Saturday, January 22, 2011

Book Reviews

I haven't been good at posting reviews of some books I've been reading, so here goes...

The Day Lincoln Was Shot details...well, it details the day Lincoln was shot. I've read at least 3, maybe 4, books that document Lincoln's last day to some extent. Lincoln is one of the last casualties of the Civil War so it's fitting for any book on the subject to touch upon this American tragedy. The Day takes more of a linear approach to the subject and literally separates each hour of April 14/15 into its own chapter. This type of writing is a bit too bland at times, but for an event such as this, it seems to work nicely. Though, April 1865, Manhunt or best yet, Dorris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals seem to outline the president's final hours more efficiently and are by far better reads. These books were also written within the last half decade so they have an edge on The Day, which was written over a half century ago. All that said, it was a good read. 

I then picked up American Lion, a book on Andrew Jackson's presidency. I was reading this book last winter, but I lost my hardcover on a plane one day and I never picked up another one. I loved Jon Meacham's Franklin and Winston, so I thought Lion would be just as good. Jackson was the first self-made man who became president (think non-Adams, Jefferson-esque); essentially, the first blue-collar president. An orphaned, whiskey-drinking, card-playing vagabond, Jackson had fought Indians on the frontier, led the fabled resistance of the British at the Battle of New Orleans in 1814 and survived more than his fair share of pistol duels (one of which left a ball of lead forever in his side). Some of these are incredible attributes when comparing yourself amongst other men (cockatiel breeder, clown). However, I had to put the book down. The biography spent too much time on the minutia of Jackson's presidency, primarily the gossip surrounding a certain cabinet member's promiscuous wife. Who cares. Seriously, who gives a shit. Enough already. I found I was forcing myself to read the book each day. Since I'm a grown-up and didn't NEED to read the book for a school assignment, I ditched it. 

For Christmas, I received Bush's autobiography Decision Points. Like him or not, we spent 8 years with the man and a lot of stuff happened during that time. The 2000 election was the first election I was able to vote in so Bush (less so Clinton) was really the first president I followed day in and day out for almost an entire decade. The book highlights the more important decisions he had to make during his time in the Oval Office and less so during his tenure as Texas Governor including, but not limited to: Sept 11, Katrina, Afghanistan, AIDS in Africa, Iraq, The Surge, Social Security and the Financial Crisis. The book is well written and it's an easy ready. Bush is quite candid and mainly uses the book as a platform to explain why he did what he did. There is a touch of arrogance at times, but that is combated other times with self-deprecation. There are also more than a few LOL moments throughout the memoir. The book hammers away how religion guides/comforts Bush through the various ups and downs (and there were a lot) of his presidency +. He also does a fairly good job of explaining how/why he came to his various decisions. Throughout the book, Bush "outs" the opinions of others in his administration and provides brutally honest opinion on other world leaders.

In the end, a lot of people won't want to read this book, because they've already determined their opinions on the author, but I, personally, think this is a fair read and a good read if you're a political wonk. 

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