I have read and enjoyed all of Gladwell's books so far and this was no exception. Each essay is the perfect length and introduced something new to me....moreI have read and enjoyed all of Gladwell's books so far and this was no exception. Each essay is the perfect length and introduced something new to me. Gladwell is a fascinating storyteller and knows well how to keep a reader hooked until the last page.(less)
Summary: This is a look at roughly 1965-1972 focusing primarily on Nixon but bringing in the other political figures of the time and the cultural revo...moreSummary: This is a look at roughly 1965-1972 focusing primarily on Nixon but bringing in the other political figures of the time and the cultural revolution to examine the landscape of American politics that exists even today in what Perlstein calls Nixonland.
(Warning: partisan political thoughts ahead)
I don't think this is so much a review as it is me just talking about the random thoughts that ran through my mind while reading this.
First, a joke: How could you tell when Richard Nixon was lying? His mouth was moving.
Now I actually somewhat like Nixon but, especially, as 1972 approaches that is just so true. He was resentful, paranoid, and IMO approaching crazy (he seems to have believed that America would end if he wasn't reelected). His team sabotages the various Democratic candidates and plays political games with American lives in Vietnam. He exploited and injected anger and resentments as his main tactic for elections.
I liked Nixon as someone who wasn't good-looking, didn't give the best speeches, wasn't privileged unlike some other presidents who I don't feel were particularly qualified (*coughKennedyReagancough*) but got the job anyway. He had to work hard and accept cruddy jobs as the attacker for Ike or a punching bag for the Republicans.
I don't like Nixon as someone who convinces middle-class whites that they are oppressed (um what?) and takes advantage of our worse selves. I, naive little me, prefer the uplifting candidate who makes me want to be better. I don't like that he surrounded himself with creeps; I was going to say crooks but I felt the former word worked better ;-) I don't like how he seemed to think that Nixon=America or how his team put the message out that disagreeing with the president was hurtful to America (Hmm, familiar?) I don't like his shifting "principles" (not entirely sure he had any)
One quote that particularly struck me was on page 47 (of the hardback): "The DNC was right: an amazingly large segment of the population disliked and mistrusted Richard Nixon instinctively. What they did not acknowledge was that an amazingly large segment of the population also trusted him as their savior." Basically you can substitute Obama or Palin for Nixon and you've got 2008. Similarly the last page talks about how "Nixon left behind the very terms of our national self-image: a notion that there are two kinds of Americans." It's been 30/40 years and we still interact in the terms laid out by Nixon.
One thing I didn't like about this book was Perlstein's repeated use of the phrase "slow, soiling humiliation." You know how some people hate the word moist? That's what this phrase did me, especially because it was used so frequently about Nixon. This book also turned me on John Wayne; I've never been a big fan of westerns (there usually aren't any female characters) but I've tried to watch some since he was the biggest movie star in America but now I don't feel guilty that I don't like his stupid movies and I'm going to avoid watching any more.
I finished Nixonland, which I'm rating a 3.5 because it was awfully long and sometimes boring but it was on my FITG list so I wanted to finish it.(less)
This is a great book for people who can only name maybe a handful of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, which I suspect is 99% of America...moreThis is a great book for people who can only name maybe a handful of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, which I suspect is 99% of Americans including myself. We get brief breezy biographies of all of the signers, showing how he moved toward independence and what happened for him afterward. A great non-fiction book to be read in short sections.(less)
I've always liked Polk (mostly for choosing to serve just one term and accomplishing the four goals he had laid out for his term) but I didn't know th...moreI've always liked Polk (mostly for choosing to serve just one term and accomplishing the four goals he had laid out for his term) but I didn't know that much about him. This book helped rectify that.(less)
This book is taking a closer look at the personal lives of the six most famous founding fathers, in particular their relationships to their wives and...moreThis book is taking a closer look at the personal lives of the six most famous founding fathers, in particular their relationships to their wives and other important women in their lives. I'm not sure why the order of the sections is as it is (I think it should have started with Franklin as the oldest rather than Washington).
1. George Washington: it addresses the rumors of an affair with his friend's wife Sally Fairfax but concludes that GW was very happy with Martha. It was interesting to see how they welcomed all of their assorted relatives to their home and how she worked to maintain a pleasant home for him.
2. Benjamin Franklin: was married by common-law to Deborah (who was actually officially married to another man who had abandoned her) but during his time in London seemed to acquire another woman who acted as wife. I knew Franklin wasn't exactly big on propriety but I didn't realize the full extent of it. I also tend to think of him as an old, gout-ridden man so it was eye-opening to read about his younger self.
3. John Adams: I've always been fond of the Adamses. It was heartwarming to read about her support of him especially considering the tumultous relationships of the couples before and after them in this book. She was so essential to him and they had an amazing relationship sustained over long stretches of separation.
4. Alexander Hamilton: He was a real creep to his wife Elizabeth, what with his affair and subsequent humiliation for her. But after his death she devoted herself to preserving his memory and brilliance.
5. Thomas Jefferson: I was really creeped out by his daughter Martha's devotion to him. She was one of his few remaining relatives but she seemed to want to do everything for him even to the point of alienating her husband and possibly ignoring her children. And I felt too much time was spent on Sally Hemings. At some point, someone with Jefferson DNA raped her and caused her to have children. I don't really care if it was TJ or one of his nephews (as the author claims). There was too much time spent on this speculation for my taste. I also don't really like TJ, with his hypocrisy over liberty/slavery; championing states rights; denigrating the part women should play in politics; depletion of the army/navy under his low taxes so that America was left largely undefended; his insistence on small farmers in an agrarian society (not of course that he was a small farmer) in the face of Hamilton's support for a great industrial power (who won that battle?)
6. James Madison: He had an awesome wife (Dolley!) who was probably the most helpful of all the women mentioned here to helping Madison with his political career. And then after his death, she continued to champion his memory and legacy. She also joined forces with Hamilton's widow to help create the Washington Monument. My favorite part of this though was Madison's statement even as he dies that the Union was made indissoluble; as the writer of the Constitution, it is clear that there is NO basis for secession or the breaking up of the Union. (I'm studying the Civil War this semester so these thoughts are on my mind.)
Overall: 4.5/5 Definitely recommended to those who'd like to see a different side to the Founding Fathers.(less)
Summary: An examination of notorious royal marriages from Henry and Eleanor to Henry and his six wives to Charles and Diana.
Why I Read: My mom read it...moreSummary: An examination of notorious royal marriages from Henry and Eleanor to Henry and his six wives to Charles and Diana.
Why I Read: My mom read it and passed it on to me.
My Thoughts: This is a delightfully gossipy history that is far more interesting than every other book I've been assigned to read this semester for history. I was surprised at how many of the couples were love matches! The big thing is that most of the ladies are repurposed from traditional portrayals into thinking, acting feminists in large part. I'm going to talk a little bit about most of the couples mentioned:
Eleanor of Aquitaine and Louis VII and Henry II: I had seen the Katharine Hepburn film The Lion in Winter (and you know the character is awesome if Kate plays her!) but I didn't know all that much about her. Now I very much want to read more both non-fiction and historical fiction about her.
Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville: I read about this couple in Cynthia Harrod-Eagles' The Founding, where the characters were decidedly negative toward them but they were in love and seem to have been generally happy.
FerdinandandIsabella: He is such a tool (as will be explained more in his daughter's chapter) but they seem to have been very much in love and together were powerful Catholic monarchs.
Joanna and Philip: Philip and Joanna's father Ferdinand were such jerks; it got me thinking about portrayals of women through history (she's known as Joanna the Mad).
Arthur and Katherine of Aragon: Not much to say about this couple other than did they or didn't they?
Henry VIII and his wives: Apparently four of them had auburn hair so I guess he had a type and he seems to have been as much in love with five of them as he had the capacity to be (Anne of Cleves alas was not pretty enough to tempt him)
Henri II and Catherine de Medici: Not a love match on his side but she loved him and her role in ruling France was very impressive. She was the daughter of no one important who was then queen and mother of three kings!
Mary, Queen of Scots and her three husbands: Wow, was she in a crappy position.
Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette: Apparently her spendthrift ways began before she gave brith and set her reputation for the rest of her life. They also ended up having quite a kind and intimate relationship especially once they were deposed.
George IV, the bigamist, and Maria Fitzherbert and Caroline of Brunswick: I completely understand Jane Austen's antipathy to this man because he is not honorable.
Napoleon and Marie Louise: She was kind of weird. Read it
Victoria and Albert: Obviously this was a love match but one fraught with conflict as Victoria sought to be a traditional wife who submits to her husband (WHY?!) yet cannot submit to anyone besides God as the British monarch.
Franz Joseph and Elisabeth: I read the story of her youth in those Royal Diaries series (Check those out for the 8-10 year old girl in your life.)
Tsar Nicholas II and Alexandra: Another love match! I didn't know! Their story is also tragic, I mean beyond their end.
Edward VIII and Wallis: I did not know that they were fascists! I'm actually really glad that he abdicated. What if Edward and Hitler had made some kind of an alliance?!
Overall: 4 out of 5.
Cover: Not sure who that is supposed to be but it fits the style and tone.(less)
Summary: Ehrman is a New Testament scholar who has published multiple books discussing things that are well-known among scholars of the Bible but are...moreSummary: Ehrman is a New Testament scholar who has published multiple books discussing things that are well-known among scholars of the Bible but are less known to lay people. This book discusses the irreconcilable differences, how the books of the NT were chosen, and what that means.
I didn't know much of what he presents as I've mostly had a devotional approach to the Bible rather than historical-critical, to use his terms. But actually this has provided new encouragement for studying the Bible next year as I take a more in depth look.
A point he mentioned that I was completely unaware of, is that the Bible is much less of a focus outside of America. The conservative evangelical community focuses on it, saying it is the inerrant word of God and everyone should read and study it but outside people are more focused on worshiping God through community and less through a book. Personally I like to meld the two as I always like to supplement things with books and I love reading.
Lastly I found the book very repetitive. He mentioned many of the same ideas multiple times. I may not be a Bible scholar but I'm not dumb and I don't need everything repeatedly spelled out for me. It also seemed as if he was promoting his other books with frequent references and footnotes to them. This may have been because he discussed the point he was making in this book more thoroughly there but it turned me off as if he expected me to shell out for another book (admittedly I checked this one out through the library as I probably would with any of his other books.) For example, he mentions that he became an agnostic (from a conservative evangelical) not because of these contradictions but because of the problem of suffering, which he just happened to write a book about.
Overall: 3.5/5 While the book is an easy read and may share new information, it may be more of a skimming book for you and not one I would recommend to buy. (less)
Summary: A close reading of the story of Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, and the sons who would go on to found two great peoples.
I knew the basic story of Abra...moreSummary: A close reading of the story of Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, and the sons who would go on to found two great peoples.
I knew the basic story of Abraham (chosen man of God, fathers a child with Hagar and then finally fathers Isaac with his wife Sarah despite their advanced ages; Hagar and Ishmael are sent out into the desert; God calls Abraham to sacrifice Isaac but then spares him; Isaac continues the line with Jacob and God's chosen people) but this book adds so much more.
First it examines the story from the perspectives of scholars from all three major monotheistic faiths as they all trace their lineage back to Abraham. This shows the different interpretations and implications on each religion and highlights in particular the struggle between Jews and Muslims. I also appreciated the overall message which is striving for peace among the three faiths through the examination of commonalities and how God seemed to set out particular places for each and there is no need for argument.
Unfortunately sometimes I felt it dragged a bit as EVERY part of the story is examined thoroughly. I've felt that way during extended Bible Study times so this is nothing new for me but some parts were really exciting while others were less so. I think it would depend on your interests.
Overall: 3.5/5 Sometimes dry, but still interesting for me and has a good message(less)
I picked this up at the library because I have been interested in Tudor history but did not know much about the Grey sisters beyond Jane's usurpation...moreI picked this up at the library because I have been interested in Tudor history but did not know much about the Grey sisters beyond Jane's usurpation of the throne (I believe that Edward was too young to change his father's will and Mary was the rightful successor).
Summary: These women were to be the heirs to the English throne but the vicious power struggles of Tudor politics led to untimely deaths and largely unhappy existences. De Lisle uncovers new information regarding Jane's life and illuminates her largely forgotten younger sisters.
I did know Jane due to the fact that she is known as the 9-Day Queen who was then executed by Mary. I knew she was Protestant, otherwise she would have accepted Mary's claim. I did not even know that she had sisters!
My favorite part of this book is how it refuses the traditional passivity assigned to the Greys and gives them back their agency. Jane in particular has apparently been highlighted as a helpless, innocent, victimized female. Yes they were used by their families but they were able to make their own decisions and Jane especially was brilliant. The other interesting point I noticed was how English Protestantism pushed women into a lower position, unable to rule and yet the entire monarchy succession was dependent on Mary, Elizabeth, Katherine, and Mary's ability to marry and bear sons.
It was heartbreaking to read about Katherine and Mary falling in love but being unable to maintain that happiness as Elizabeth refused to allow them peace. Their children, especially sons, threatened her throne. While this is a good principle to have if you want to rule, a modern reader, such as me, feels for the Grey sisters who were separated from their husbands and placed under house arrest until death as Elizabeth outlived them.
As in Wolf Hall, I was slightly confused by the titles of everyone. Additionally there are family trees to show the relations of the main players-I found them somewhat confusing but I'm sure some people would find them more helpful.
Overall: 3.5/5 I enjoyed learning about the sisters but there was a lot that didn't really include them. I also plan to check out this author's other book After Elizabeth detailing the succession that according to Henry VIII's will ought to have gone to this family's descendants but instead returned to the Stuart line leading to the present day British monarchy family.(less)