of the polygamist communities and you feel like laughing at the crackpots and crying for the victims at the same time.

Unfortunately--and this is why I give the book only three stars--Krakauer can't merely document the history and describe the events. His book quietly advocates two stealth theses. They don't belong in a book like this, at least not secretly, and I think the second thesis is wrong anyway.

His theses, which are never spelled out completely but nevertheless lurk below the surface in every chapter, are that (a) religion is a waste, and (b) the mainstream Mormon church has infused its followers with such a spirit of violence that it must share in the blame when its fanatic followers go berserk. These are perfectly valid topics to contemplate, but if you put them forth you should come clean and say so out loud, and then give data to prove them. Krakauer's book tries to prove these theses with anecdotes, extremely narrow vignettes of deranged persons, and sensationalized histories of century-old events. For example, we never hear what the "mainstream" polygamists think of the Laffertys' crime. I think they would probably denounce it, but Krakauer isn't going to give them voice in his book because it would weaken his second thesis. Instead (surprise, surprise) the last chapter revolves around an ex-fundamentalist who found his salvation in atheism. What's his connection to the Lafferty crime? None.

Krakauer is extrapolating a line from a single point. Can you really draw general conclusions about a worldwide church from the actions of two fundamentalist kooks? Krakauer thinks you can. Worse, he conflates three very different things (the mainstream Mormon church, the fundamentalist polygamists, and the Lafferty brothers) to the point where naive readers will start thinking they're all the same thing.

The author has right to ask hard questions about religion and the Mormon church, but I think it's wrong to write contentious things by making unilateral interpretations without giving all sides of the story.

The Appendix to my edition of the book (Anchor) contained a negative review of "Under the Banner of Heaven" by a Mormon official. Krakauer engages him and debates fair and square for a few pages. What the shame the rest of the book wasn't like that. ... Read more


17. Last Train to Paradise: Henry Flagler and the Spectacular Rise and Fall of the Railroad That Crossed an Ocean (Thorndike Press Large Print American History Series)
by Les Standiford, Henry Morrison Flagler
list price: $29.95
our price: $29.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0786249439
Catlog: Book (2003-03-01)
Publisher: Thorndike Press
Sales Rank: 296872
Average Customer Review: 4.31 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Last Train to Paradise is acclaimed novelist Les Standiford’s fast-paced and gripping true account of the extraordinary construction and spectacular demise of the Key West Railroad—one of the greatest engineering feats ever undertaken, destroyed in one fell swoop by the Labor Day hurricane of 1935. Brilliant and driven entrepreneur Henry Flagler’s dream fulfilled, the Key West Railroad stood as a magnificent achievement for more than twenty-two years, heralded as “the Eighth Wonder of the World.” Standiford brings the full force and fury of 1935’s deadly “Storm of the Century” and its sweeping destruction of “the railroad that crossed an ocean” to terrifying life. Last Train to Paradise celebrates a crowning achievement of Gilded Age ambition in a sweeping tale of the powerful forces of human ingenuity colliding with the even greater forces of nature’s wrath.

“A dramatic story . . . and Les Standiford has a good deal of fun with it all.” —Washington Post Book World
“A rousing—a deeply sobering—story.” —Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed
“A fascinating and incredibly compelling account . . . I could not put it down.” —Donald Trump
“A definitive account of the engineering feat that became known as ‘Flagler’s Folly’. . . A rousing adventure."—Atlanta Journal-Constitution
... Read more

Reviews (13)

3-0 out of 5 stars A superficial look at Flagler and the Florida East Coast RR
Last Train is a short book about a big project...one that essentially created the state of Florida as we know it today. The book focuses on the last leg of Flagler's railroad that crossed ocean and swamp to connect Key West with the mainland.

The book seems more like an expanded magazine piece rather than a thorough treatment of this fascinating man and his amazing project.

Yes, buy the book, but don't expect a Steven Ambrose-like treatment of the subject (considering my opinion of Ambrose's writing ability this is faint praise indeed).

5-0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put it down
I loved this book. Standiford is a tremendous storyteller, as good as Sebastian Junger, or David McCullough. The rise and fall of the Key West railroad, which was built over 150 miles of water by tycoon Henry Flagler, is a story I knew little about. Great fun and I learned a tremendous amount as well. One warning--be prepared to go to work a little bleary-eyed tomorrow--you won't be able to put this down until the last hurricane has hit...

5-0 out of 5 stars Truly Awesome - Could not put it down
This book shows how fiction can never compare to real life. I only wish there were other non-fiction books by this author.

5-0 out of 5 stars The man who "invented" modern Florida
Ten years ago, when I visited Palm Beach, Florida, I noticed a lot of places named after someone called Flagler. At the time I had no idea who this person was, or why everything in the area seemed focused upon him, but after reading this book, I understand. It's pretty clear that, without Henry Flagler's vision, and money, Florida today might be an entirely different place. This man, almost singlehandedly, changed Florida from a hot, sleepy area into a mecca for tourists. His building of luxury hotels, the Florida East Coast Railway, and later the Key West Expansion, gave us our modern state. This story is extremely interesting, and I found it well-written. It tells something I did not know before, and that's always important to me when I read any non-fiction work. It's a tale of insight, struggle, ultimate success, and subsequent destruction by the forces of an all-powerful natural storm. Men such as Henry Flagler do not walk among us any longer, and perhaps we are all the poorer for that.

5-0 out of 5 stars Go To Key West!
Les Standiford has put together a spell-binding tale of the last of the privately financed infrastructure projects undertaken by the larger than life 19th century businessmen. Here Henry Flagler races against his own mortality to complete a railroad from Jacksonville to Key West, with the final run south from Miami requiring herculean engineering, management, and financial resources. Flager was a partner of John D. Rockefeller in an earlier venture known as Standard Oil who decided in his 70's to pursue a second career in railroading, land development, and luxury hotels in the then desolate country of South Florida and the Keys.

Standiford weaves together Flagler, Rockefeller, their arch-rival trust-busting Teddy Roosevelt, WWI bonus armies, and big-game hunting author Ernest Hemingway. While Rockefeller also owned vacation homes in Florida, he and Flagler ultimately had a parting of the ways, with Rockefeller pointedly not attending Flagler's funeral. Flagler had been an early supporter of Roosevelt in his successful bid for the New York governorship after Roosevelt's success in the brief Spanish American war. Later Roosevelt brought antitrust action against Standard Oil and at least in Flagler's mind was behind government resistance to his plan to build a deep water harbor in Miami. Ironically, the US victory in the Spanish American War, together with confirmed plans to build the Panama Canal, were the motiviation for Flagler's railroad adventures, as Flagler projected, incorrectly as it turned out, that Miami and Key West would grow in stature as ports.

The final thread introduces Hemingway into the mix. The author was already a well-known Key Wester when the hurricane of Labor Day 1935 ravaged the Keys. Although Hemingway's home and his beloved boat Pilar were not seriously damaged, Flagler's railroad was destroyed. A group of WWI bonus army veterans were working on road construction. Many were killed, despite a daring railroad rescue attempt. By 1935, Flager was long dead and the railroad was in bankruptcy. It was never rebuilt, although some bridges are still standing, for the exclusive use of fishermen and birds. ... Read more


18. Grace and Power : The Private World of the Kennedy White House (Random House Large Print)
by SALLY BEDELL SMITH
list price: $31.95
our price: $21.09
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0375433759
Catlog: Book (2004-05-04)
Publisher: Random House Large Print
Sales Rank: 237264
Average Customer Review: 4.38 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (13)

5-0 out of 5 stars Fair and enticing: interesting and easy readI just finished
I just finished Grace and Power : The Private World of the Kennedy White House by Sally Bedell Smith, and it was a terrific read from start to finish. It reads like a very long and interesting magazine article and is, hence, not gossipy, but factual and interesting. It's a well-constructed account of the days from the election to JFK's assassination; it covers both the political and social history of JFK's brief time in the White House. Thousands of sources are called upon as the author has painstakingly pieced together her story. There is much in the book that is new information about the Kennedys and their days in the White House, though not being a Kennedy aficionado, I was not aware of what was old and what was new. I felt the book was very fair and did a wonderful job of calling forth the duality of the Kennedy panache and mystique coupled with the huge burden of tragedy that seemed to be part of their heritage. I'd highly recommend this book.

5-0 out of 5 stars A fascinating retelling of Camelot
GRACE AND POWER gives the reader the sights, sounds and textures of the Kennedy White House. William Safire called the book "a stunning new history" (his column lead me to buy the book)) and he's right.

You feel like you are right there in the Washington DC of the early 1960s, and what a very different DC it was! The Kennedys liked to work hard and play hard, and Bedell Smith shows the rivalries, friendships and goings-on of the Kennedy's inner circle.

This is truly the first book to make Jack and Jackie human, and Bedell Smith does a wonderful job of telling both the political and social sides of the First Couple.

I read the Vanity Fair excerpt and there is indeed new material here: Jackie's intimate conversations about her marriage with Dr. Frank Finnerty, her secret therapist who helped her improve her relationship with her husband; one of JFK's lovers who speaks for the first time about their two-year affair; and most importantly, details of JFK's last days and the aftermath of the assassination from the sealde (for 40 years!) papers of historian William Manchester, who authored DEATH OF A PRESIDENT.

A historical, serious and fascinating retelling of the Camelot years.

5-0 out of 5 stars Fascinating
Though I haven't read any other books about the Kennedy administration, and consequently cannot say if this one is better or worse than others on the same topic, this one caught my attention. The book appears to be well researched and documented and gives the reader a real feel for what the Kennedy White House must have been like, warts and all. I found the view to be balanced, presenting both the strengths and the personal foibles of the people involved.

The book is full of fascinating historical dichotomies; for example, it shows how the administration would deal with war with Russia over Cuba during the day, and then party at night. (One must maintain one's standards, even in the face of nuclear annihilation.) The reader also gets a real sense of tremendous responsibilities and burdens that go with living in the White House.

To digress a bit, what I really got from this book was a reminder of what politics in the USA used to be like, when politicians were more interested in doing what was best for the country, before the citizens of all political persuasions allowed it to become so bitterly and unproductively polarized. There used to be dialog between the political parties instead of ranting; there used to be pragmatic compromises and solutions instead of unyielding positions; and there used to be respect for the concept that reasonable minds can differ. Camelot, indeed.

That reminder alone makes this a worthwhile read.

5-0 out of 5 stars "Camelot" re-revealed magnificently...
The essence of "Camelot" wasn't necessarily the inspiring leadership of John Kennedy (although this certainly doesn't hurt the Camelot mystique) or the seemingly serene picture of the youngest elected President and his equally youthful wife, rather it was a culture, indeed an attitude or mystique that many historians have tried to capture with heretofore moderate to little success. In this light, Sally Bedell Smith has presented her attempt at synthesizing the mystique with the well documented history of JFK's administration and has succeeded fabulously with "Grace and Power".

The perspective that Smith presents is one that many historians have missed...in a day when JFK administration books abound, Smith gives us a whole new view into the Kennedy family. Right from the beginning of this work, we delve into the personal and behavorial side of both the new President and his First Lady and see how they are in turn affected by the avalanche of the media and policy machine. JFK's full medical history (recently made public in Robert Dallek's magnificent work "An Unfinished Life") is further explained by Smith with many new nuances and she describes how these many maladies not only affected his work as President, but his family life as well. Indeed, we see JFK's covert doctor (Max Jacobson..."Dr. Feelgod") administering to Jackie as well (during periods of stress or depression) and it's this level of new information, presented not in a tawdry gossipy style, but in fair and elegant prose, that really made this work hard for me to put down. JFK's dalliances with many other women comes to be a main theme at the beginning of the story and we see how Jackie's attitude of benign acceptance at this behavior is formed over time in the White House. At the same time, Smith suceeds in presenting JFK as a loving Father and husband...further enhancing this mysterious component of JFK's behavior.

The social scene at the JFK White House is comprehensively descibed...at times offering a counter-balance with what is happening in the world and I thought this added a fullness to the Kennedy story that is usually missing from many otherwise excellent JFK works. For example we see the dinners and the guests who attended them given equal importance in the book while the emotion and stress of the Cuban Missile Crisis is distracting the President. How JFK reacts at these events (i.e. away from "work") is a fascinating new look at the Crisis and Administration as a whole and is this new information that I mentioned that should be the selling point for this work. Closing out the book, Smith eloquently descibes the before and after affects of the assasination on all the participants (old girlfriends as well as close family friends) and tries to philosophize on what the tragedy meant to each.

Historians may argue that the level of scholarship pertaining to Presidential history is lacking (although, I thought Smith did an admirable job describing the events that she did cover), but clearly the focus of this work was not a historical narrative but a genuine social/historical synthesis.

Supported by many new interviews and research, Sally Bedell Smith has added immensly to the monumental amount of literature surrounding the JFK administration and given us a unique perspective that should be used by all as an emotional target for that magnificent and tragic time. A fairly quick read (about 470 pages of readable text) and lively written, I would recommend this book very highly.

5-0 out of 5 stars A compelling read-- what the reviewers have to say
Grace and Power is a compelling read, and I highly recommend it. Instead of offering my own comments, I thought Amazon readers should hear what the professionals-- reviewers, historians, columnists and feature writers around the country-- have been saying about the book. I took these quotes from the author's website, www.sallybedellsmith.com .

Washington Post Book World (page one review by William E. Leuchtenburg, Professor of History Emeritus at the University of North Carolina): "Sally Bedell Smith has written the nonfiction beach book of the season...she is in firm command of the vast Kennedy scholarship...The book is impressively well researched and smartly written. It is rich in character sketches, anecdotes and accounts of events"

Los Angeles Times (page one review by Gary Indiana): "A gracefully written tell-all that really does tell a story worth reading...Smith's portrait of Jackie is irresistible...One falls in love with her all over again."

The New York Times (William Safire column): "A stunning new history... [written] with taste and sensitivity... prodigiously researched... The reader is placed right there in the salons of Georgetown and upstairs at the White House"

Liz Smith (syndicated columnist): "A ravishingly readable book"

Houston Chronicle (review by Fritz Lanham, Books Editor): "Smith writes neither to make idols nor to break them. She's unblinking but fair-minded in her assessment of the Kennedys and their friends, and she writes lucidly and engagingly... Grace and Power really does make you feel that you've stepped inside the private quarters of the White House"

New York Daily News (Sherryl Connelly): "Stylistic grace and authoritative reporting...the ultimate account."

The Philadelphia Inquirer (Karen Heller): "The White House that Smith presents is an elite circle of brilliant men and elegant women...In this history, Jacqueline Kennedy emerges as a more engaged, substantial and controlling presence."

The Boston Globe (Recommended Summer Reading by David Mehegan): "The background is the thousand days of the Kennedy administration, and the big events are here. But the narrative tension is in the tight circle around Jack and Jackie Kennedy... If we did not already know the ending, one might say this book reads like a novel"

San Francisco Chronicle (Carolyne Zinko): "What emerges is the complex nature of the relationship between the president and first lady, a marriage strained by his infidelity yet preserved in part by her tolerance of it; the transformation of the White House into a royal court of sorts... and the degree to which the president manipulated his advisers and the press, for good and bad."

Daily Mail (London): "Riveting history...Grace and Power paints a lively picture of this `social' White House, but though Bedell Smith captures its glamour she never falls in love with it... Throughout the book, Bedell Smith deftly manages to include the weightier events of those Cold War years without either trivialising them or lessening the fun of her lighter gossip."

Newsweek: "Smith has made a career out of turning the lives of bold-faced names into meticulously researched biographies...Smith chronicles Jack and Jackie's highs and lows, heroic diplomacy, prodigious infidelity and a sparkling intellectual and social life unsurpassed by their successors."

Dallas Morning News (Joy Dickinson): "A book that puts journalistic integrity above gossip but includes juicy details." ... Read more


19. 1939: Last Season of Peace
by Angela Lambert
list price: $24.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1850893705
Catlog: Book (1989-11-01)
Publisher: ISIS Large Print Books
Sales Rank: 3085539
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20. The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels (G K Hall Large Print Book Series (Cloth))
by Thomas Cahill
list price: $28.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0783803397
Catlog: Book (1998-11-01)
Publisher: G K Hall & Co
Sales Rank: 691247
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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Amazon.com

Thomas Cahill, author of the bestselling How the Irish Saved Civilization, continues his Hinges of History series with The Gifts of the Jews, a light-handed, popular account of ancient Jewish culture, the culture of the Bible. The book is written from a decidedly modern point of view. Cahill notes, for instance, that Abraham moved the Jews from Ur to the land of Canaan "to improve their prospects," and that the leering inhabitants of Sodom surrounded Lot's lodging "like the ghouls in Night of the Living Dead." The Gifts of the Jews nonetheless encourages us to see the Old Testament through ancient eyes--to see its characters not as our contemporaries but as those of Gilgamesh and Amenhotep. Cahill also lingers on often-overlooked books of the Bible, such as Ruth, to discuss changes in ancient sensibility. The result is a fine, speculative, eminently readable work of history. ... Read more

Reviews (118)

5-0 out of 5 stars Key Origins of Western and Universal Thought
Like a great river flowing through a fertile valley, history is made up of many streams - each contributing its singular waters to the majestic confluence flowing to the sea.The "Hinges of History" are made up of many tributaries - philosophy, theology, culture, customs and rituals - of diverse peoples, blending to form the totality of our historical experience and human formation.

THE GIFTS OF THE JEWS examines the pivotal role of an ancient people, desert nomads at first, who changed humanity's perception of the universe, meaning of life, and understanding of God in relationship with His creations.Thomas Cahill, who bestselling HOW THE IRISH SAVED CIVILIZATION explored the influence of their role in preserving history, here examines the impact of Jewish history and thought in the Western World.A gifted storyteller, the author reveals his analysis within the context of other ancient civilizations, including the Sumerians, Egyptians, Babylonians and others.Unlike surrounding cultures of the time, which saw life as a wheel of continual birth, death and rebirth, the Jews saw life as a covenant relationship with their God, whose promise of faith and fidelity pointed to an end-time - one which would also depend on individual choices.In covenant, Judaism is seen as the origin of the "processsive worldview," where God unfolds His purposes to effect its end along with our human response.This transition of thought empowers individuals who are free to shape their unique destinies, and who experience the consequences of those individual choices.

Unlike other writers, Mr. Cahill does not hide behind mind-numbing posturing.Instead, he capably unfolds his thoughts in an engaging narrative that leaves a reader wanting even more.THE GIFTS OF THE JEWS is a fine book, one worthy of examination and reflection.

5-0 out of 5 stars The shared gift of our common humanity
If I could I would personally thank Thomas Cahill for writing this book. Like Paul Johnson, Conor Cruise O'Brien ,the late James Parkes, and a very long list of others he is one of those non- Jewish , in this case Christian writers, who show a deep understanding and appreciation of the Jewish people's contribution to humanity.
I write this now with special feeling because the world recently has seen a rise in anti-Jewish feeling( admittedly more from the Islamic than from the Christian world) which so deeply distresses as it comes a little more than half a century after over one- third of the Jewish people were murdered simply because they were Jewish.
And here I think I come to one of the gifts of the Jews spoken about in the book. While the emphasis in the work is on the Jewish gifts of Monotheism, of deepening appreciation of human individuality, of understanding History as a progressive redemptive story ( and not a hopeless cyclical repetition) of social justice, I want to here focus one quality the Jews stressed.
It is the quality of being merciful and compassionate. And it is the commandment which of all commandments is repeated most in the Bible i.e. the commandment to be just and compassionate to the stranger because you were strangers in Egypt. And here it is important to note that the signature of the Jewish people, the name of founding father is Abraham ( in Hebrew Av-Rachum Merciful Father). And that this quality of mercy and consideration of valuing each and every human being as a special creation of God is the major idea the Jewish Tradition teaches Mankind should hold dear.
I know there is criticism of this book along the lines that the Egyptians alsohad some idea of Monotheism, and that the Greeks certainly( though their formative period came later) had an idea of 'individuality'. But it seems to me that the question is not one of taking credit or blame .
It seems to me rather that there are fundamental values which all of Mankind should share, and that one basic one is respecting the dignity and divine essence of every individual. I think that Cahill presents a convincing argument that the people of Israel helped make this contribution to Mankind.
It seems to me in this that the gift of the Jews, the greatest gift, the idea of a moral and loving God Who cares for each and every human being, and Who demands of them a walking in the way of mercy and justice is in this sense perhaps best spoken of not so much as a 'gift of the Jews' but as a gift of God to Humanity in which the Jews served as messenger of.

2-0 out of 5 stars Gee-Whiz!
Much of this book is a rehash of Sumerian legend from Gilgamesh and biblical stories from Genesis and Exodus, without getting into the unique characteristics of the Jews that made them so important to present civilization.Eventually he does get into the subject, but in such a peripheral way that he seems to be straining to try to make his argument.He should have concentrated more on those aspects of Judaism that have truly shaped the west (and he says the undeveloped world also, but that seems to be a real stretch) rather than try to show us that he has read the Old Testament and various versions of Gilgamesh.There is much less to this book than would appear,and his gee-whiz style starts to grate on the reader, at least on this reader.

4-0 out of 5 stars A Unique View
In "The Gift Of The Jews", Thomas Cahill advances the theory that the Jews introduced unique world views.In his view the Jews, unlike antecedent societies, viewed history as progressive, not cyclical.The Jews recognized the worth of each individual rather than seeing people only as members of a group.The Jews see human action as making a difference, rather than being the results of unalterable fate.The Jews see God as a person who talks with His people and who invites them to have a personal relationship with Him.

Cahill makes his case by telling the history of the Jews as told in the Old Testament, from the call of Abraham to the return form the Babylonian Captivity.Through his selection of Biblical stories he demonstrates the evolution of the Jewish world view over the millennia.

This book's depiction of the evolution of the Jewish understanding of God and man's relationship to Him makes for a very interesting read.It is generally consistent with what I had learned in collegiate scripture classes.

From the perspective of an analysis of development of Jewish thought as reflected in the Bible, it is very good.My only question is whether the insights identified as being Jewish are truly unique.Cahill says yes, but I lack the knowledge to form an independent judgment.Overall, it is a fascinating book concluding with challenging questions for all readers.

5-0 out of 5 stars well-written, enjoyable read, even if you disagree...
PERSPECTIVE:theologically interested reader, unfamiliar with Cahill's work

The Gifts of the Jews is a wonderfully written exploration of the pivotal role the Jewish people have played in the shaping of our modern perceptions and life, irregardless of faith.Cahill brings extensive theological and historical training to bear, and goes to great lengths, including travelling the world, to do research for his chosen topic.His thesis, as he calls it, is that the Jewish people were the first to break out of the "cyclic boredom" of ancient world views.Through their culture, beliefs, and history, they have given the entire modern world crucial "gifts" of individuality, prospective thinking, freedom, justice, and many more.To illustrate this, he uses a wide variety of historical documents, texts, and commentaries, including several translations of the Hebrew Bible, and weaves them together with a style that is remarkably eloquent, delightfully funny, and impressively accessible.

Whatever your religious or political beliefs, this thought- (and spirit-, if you are so inclined) provoking novel worth a read.Although it is, at its heart, an academic treatise, and as such is eminently open for debate, as exemplified by the many editorial discussions - with much heated agreement and dissention - it is important to note that it is easily enjoyable on a different level.

FINAL WORD:Read this book!Buy it, check it out from the library, or buy it and donate it to your local library. ... Read more


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