The Death of the President is a rich, deep full body emersion into a very specific two week window surrounding Kennedy’s assassination. Manchester wasThe Death of the President is a rich, deep full body emersion into a very specific two week window surrounding Kennedy’s assassination. Manchester was the authorized biographer and as such he was granted incredible early access to the full cast of family, politico and personal friends. He also had the doggedness to track down, time stamp, cross check and personally attempt to experience every living detail.
The amount of reference material (pre-google) that Manchester must have digested is just staggering. I read that he conducted over 1,000 in depth interviews. I can just imagine his rapid fire and relentless questions... And then what happened?...And immediately after that?... Who was on your far left?... Do you remember the song that was playing?...What shoes were you wearing that day? One famous selection suspends time and space and thin slices the exact moment of the President's Death. We are treated to a snap shot in time across the entire globe answering the bonding question of the decade, "Where were you when the President was shot?"
What makes this book a classic and a national treasure is not the long yarn but the tight weave. When Manchester consumed all he could, he became as close to omniscient as any man might be. With that amazing perception and awareness as background material, he then crafted his story. Manchester is of course famous (or infamous) for his outrageous detail, but he is equally gifted at editing and scripting riveting dialog. Additionally, his emotional insight and analogies are as fresh today as they were when he first wrote them in 1963. He brings his characters into vivid focus, reporting not just their actions, but their emotional intent (or heart felt reservation). An interesting side note - the Kennedy's who first authorized the unvarnished story, recanted Manchester's effort and stone walled the final draft in court. Manchester was clearly a fan of the family, but it did not stop him from reporting the painful and revealing truth. Perhaps he did too good a job?
If you ever wondered what it would be like to live in the early 60’s, running among the Kennedys, this book will take you there. At the time of JFK’s death, I was a chubby little one year old and my Dad was thirty. Somehow I feel like I know my Pop a little better after consuming this 50 year old epic. A gift from Mr. Manchester....more
I fast tracked this book to the top of my reading list as soon as I added it. And I read it with boyhood lust. Magic and super star fame, danger, theI fast tracked this book to the top of my reading list as soon as I added it. And I read it with boyhood lust. Magic and super star fame, danger, the globe trotting circuit, physical and mental feats, deceit of all kinds, international spying, paranormal communication... What is not to love about this book to a boy at heart?! My passion for the subject aside, it was a rather typical biography with a fair amount of hero worship puffing up each chapter. Still, a fun read for me. It clips along just fine. Three stars, no less, no more and poof it's gone. 11/19/07...more
Warning: this review is going to take an initial side step, as I first post a quick confession. I attempted to read this book in 2008 and somewhere wiWarning: this review is going to take an initial side step, as I first post a quick confession. I attempted to read this book in 2008 and somewhere within the first two or three chapters I just gave up on it. More recently, I have read several positive reviews and I have decided that my first, flinched reaction might have been caused by the old “kick-the-dog” effect. Out of displaced anger, I often vicariously kick the ass of an unfortunate book. I’ll wrongly declare and pathetically whine, “...this book was just too hard for me” or simply, “...this book sucks!” Did it really suck? I don’t know, I jumped too early! Once I banish a book in a fit or in a funk, I rarely take it back. Einstien is an exception. This time around, I chose to listen to the unabridged audiobook and I’m sure glad I did. I doubt very much that I would have had the tenacity to physically skim through the cornerstones of quantum mechanics and general relativity that Einstien (and Isaacson) so clearly laid before us. As an audio book, Edward Herman (an exceptional orator) diligently marches on allowing the listener to painlessly phase out and phase back in to catch up with Einstein’s next big life event. Issaacson’s biography presents a colorful personal portrait of a true genius that changed mankind’s understanding of the universe. Outside of Einstein brilliant mind and early accomplishment, he was just like the best and the worst of us. This was a fine book, but I must confess, if I physically read it, I would have whined about it. Whiny readers be warned!...more
What a juicy topic, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemingses notorious slave love affair. However, Reed’s approach is far from juicy, it is a dry, clinicaWhat a juicy topic, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemingses notorious slave love affair. However, Reed’s approach is far from juicy, it is a dry, clinical dissecting of the union. To her credit, she expands on the couple to include and analyze American slavery in the 1800’s and all it’s social, political and economic implications. Reed impressively rebuilt the mindset and lifestyle of 1800 Virginian and Parisian societies. She supported it all with dogged cross reference facts from a mired of sources. With regard to Jefferson and Hemingses, Reed had to resort to second hand references because their entire 30 year relationship was absent or expunged from the majority of written records. Although Reed can be commended for her exhaustive research, her equally exhaustive descriptions were needlessly overwritten. In addition, she often doubles backs on a favorite topic repeating similar facts and drawing identical conclusions. A great editor could have slimmed this book by a third. I stayed with the story, but throughout Reed just kept the torrent of big words coming. 3 stars, great subject, poor editing. ...more
Isaacson’s in-depth biography offers a truly intimate portrait of an American legend ...warts and all. His book accurately reflect both Franklin’s actIsaacson’s in-depth biography offers a truly intimate portrait of an American legend ...warts and all. His book accurately reflect both Franklin’s actions and projects his motivations. Early in Franklin’s career he strived to create a better community by founding civic organizations and reflecting the common man’s views through his writing and newspaper. By the end of his long life his civic ideas had been transformed into the American Revolution battle cry. His diplomacy and personal style were critical to our independence. The right man at the right time, God Bless America. (07/03) ...more
Every book Simon Winchester writes I’ll read. He is my favorite nerdy writer and I’m charmed by his technique, intelligence and his prigish dry wit. IEvery book Simon Winchester writes I’ll read. He is my favorite nerdy writer and I’m charmed by his technique, intelligence and his prigish dry wit. I also love his impeccable proper English. His active use of an expanded vocabulary challenges the mundane, not to mention a challenge to my own limited vocabulary. China was a little lighter than his earliest pursuit, not quite the manic deep dive expressed in, “The Professor and the Madman.” Winchester continues to highlight obscure (and quirky) scientists and scholars from our past. Powerful historical men with very little modern day recognition but they made huge contributions toward modern day science and society. 5 stars....more
An excellent contemporary biography smartly delivering a layman’s understanding of Darwin’s life long pursuit and struggle to fully commit to his thesAn excellent contemporary biography smartly delivering a layman’s understanding of Darwin’s life long pursuit and struggle to fully commit to his thesis Natural Selection and The Origin of Man. He sat and stewed over the publishing of the papers for close to 20 years. He spent two decades intricately preparing a defense for his radical ideas against the expected backlash of the Victorian age of creationism. Quannen’s writing style features robust character development salted with a little modern sarcasm (what a surprising mix for a science book). Just when you think Quannen’s chapter on crustations was getting a little... well ... crusty, Quannen makes a lightly humorous side slight and wraps it up. I’ll keep reading this guy. 10/25/07...more
An awesome set of audio books. Beshloss does all the setup and color commentary between the actual taped recordings of President Johnson. Johnson hadAn awesome set of audio books. Beshloss does all the setup and color commentary between the actual taped recordings of President Johnson. Johnson had all his phones taped, the oval office, his private lines, the coffee table, the situation room. Beshloss screens the previously sealed archived collection and hand picks critical and sometimes comical sound-bites from throughout Johnson’s ruckus first presidency. It is just an astounding effort. We’ll never again have taped access to the intimate running of the White House as we do in this collection (thanks to the Nixon Tape snafu). Lady Bird is there in full glory, Martin Luther King and the Southern black movement. Jacq, Jack and Ted Kennedy jockey for position in the wake of John’s death. Mac’s Vietnam is contemplated, launched and promptly mismanaged. The list goes on and on. It will change your vantage of Johnson to the positive. Powerful stuff. ...more
The second installment completing a remarkable presidential life captured with equal parts — vigor and style. The only way to properly frame RooseveltThe second installment completing a remarkable presidential life captured with equal parts — vigor and style. The only way to properly frame Roosevelt’s presidency is to include, in sharp focus, the young industrial nation and the international race for naval superiority. Morris paints a brilliant book with fine detail and reflective commentary. Roosevelt was a legendary president like no other....more