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Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  6,151 ratings  ·  624 reviews
From Pulitzer Prize winner and #1 New York Times bestselling author Jon Meacham comes a sweeping yet intimate biography of George H. W. Bush. Based on rigorous research, hours of private interviews, and extraordinary access to Bush’s diaries and to his family, Destiny and Power paints a vivid and affecting portrait of the distinctive American life of a man from the Greates ...more
Kindle Edition, 794 pages
Published November 10th 2015 by Random House
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Start your review of Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush
Oct 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
The world lost a great man!

In this highly educational biography of George H.W. Bush, Meacham offers the reader an insightful look into the life and times of the 41st President of the United States. With scores of interesting anecdotes wrapped in a fluid narrative, the author brings to life a man who sought to influence American politics in the latter part of the 20th century, while trying to keep from being subsumed in the shadow of his presidential predecessor. Bush was a man of honour and dign
Oct 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Sometimes you shape events by not making any mistakes.”

“Destiny & Power” was an unexpected read for me. I enjoy biographies and Jon Meacham has written a few that are on my “to read” list. This was the first I picked up; I will be picking up the others. I was only 10 years old when Bush was elected president, so although I do have memories of his presidency the consequence of the times I was living through were lost on me.
First off, the text flows well, and is simply written. Its narrative pace
Can you tell me the title of President George H. W. Bush’s memoir? You can’t? There’s a reason that you can’t. He didn’t write one.

All of the other post-WWII presidents did, but not George H. W. Bush.

In some respects, however, Jon Meacham wrote one for him, a book of over 800 pages, including 600 pages of text, that is a from the cradle to almost the grave account of the life and times of the 41st president (It was published in 2015 and Bush
Steven Z.
With the rollout of Pulitzer Prize winning biographer Jon Meacham’s new book DESTINY AND POWER: THE AMERICAN ODYSSEY OF GEORGE HERBERT WALKER BUSH what emerged in the media was the elder Bush’s criticisms of Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney’s poor service in the administration of his son. Many pundits have questioned the senior Bush’s judgement since another son, Jeb is in the midst of his own presidential campaign. Whatever motivated the senior Bush it has created a great deal of buzz around Mea ...more
Jan 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Summary: Meacham traces the life of our 41st president from his family’s roots and values that shaped a man both deeply committed to service and country, and also highly competitive and ambitious. The biography traces both his skillful leadership in handling the transition from the Cold War era, and the inability of this deeply private man to communicate his deep care for and desire to serve his country that cost him a second term.

Reading this biography suggested to me that George H. W. Bush is
George H. W. Bush is one of the few presidents that did not write his autobiography after leaving office. Jon Meacham has produced the “official biography” on H.W. Bush. I have read a number of Meacham’s books including “American Lion” which won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize.

Meacham did extensive research for the book and was allowed access to Bush’s diaries and numerous interviews with family and friends. Needless to say he also had access to the presidential papers and other archive materials.

Dec 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Published in 2015, “Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush” by Jon Meacham is the most recent full-scale biography of the 41st president. Meacham is a presidential historian and author whose biography of Andrew Jackson won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize. He has also written about Thomas Jefferson and Franklin Roosevelt and is currently working on a biography of James and Dolley Madison.

With 601 pages of text and nearly 200 pages of
Dec 21, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
George H. W. Bush is in some ways a neglected figure in recent American history. Ronald Reagan supposedly won the Cold War abroad and defeated big government at home, leaving nothing for Bush to do but betray the Gipper's legacy. (A comparison with an earlier generation's view of JFK and Lyndon Johnson would be instructive, I think.) Bush's reputation improved during his son's administration, as he was seen as the 'good ones' whose legacy was tarnished by a feckless son. Bush 41's positive quali ...more
Apr 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biographies
I've been wanting to read a Jon Meacham book for a while. I chose George H W Bush out of curiosity for the one term president with the huge glasses stuck between Reagan and Clinton.

I enjoyed Meachum's highly readable prose and interesting use of quotes from Bush's personal papers. The book took several years to write and the author had a privileged access to the 41st president. I found the era between 1966 to 1980 to be the most interesting part of his life (from his first term in congress to h
Jul 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Jon Meacham tells in 600 pages the story of a man who lived a four-volume life. Where longer biographies can become bogged down in political minutiae, Destiny and Power has captured the essence of the president once known best as George Bush.

Bush’s legacy may be grander than his four years in the White House, and it certainly is as far as the Bush family and his friends are concerned. Meacham brings Bush out from the shadows of Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, Mikhail Gorbachev, Georg
11811 (Eleven)
Mar 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great biography. The tension was sometimes so palpable I forgot I already knew how it all turned out. As for the man himself, few would disagree about his honor and integrity. Obama calls him one of our most underrated presidents.

It doesn't surprise me that he lost his reelection attempt. It's not easy to govern with pragmatism and expect undying support from the more extreme wing of your political party. I respect any president who does what he thinks is right knowing it will hurt him politica
Jake Hahn
Nov 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the best biography I have ever read. When I saw it was over 800 pages I was worried there might be alot if boring filler. This was not the case at all I was thoroughly entertained throughout the book. I came away with a new found respect for this Bush after reading this. I was especially happy with his stand against the John Birchers.

I won this book on good reads but it was after I bought the Kindle edition.
Dec 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read the Meacham book, The American Lion about Andrew Jackson which won the Pulitzer and if that book won the Pulitzer then Destiny and Power should have no trouble winning this years Pulitzer. Bush dictated his notes for years and turned them over to Meacham so you get his story as it happened -warts and all. Bush struggles with the media who labelled him a wimp even though he was the youngest fighter pilot in WW 2, his contempt of draft dodger, Bill Clinton and his absolute awe for Ronald Re ...more
Jul 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Meacham is a top rate historian and Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush may be his best work. I would even go so far as to say that this is also one of the best Presidential biographies that I have read. An impressive achievement given that George H.W. Bush historically ranks as a pretty average president.

In addition to Meacham’s obvious chops as a Pulitzer Prize winning author, this biography is a good read because there is so much source material peppered wit
Jul 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A readable, balanced and thorough if not exhaustive biography of Bush.

The narrative is well-paced and insightful although, on the whole, it doesn’t add much new. A lot of it deals with the Bush family background and its impact on his character. Meacham describes Bush’s vice presidency and how he had both the good and bad fortune to follow Reagan into the White House, as well as how Bush’s presidential successes seemed to outweigh his failures. Meacham also covers how Bush always downplayed his
Coming to the Oval Office at a critical time in foreign and domestic affairs, the Presidency of George H.W. Bush was filled with successes and failures but guided by a steady hand. Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush by Jon Meacham brings together independent historical research and interviews from the former President and numerous family members as well as political colleagues and advisories to bring the life and career of the 41st President to readers.

May 31, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.75 stars....not quite a 4.
I enjoyed the peripheral chapters the most: the beginning chapters including George H. W. Bush’s ancestry, childhood, education, marriage and service in WW 2; and the final chapters discussing his volunteerism and stance during his son’s George W. Bush’s presidency.
It is great fun to recall the names of Bush’s administration and to read back-door negotiations.

A life motto of Bush, engrained by his mother was: “Tell the truth. Don’t blame people. Be strong. Do your bes
Roger DeBlanck
Sep 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Meacham offers a compelling and endearing portrait that lends to the increasingly praiseworthy legacy of our forty-first president, George H. W. Bush. He places Bush in regard both as an underappreciated leader and as a man possessing an integrity that made him a highly trustworthy president. Bush may have grown up in a wealthy family, but his parents instilled in him an ideal that with privilege came the necessity to give back to the larger world. Therefore, his own pursuit of success adhered t ...more
Sep 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Coming closer to my goal of reading a biography about every US President, I was looking forward to reading this highly rated book by the Pullitzer-Prize winning author Jon Meacham. A truly enjoyable biography of the forty-first president of the United States, Meacham skillfully crafts a compelling narrative of George H. W. Bush's life, describing in enough (but not excessive) detail Bush's early life and moral upbringing so as to allow the reader to interpret his policy decisions based on his pe ...more
Al Berry
Aug 17, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read my Lips: I lied

41’s promise to not raise taxes and the breaking of that promise is probably the decisive moment of his career. Without the promise he might not have become President, in the 88 Primary Bob Dole had won in Iowa, and was surging in New Hampshire, it was Bombarding the airwaves with the ‘Senator Straddle’ in which he attacked Bob Dole for not promising to not raising taxes while reaffirming his pledge. Bush of course went on to win New Hampshire, the Republican primary and the
Matthew Gagnon
Jan 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
I had been meaning to read a biography of George H.W. Bush for a while, and this is one of the few true biographies about him that has been published, and of course it was well received. When Bush passed away, the book moved up on my list, and I just finished reading through it.

Full disclosure: I am a professional in the field of politics and public policy, I am a Republican, and I am and always have been very fond of the Bush family. I am also from Maine, where the Bushes spend a lot of time (a
Aug 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. It was simultaneously inspiring and depressing to read about a President who spent the majority of his life in service to his country and was guided not only by ambition, but by what was best for the country. It depressed me at times because I couldn't help but compare President Bush's character with President Trump. The book is a bit longer than I would have liked at the beginning when discussing Bush's ancestors and I would have been interested in more exploration o ...more
May 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
As it professes to be toward the very end, this book is a contribution to the historical conversation about the 41st American president. It offers what I think is a fair and positive viewpoint. Criticisms are made when the author thinks they're due, and praise given when it's seen as due as well. Often enough, the author seems befuddled by the paradoxes of 41's character, worldview, and decision-making. The portrait is drawn of a man of a particular time who has his own ideas of right and wrong, ...more
Nov 30, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I admire George Herbert Walker Bush. When I was a Republican I described myself as a "Bush Republican" until that term took on equivocal meanings. I think he was the best president of my lifetime (Nixon to Obama). I admire his great skill at foreign policy, his decency, his pragmatism, and what I think is a genuine goodness.

Meacham appears to admire the same things, as this book paints Bush in a very positive light as representing a bygone era in American politics, the last of a breed of mid-twe
I suppose I have been spoiled by Robert A. Caro's magnificent biographies of Lyndon Johnson and was, consequently, a bit disappointed by Jon Meacham's biography of George H.W. Bush. But only just a bit disappointed, because the work elevated my esteem for Bush '41, at least as far as his foreign policy is concerned.

Who won the Cold War (Reagan? Truman? Gorbachev?)? The question matters less than who created the post-Cold War world? Meacham convincingly argues that in large measure it was G.H.W.
Feb 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Imagine a world governed by modest, polite, talented, driven people. A war hero turned businessman turned politician. Such was ours a mere thirty years ago. History is kinder to Bush 41 than 1992's voters.

A good book; breezy read for a 600 pager.
Nov 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviews
Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush by Jon Meacham is a hugely engaging, sharp, and well-balanced portrayal of a President who shaped the history and destiny of American people for good or for bad, and whose actions and inactions will continue to reverberate even in the lives of the generation to come. Author Jon Meacham has done a splendid job in fishing out details which were not in the public domain, and painted a portrait of a President who was as good as hi ...more
Casey Wheeler
I have read a number of the author's other biographies and nonfiction and I have found them to be informative and interesting. This book is well researched and written. The author's writing style makes this an an engaging read instead of a dry recitation of history. I learned a great deal about our 41st President as Meacham had access to many of the documents and interviews that other biographers did not. George H.W. Bush's approach to politics and leadership was developed from a family belief i ...more
Nov 19, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love me a good presidential biography. And this is a good one, just not a great one. My idea of great? McCullough's bio of Truman and Caro's bio of Johnson. Those books were immaculately researched and impeccably written. This book is those things, yes, but I can't help but feeling as if Meacham feels perhaps a little too much sympathy for his subject. Meacham clearly views his subject as a good man (and on that, I'm convinced, whatever my politics may be), but I suspect he's trying to get me ...more
Michael Fineberg
Unbelievable research and very clear writing. It's a remarkable effort by the author and an enjoyable read for me. I learned a great deal about how the inconsistencies in Bush's life might have been rooted in his past and beliefs. It was fascinating. Of special interest to me was the way the author took us through the 1970s and all the twists and turns of the Nixon and Ford years.
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Jon Meacham is the editor of Newsweek, a Pulitzer Prize winning bestselling author and a commentator on politics, history, and religious faith in America.

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