Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Well I seem to be on a Presidential kick lately. The latest book I have read is the new biography of Theodore Roosevelt titled, "Lion in the White House" by Aida Donald. Those who know little about the 26th President of the United States will be surprised by his life pre-Presidency. Much has been said in history textbooks about his terms in office and subsequent attempts to return as a Bull Moose Progressive candidate, but little is mentioned of his impressive rise to power.
Donald focuses mainly on T.R.'s political life which began in New York, where he would eventually become Governor. He also served as Police Commissioner and Assistant Secretary to the Navy. Hoping to quell his chance at real power, Republicans chose him as the Vice President for McKinley in 1901. However, McKinley was assassinated and Roosevelt found himself at the greatest position of power. Aida describes President Roosevelt as a progressive work horse who busted trusts and built up the military, showing that he seemed to have some foresight about the coming World War.
Most interesting is Roosevelt's personal life, full of tragedy-- his first wife and his mother died on the same day. He also ventured out West where he had a ranch in North Dakota and rounded up some of his friends from there to form the famous Rough Riders. Roosevelt was also an accomplished naturalist and author.
The biography is brief but provides a good overview of Roosevelt's life and legacy. Donald presents T.R. as a passionate progessive, always fighting for change and working to improve the lives of the working class. His record in busting trusts and improving work conditions support this view. She seems to have chosen to just touch on his conservation reforms in an effort to showcase his many other great accomplishments. Donald believes that T.R.'s break with the Republican Party does not diminish his importance to the party or his place in their history.
For those more interested in his personal life, I would recommend The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by a detailed 700+ page account of his life pre-Presidency and it's sequel, Theodore Rex, another 700 page epic of the rest of his life, both by Edmund Morris.
Thursday, October 3, 2013
The Accidental Time Machine by Joe Haldeman
Matt Fuller is your average guy, a bit on the lazy side, stuck in a dead end job as a lab assistant at MIT. He is building a calibrator when it suddenly disappears and then reappears a second later. He experiments with the machine and realizes that he has built a time machine. This particular time machine only goes forward in time and the interval it travels into the future increases by 12 each time.
If Matt is touching the time machine, he also travels with it. With nothing going in his life, he decides to travel. The first few times, he only travels a little bit, but he keeps ending up situations where his only escape is to jump forward again. Haldeman offers a unique perspective on the world in each of the futures presented. When he meets and falls for a young woman, he must decide what is best for the two of them and what kind of future world he wants to live in.
This book is a fun and fast sci fi read. It will appeal to sci fi fans as well as your average fiction reader. Nothing is too far "out there" or fantastical for the average readers' taste.
Monday, September 9, 2013
MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New BFF is about Rachel's search for a new best friend. She had many friends when she lived in New York, friends she had known for years. But as many people do, she graduated from college and followed her heart to be with her future husband. Living in Chicago, she had many casual friends, but no one she knew as well as she should like. No friends who knew exactly what she was thinking, or who would drop everything for her. Rachel researched a lot about friendships and their importance in life. She throws in these tidbits as she describes how she came to decide that she would go on 52 'friend dates' in an effort to find a new best friend.
How does she find friends to 'date?' Many of them were acquaintances she had met around town, some were friends of friends, others were blind dates. It really is not as easy as it was back in our school years. Some dates went better than others. She judged potential friends based on their common interests and if the conversation ever turned to television and movies. Some dates were awkward as the conversations went no where, others went well, but the friend was just too busy to truly connect.
I found this to be an interesting read because I feel like I can relate to the author. I'm at the same age and although I did not move, most of my friends moved away. I wouldn't even know where to begin to try looking for a new BFF. I'm certainly not brave enough to try what she did, but I did learn ways to meet people that don't seem weird or creepy. Overall it was entertaining and I learned a lot about the importance of friendships and overall well-being.
Thursday, September 5, 2013
Oval Office Oddities: An Irreverent Collection of Presidential Facts, Follies, and Foibles
by Bill Fawcett
For a light, fun, and educational read, check out Oval Office Oddities. It tells interesting and funny stories about our nation's Presidents. The chapters are divided by topic such as Presidential firsts, Presidential peculiarities, and Presidents as people. You'll find out what interesting hobbies Presidents had, as well as who was having extramarital affairs, and what kind of pets they had. (Calvin Coolidge had a pet raccoon named Rebecca) This book is a great conversation starter and good for history fans who don't have much time for a long historical narrative.
Monday, February 11, 2013
Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey: The River of Doubt by Candice Millard
I recently finished another great book about Theodore Roosevelt, which concentrates solely on the months he spent exploring the uncharted Rio Duvida which flows wildly through the rainforests of South America. The journey was a long and treacherous one, as described by Roosevelt-
"We have had a hard and somewhat dangerous but very successful trip. No less than six weeks were spent... forcing our way down through what seemed a literally endless succession of rapids and cataracts. For forty-eight days we saw no human being. In passing these rapids we lost five of the seven canoes... One of our best men lost his life in the rapids."The story begins after Roosevelt's defeat as a Progressive Party candidate in 1912. To get away from it all, he plans another grand adventure in South America. Taking over a month to travel through the rainforest to the mouth of the Rio Duvida, Roosevelt and his son Kermit began to realize they were not prepared for the journey. Numerous members of the party were sent home and heavy supplies were abandoned before they even began their descent. No non-native had ever traversed the river, so Brazilian army commander Rondon lead the trip and vowed to survey and record every inch of the river.
The trip began slowly as Rondon stopped numerous times to measure the river's curves. As they began to run into dangerous rapids, the men had to dock their boats wade through the piranha infested waters and carve a path through the rainforest filled with natives so primitive, they had not yet even conceived of boats. The rapids almost took the life of Roosevelt's son Kermit, and soon after did take the life of one of the paid workers on the journey. Things got even worse as the natives attacked the party's dog and Roosevelt became deathly ill. At one point he begged the party to go on without him, but his son refused to let him die alone in the rainforest.
The author does a fantastic job describing the rainforest as it was in 1913-14, very primitive and untouched by humans. She also gives great background on each of the main players in the story- Rondon, Cherrie- a naturalist sent to collect bird specimens, and the two Roosevelts. This journey down the uncharted waters of the dangerous Rio Duvida (now the Rio Roosevelt) isn't known by many, but is a fantastic tale for fans history, social studies, and geography.
The Roosevelt River today