Books related at the Presidents - not biographies
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One that comes immediately to mind was a book I read this year The Worst Hard Time which was ostensibly about the Great Dust Bowl during the Great Depression, but gave a good explanation of the role FDR played in many of the programs that were tried by the government to solve the problem.
But I am going to put it on my list to keep an I out.
I listened to this as an audio book, so that may have colored my reaction somewhat, but I found this book a little slow. Through 13 CDs, Macmillan describes in great detail Nixon's trip to China in February 1972. She also spends some time talking about the historical events leading up to the visit. But I wanted to know more about how Nixon's visit impacted US-China relations after the visit. I wanted to know more about how that week changed the world that we live in today. I'm planning to read more about China in 2009, so hopefully I'll find other books that cover that issue in more detail.
Don't forget to mark the Nixon thread that you and Lisamorr are ahead of the rest of us for Nixon. I can't believe how much we've already done!
I just love our little group!
But I've just finished one that some of you might like - The Best Year of their Lives: Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon in 1948 by Lance Morrow. It had lots of discussion about the early lives of the 3 men. He goes off on a few too many tangents for my liking, but it was still a good read.
Am off to read the other threads here and NOt buy any more books!
I figure three or four pages is about right for a "President for a Day"
You're not falling behind...there's 4 years to go.
What are you going to read for George Washington?
Sarah Vowell, whose voice is unbearably whiny in those pieces she does on This American Life, has written some interesting books on US history. Assassination Vacation describes her visits to sites associated with presidential assassinations (and assassination attempts). A fascinating book if you are the type of person whose car stops at all historic markers, no matter how obscure.
Probably the most interesting topic in the book: Robert Todd Lincoln apparently had some sinister affinity for death. He was present at the assassinations of Garfield and McKinley, and was in the area at the time of the attempted assassination of Teddy Roosevelt during the 1912 "Bull Moose" campaign. Also, Robert Lincoln once fell off the platform in a train station, and was rescued by Edwin Booth, who was the older brother of John Wilkes Booth, and one of the most famous Shakespearean actors of his day.
This got me to thinking that a book about Air Force One and its history would make for interesting reading. Has anyone read anything like this?
This one sounds interesting, for instance:
Air Force One: The Aircraft that Shaped the Modern Presidency by Von Hardesty, as does this one--Air Force One: A History of the Presidents and Their Planes by Kenneth T. Walsh.
Second Acts: Presidential Lives and Legacies After the White House by Mark K. Updegrove
#25: I like the idea of reading something about Air Force One - I'm definitely gonna check those books out.
Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin. There are so many books about Lincoln that you would think there isn't room for one more. Well, I can say that this one is superb. It's not a biography of Lincoln, but instead focuses on the members of his contentious Cabinet, especially Salmon Chase, William Seward, and Edward Bates. These three were Lincoln's rivals for the 1860 Republican nomination. But Lincoln deliberately chose for his Cabinet other men whose views were hardly those of the Republicans, whether conservative or radical (and Chase was definitely a Radical). Goodwin does an absolutely outstanding jog of showing Lincoln as a political genius whose compassion, kindness and integrity combined with his ability to manipulate politicians at a time of the greatest danger to the country to make him the finest President the US has ever known.
The book is massive--754 pages--but reads like a novel. In fact, better than most novels.
I have an unrelated question: How do we count books that cover only a portion of a president's life? For instance River of Doubt is about an expedition TR took with son Kermit and others down a river after his presidency, but just isn't a traditional biography covering early years to death or even a discussion on his presidency. Can I count this for TR?
otoh, I read an Eisenhower biography that did cover his entire life, though it spent only about 50 pages on his presidency. I am counting that one.
You decide if the book you read told you enough of what you wanted to learn about that particular president.
For instance, I am reading Thomas Jefferson. I finished two books but I still had questions. If I had been satisfied with the first (it only covered the election of 1800), that would have been all and I would have moved on but I wanted to learn more so I pressed on. Next I read about his writings and philosophies. No still not finished. I am currently reading biography (didn't have much on the early years but seems t have more), so now I'm on a third book and have a fourth one waiting.
If you feel that you are finished with TR, in essence found out as much as you need to know, then check him off the list, the only rule here is no fiction.
Hope that helps!
Anyway, there is a new release on this post-presidential careers topic. I haven't read it yet but expect I will fairly soon. It's Citizen-in-Chief: The Second Lives of the American Presidents by Leonard Benardo and Jennifer Weiss.
What makes Citizens-in-Chief different from Second Acts, I believe, is that it goes back and talks about most or all post-presidential careers. If I recall correctly, Second Acts focused only on post-presidential careers from Truman on.
Personally, I think this is an interesting topic because most biographies I've seen spend the bulk of their time on how someone got to be president and what he did once he got there, spending very little time on what he did afterwards.
(I realize this will count towards my category challenge but not here but that's ok.)
But I might just join your group... I've been lurking till now but you're reading some great books.
Update - Just posted my review. What a couple of guys. I'm sure it's mentioned elsewhere that they both checked out on the same day July 4, 1826.
There's a lot of interesting information about how the Secret Service operates and the author also "dishes the dirt" on recent presidents, starting with JFK, as well as some of their family members.
For instance, Carter was the meanest toward the hired help, refusing to let them speak unless spoken to first.
I've also got a memoir by a Secret Service agent, Joseph Petro, called Standing Next to History: An Agent's Life Inside the Secret Service. This other one might make for a good follow-up.
One particular comparison I've found to be striking so far:
while Democratic presidents have a MUCH better track record than Republicans in pretty much every permutation, Congressional control had almost none - except in those years when control was shared, during which the economy deteriorated.
Presimetrics: What the Facts Tell Us About How the Presidents Measure Up On the Issues We Care About by Mike Kimel and Michael E. Kanell ***** 11/9/10
The publisher's description is what led me to read this book: Politicians and the media spend a lot of time telling Americans how the presidents and their administrations are performing, but this analysis always skews along party lines. In Presimetrics, Kimel and Kanell take a fresh look at modern politics by gathering data from numerous government sources in order to compare and rank presidential performance on critical issues, from employment and health care to taxes and family values. The results frequently defy expectations. I'm delighted to say the book fulfills its billing.
Published in 2010, the analysis covers the administrations of Eisenhower to George W. Bush, with brief inclusions of earlier presidents where there is sufficient data. It takes into account all sorts of possible arguments about what the results show and recalculates the results to take those points into account. For instance, tables might show what occurred during a President's tenure, and then what occurred during it without counting the first year. And yes, the results do defy expectations and party propaganda. It appears things aren't quite as bad when the other guys are in control as might be advertised (and not quite as good when one's own party is in power).
Topics include: Real GDP (gross domestic product) per Capita; Fiscal Responsibility; Debt (What the Real GDP Leave Out); Employment; Income and Wealth; Republican Issues; Taxes; Democratic Issues; Health Care; Crime; The Public Mood; Family Values; Investing in the Future (infrastructure). A conclusion brings it all together and gives an overall ranking of the presidents of the last 60 years based on how they scored in each of the topics mentioned above.
Congress is briefly examined, with the interesting result that the economy usually does OK if one party holds both houses, but with mixed control of the House and Senate, not so much.
There is also an eye-opening appendix on the budget of the Executive Office of the President, which includes all those "supplemental appropriations". From 1962-2000, the annualized spending by the EOP as a % of total federal spending ranged from -4% (Reagan) to +4% (Bush Sr. and Nixon/Ford), with the Democrats ranging in between. Under GW it was 31%.
The authors work in economics and statistics. There is also an associated blog: http://www.presimetrics.com/blog/
Humor, readable explanations, and numerous charts make this accessible and enjoyable to the general reader. For those wishing to judge the sources for themselves, there is a long section of annotated footnotes, and there is a detailed index.
(ETA last paragraph)
Somewhat hi brow, repetitious, scary and boring for me.
Hi brow - because the writer got too intellectual for most of the book; intellectual in his choice of language and syntax such that I found it hard to stay focused on most of what he had to say.
Repetitious - in that I found myself able to go away from the book while it was still being read and come back a few minutes later to find it appeared not to have moved along at all.
Scary - in that I found myself disgusted with the early Americans who had been quoted and with their "me-me, I-I" systems of logic that excluded anything that was not about them as individuals or that might impinge on their own pursuits of happiness, and, because the author believes that much of what is accepted as "the American culture" is derived from a romanticized, manufactured biography (version 9) of George Washington by one Mason L. Weems.
Boring - because of the repetitiveness I think I noted and for the large number of words used before coming to any sort of conclusion.
The book wasn't for me. I prefer to think better of Americans than they were, and are, portrayed here. Of course, I could be wrong and he could be right. Shudder the thought.
This is written proof that politics engenders dishonesty and that the cream does not always rise to the top. It is a factual (most likely) and pedestrian presentation of how each of our presidential candidates were nominated for election through the party convention process from 1868 when Thomas H. Seymour faced U. S. Grant, through to the 1960 process when John F. Kennedy faced off against Richard M. Nixon.
It took me a long while to get through the book because my wife "tidied up" and we didn't find it for some time and then I found I could only concentrate on the information in small doses. However, although it made me wonder how we humans could allow such anger and confusion to permeate such and important process, I did find it fascinating.
I gave the book 3 stars but I do recommend it be checked out from time to time just to remind ourselves how stupid we can be.
A collection, or presentation, of some of the debacles of American politics which the author/s attributes to the President of the time in each case:
The Whiskey Rebellion;
the Alien and Sedition Acts;
the Embargo Acts;
the War of 1812;
the Trail of Tears;
Repeal of the Missouri Compromise;
the Attempt to Annex Santo Domingo;
the Pullman Strike;
"A Splendid Little War" with Spain;
the Punitive Expedition Into Mexico;
the Bonus Army;
the Internment of Japanese Americans an World War II;
the Bay of Pigs Invasion;
the Tonkin Gulf Resolution;
the Bombing of Cambodia;
the Iranian Hostage Crisis;
Energy Crisis and "Malaise";
the Iran-Contra Affair; and
War in Iraq.
Yes, presidential fingers were all over these historical events but, as usual for me, I was disgusted with the behavior of our white immigrant communities and their media outlets. I wish I could get away from that assessment but I am continually embarrassed by what goes on here and would back away from my "Naturalization" but for family.