This is not a book for beginning readers of history or of the American Revolution. So much information is packed in the 700+ pages, I found it difficu...moreThis is not a book for beginning readers of history or of the American Revolution. So much information is packed in the 700+ pages, I found it difficult to sit and read for more than an hour or so at a time (and could only get through 20-30 pages in one session typically). Chernow is impressive in a different way from some of the other great biographers of the last 10 years or so (McCollough, Ellis, Issacson, etc.) and much more detailed. After reading this book, I can't fathom that I can learn any more about Hamilton than what is included in this book (and there are 2-3 other recent biographies written on him in the past few years). Just a book that is very, very dense with information.
But it is very much worth the time, effort, and dedication in reading through the entire book. It is a biased book in some ways, Chernow's typically very positive on Hamilton's extraordinary contributions from the American Revolution to the end of the century (and the end of John Adam's presidency). As an aide to Washington during the war, to his leadership in getting the Constitution approved, and through the first years of Washington's presidency where he held more influence in the US more than anyone in the country (and quite possibly more than Washington himself). Chernow casts Hamilton as the good guy and Jefferson, Adams, and later Madison as the villains who just didn't understand the financial, trade, and central government systems that needed to be set in place to have the new country survive its first few decades.
Hamilton's faults are revealed as well, especially during his latter years as his influence waned and the Federalist party lost popularity to Jefferson and the Democratic-Republican party. Tragedy hits Hamilton especially hard during the last few years of his life (son killed in a duel, in-laws die, etc.) and great detail is given on how the famous duel between Aaron Burr and Hamilton could have been avoided easily if Hamilton's pride wasn't so damaged at that point in his life.
Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison all rank at the highest peak of founding fathers and well-deserved their time as Presidents. In many ways, Hamilton rounds out the top 5 founders and easily had just as much long-term effects set in place by his 30 years or so of public service. Great book, but certainly not a first book to read about these men or the beginnings of our nation.(less)
I am very impressed with this brief biography of Jane Austen. Due to the limited information on her life, a detailed and too analytical book would mos...moreI am very impressed with this brief biography of Jane Austen. Due to the limited information on her life, a detailed and too analytical book would most likely contain so many assumptions about her thoughts, activities, and surroundings to read more like fiction rather than a telling of what is truly known. Carol Shields does a workmanlike job in this quick read to provide the particulars in Jane Austen's life, mainly from her letters, writings from her extended family, and the few public accounts that commented on her works. There is very little primary source material, and Shields provides commentary where biases and altered truths might be misleading or have multiple interpretations. As Austen gained popularity after her death, her family rushed to push a saintly aspect upon her life that may or may not be entirely true (her sister destroyed much of their correspondence, presumably to edit her sister's sometimes caustic tongue).
The book itself is about Austen's life, which of course includes her writing and the important role it played from her youth until death. There is no in-depth analysis of each novel or discussion of her role in the development of the novel as a literary form (although these things are touched on briefly). Instead Shields fits each book into her life and provides a few thoughts on the events in Austen's life that that might have affected her writings. A general, running theme of women and their search to find a home for themselves is given as a connection between Austen as a writer and Austen in her own life provides a thematic, unifying idea that works well throughout. Shields writing is easily read and straightforward, with some nicely placed quips here and there to cause one to smile. Highly recommended.(less)
A very good memoir of growing up in Kentucky at the junction of the Big Sandy and Ohio rivers. Each place I visit in the summer with my girls I try to...moreA very good memoir of growing up in Kentucky at the junction of the Big Sandy and Ohio rivers. Each place I visit in the summer with my girls I try to find some local history books showing how life was or is lived in that particular state. Billy Clark writes of his childhood growing up in poverty in the 30's and 40's and how living off the river provided for his education through college. Although not as emotional or heartfelt as some of the other books I've read similar in vein to this one, it starts a little slow but picks up steam and interest as it develops.
It is amazing to me to compare what I had or what my girls have now growing up versus how difficult life was just a few generations ago. As a parent reading a book like this makes you redouble your efforts in teaching your kids how to value each and every thing they have in life, from the food eaten to their clothes worn to all the toys and entertainment options they have. We live in such a disposable society currently.(less)
I tried a few times to read this book and on my third attemp finally finished it. As a parent it obviously is difficult to imagine being in the same s...moreI tried a few times to read this book and on my third attemp finally finished it. As a parent it obviously is difficult to imagine being in the same situation as Randy Pausch - just a few months to live, three young children and a loving wife, trying to encompass a lifetime worth of living in such a short amount of time. His dedication to enjoying the time he had left and his love for his family really shows the type of character we all wish we would have if we were faced with a similar situation. This is a book I will have my daughters read as they get a little older, telling them that the lessons and approach to living life contained within represent many of my own personal hopes for them as they continue to grow. (less)
Wil Wheaton is just a guy, or as he says, just a geek. He could be a part of your gaming group or your neighbor, or the dad you see at a school event...moreWil Wheaton is just a guy, or as he says, just a geek. He could be a part of your gaming group or your neighbor, or the dad you see at a school event for his kids now and then. He worries about paying his bills, balancing his family and work lives, and is at the mercy of The MAN just as much as you or I.
The book is a series of commentaries by Wil reviewing and exploring further blogs he posted on his website during a year-long period where he was coming to terms with the failure of his adult acting career and the specter of his Star Trek days. For a working actor, he lives his ups and downs at work on his sleeve, just as we all do, and gets screwed over more often than not by his bosses (or potential bosses). Life in Hollywood is only glamorous for a privileged few.
I would have liked to read more about his inner-geek more than he shares here in this book. He's an avid gamer, sci-fi reader, and computer nerd, yet we only hear in passing comments about these things. More on these topics and how they influenced him both professionally and personally would have been enjoyable.(less)
A book of short vignettes by the author recalling his time spent on his grandfather's farm in New Hampshire. Set in the first half the 20th century, i...moreA book of short vignettes by the author recalling his time spent on his grandfather's farm in New Hampshire. Set in the first half the 20th century, it gives a very personal view of a way of living so different than today. Very few books are filled with the emotion and longing contained in these stories - the author really does a wonderful job in pulling you back into his past.(less)
I bought this book while on vacation in Kentucky with my girls and parents. One of my favorite vacation activities is to find local bookstores selling...moreI bought this book while on vacation in Kentucky with my girls and parents. One of my favorite vacation activities is to find local bookstores selling regional literature written by local authors. What My Heart Wants to Tell is a beautiful collection of memories by Verna Mae Stone on her father and growing up in the eastern part of Kentucky back at the turn of the century. She's not poetic and won't win any writing awards, but the emotion and love in her writing speaks deeply of the pride and affection she has in her family, community, and the way of life she was surrounded by as she grew into adulthood. The small family stories she shares make you feel like you are hearing them across a fire in wintertime, no doubt just as they were passed down through her family. And the practical information she relays on how families lived and survived is just amazing. i particularly enjoyed her description of how crops and gardens were planted - very different world without grocery stores. Beautiful book.(less)
Most people would recognize Don McNeal from the iconic John Riggins run in Super Bowl XVII. He is the Dolphins player that hits Riggins and falls off...moreMost people would recognize Don McNeal from the iconic John Riggins run in Super Bowl XVII. He is the Dolphins player that hits Riggins and falls off him as he rumbles his way to the winning touchdown. Moments like this can define anyone's life, but McNeal does a nice job in writing how this single event was only a series of lessons he had in his life to become a better man. The experiences in his life defining him started at an early age with his mother's death at age 6 and continued with him learning valuable lessons growing up as one of ten children being raised by his dad on a poor Alabama farm. Through guidance from his father, teachers, and coaches, McNeal discusses a number of guidelines in his life that have given him strength and character to help him through good and bad times. Somewhat disjointed in the writing style (he isn't a professional writer obviously), the best parts of the book are his descriptions of his family life and siblings and all the small moments there that make up a person's life.(less)
One of many books I've read over the past couple of years on the founding of the US and the American Revolution. Patrick Henry falls into that second...moreOne of many books I've read over the past couple of years on the founding of the US and the American Revolution. Patrick Henry falls into that second tier of founding fathers that held a more specific role in all that happened during those years, but an important one nonetheless. Unger does a good job of telling his story and relating his impact on the events unfolding all around him. I'm not sure how this biography compares with others written on Henry, but as an introduction to Henry it does the job pretty well.(less)