I read many biographies and this is, without question, the greatest biography I've yet read. David McCullough not only tells story of the "Man from Mi...moreI read many biographies and this is, without question, the greatest biography I've yet read. David McCullough not only tells story of the "Man from Missouri" but also of an era when America came of age as a global power. This is truly biography on a grand scale.
One final note... Don't let the 1,000 pages deter you from reading the book. McCullough is a master storyteller. In his gifted hands, the pages truly fly by.(less)
Without question, this is one of the best historical novels I have ever read. It is certainly the most ingenious historical novel I have come across....moreWithout question, this is one of the best historical novels I have ever read. It is certainly the most ingenious historical novel I have come across. I cannot recommend this novel enough.(less)
This is a must-read for any political junkie. But, all political junkies and history buffs need to be warned…'Game Change' lacks the literary elegance...moreThis is a must-read for any political junkie. But, all political junkies and history buffs need to be warned…'Game Change' lacks the literary elegance of Theodore White's magisterial 'The Making of the President' series. White's series is simply in a class apart from all other campaign books. White was a romantic, reverential in his assessments. ‘Game Change’ is far from romantic; its tone is far from reverential. And this is what makes 'Game Change' the strongest campaign book to emerge since the White series. Teddy White gave readers the view from 10,000 feet. ‘Game Change’ authors John Heilemann and Mark Halperin give you the view from the fly on the wall. The result is a book that is rich in authenticity, unsurpassed in scope and intimate (almost too intimate at times) in detail.
To achieve this, authors John Heilemann and Mark Halperin employ the controversial technique of piecing together what conversations may have been like between key players. The authors don't use quotation marks for these conversations thereby differentiating them from directly attributed and properly cited conversations. While sticklers for absolute accuracy criticize the technique (and with good merit), it does bring the reader closer to the action. It puts the reader in the room and in the mind of the key players -- candidates, candidates' spouses, campaign operatives, observers. For this reason alone, 'Game Change' is a modern classic. It provides readers an unvarnished look at the state of modern American politics. The picture that emerges is far from pretty but it makes for riveting reading. (less)
This dual political biography is an enjoyable, engaging and fascinating look at the Cold War through the parallel lives of two of its central actors....moreThis dual political biography is an enjoyable, engaging and fascinating look at the Cold War through the parallel lives of two of its central actors. A must read for anyone interested in the Cold War, American foreign policy and 20th century American history. (less)
I almost exclusively read non-fiction with the occasional novel thrown in for good measure. Jeffrey Archer and John Grisham provide intermittent diver...moreI almost exclusively read non-fiction with the occasional novel thrown in for good measure. Jeffrey Archer and John Grisham provide intermittent diversions from history and biography. Daniel Silva now joins them. And he easily surpasses them.
Silva spins an entertaining, page-turning tale. Many authors are great storytellers but not exceptional writers. Silva is both. "The Defector" is my first Silva novel. It definitely won't be my last.
I read John Sawatsky's biography of former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney (Mulroney: The Politics of Ambition) and found it to be one of the b...moreI read John Sawatsky's biography of former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney (Mulroney: The Politics of Ambition) and found it to be one of the best political biographies I have ever read. Sawatsky is one of those gifted non-fiction writers who could make the phone book into a gripping read. Impressed by his you-are-a-fly-on-the-wall writing style, I searched for other books he authored and when I came across 'The Insiders' I snatched it up.
Too many Americans are ignorant about our northern neighbor. Canada has rich and storied history and it's politics are anything but dull. Canadian politics combines the winner-take-all-at-all-costs instinct of American politics with the backroom machinations of the British parliamentary system. Throw in the French-Canadian dynamic with its tension between two distinct cultures and two languages and you have a political soup that is always threatening to boil over.
Now I will grant you that this book is only for dyed-in-the-wool political junkie, but I did find it to be an enlightening and entertaining read about the role lobbyists play in democracy. Years behind their counterparts in the United States, early Canadian lobbyists were mercenaries for hire. The revolving door constantly spun as they shuffled in and out office, maximizing their connections to gain personal profit. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s the influence of lobbying continued to expand at a rapid clip while self-imposed ethical standards were able to hold up. This balance unraveled with the Mulroney era where a gold rush mentality took hold of Ottawa, resulting in scandal, bribery and, ultimately, reform.
Sawatsky takes you inside the minds and motives of key political players who capitalized on their experience and access by creating the lobbying industry in Canada. Biographies of these key players, along with detailed descriptions of what prime ministers Trudeau, Clark, Turner and Mulroney were like behind closed doors, makes this book an engrossing read for the student devoted to the study of power politics or the relationship between government and business.
I strongly recommend this book if you have a familiarity with Canadian politics. Track it down if you can. It's well-worth the read. Just be prepared to get the strangest looks from friends (and, yes, even your spouse) when they see what you are reading.
Any self-respecting political junkie has read at least one edition of Theodore White’s classic “Making of the President” series (covering the 1960, 19...moreAny self-respecting political junkie has read at least one edition of Theodore White’s classic “Making of the President” series (covering the 1960, 1964, 1968, 1972 quadrennial contests). White broke new ground in his coverage of the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon clash and, in doing so, created a whole new genre. White’s work is rightfully considered the gold standard in presidential campaign histories with a grandiose style, elegant writing that sometimes veered towards hyperbole, fashioned to capture the epic, even when the campaigns (Johnson-Goldwater in 1964; Nixon-McGovern in 1972) weren’t really that epic at all.
Few have matched White, although many have tried. Jules Witcover was the first to challenge for the role of White’s successor in 1976 with “Marathon: The Pursuit of the Presidency, 1972-1976”. While lacking White’s eloquence, Witcover more than made up for in an engaging, easy – sometimes breezy – style that put you in the center of action in the 1976 campaign.
About eighty percent of the book covers the primary contests, which saw Jimmy Carter’s emergence out of nowhere to the shock – and dismay – of many in the Democratic establishment and Ronald Reagan’s bitter fight with Gerald Ford, which almost overturned the Republican order. The chapters provide a veritable “who’s who” list of the men (they were still all men) who came to dominate the political backrooms and work in the corridors of power for years to come: a young up-and-coming Dick Cheney, an overly ambitious George H.W. Bush, a partisan fire-breathing Bob Dole, the sly and smooth Jim Baker.
The real story about America’s Bicentennial campaign, as Witcover adroitly captures, is not that Jimmy Carter won but that Gerald Ford almost pulled off the greatest upset in American history. As political junkies know, Carter was nominated solely on his image as an outsider. In post-Watergate America Carter’s brand was golden; but because he never articulated a clear vision, his support was no more than a mile-wide. This was made manifestly clear in the fall campaign when Carter discovered that among key Democratic constituencies his support was only an inch-deep. By election night, the race was so close that if slightly more than 9,500 (!) votes had switched in Hawaii or Ohio, Ford would have won the presidency in his own right.
President Ford was down by 33 points in the Gallup poll after the Democratic convention. Ford’s comeback can be attributed entirely to a beautifully orchestrated media campaign that utilized tough negative ads (negative by 1976 standards; pale by today’s standards) that raised serious questions about Carter’s trustworthiness, emphasized his ordinary American appeal, offered a compelling only-in-America life story, and carefully laid out the narrative of how he responded to the aftermath of the unprecedented Watergate crisis and was dealing head-on with a sluggish economy that was passed on to him by his much-despised successor, Richard Nixon. For his part, Carter was plagued by gaffes and hindered by an awkward campaign style that left many Americans uneasy. (I read this in the summer of the 2012 presidential race; I must admit some of what I read was eerily similar to what we were seeing unfold between President Obama and Mitt Romney. The more things change…well you know the rest.)
Ironically, I finished reading “Marathon” on the evening of August 8 – exactly 38 years to the day that Richard Nixon announced his resignation. Nixon’s shadow dominated the 1976 contest. But for Watergate, Jimmy Carter never would have had a chance. And if it were not for his personally courageous but politically terrible pardon of Nixon, Ford may have won. Residual anger over that pardon, coupled with an unfortunate gaffe in the second presidential debate, likely cost Ford the election. (On a personal note, as a history buff I must say that America definitely got it wrong in 1976. We should have kept Ford.)
“Marathon” is nothing like any of the “Making of the President” books. And I find this to be one of its chief strengths. While of the same genre, Witcover didn’t try to copy White; he simply followed the same format in his own style as a shoe-leather political reporter. Despite his liberal leanings, Witcover worked his sources over late-night cocktails, was enthralled by the game but never became enthralled by the players (very much unlike White) and because of this was able to offer a fairly dispassionate, fair account of the contest. Witcover has delivered one of the best campaign chronicles ever and one that should not be overlooked by political animals. (less)
This is one of the best biographies I have ever read. If you enjoy biographies and/or American political history, then do not miss this book. Highly r...moreThis is one of the best biographies I have ever read. If you enjoy biographies and/or American political history, then do not miss this book. Highly recommended! (less)