What I’m Reading: Lately, Currently, and Next

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Last Finished:

Mornings on Horseback: The Story of an Extraordinary Family, a Vanished Way of Life, and the Unique Child Who Became Theodore Roosevelt, David McCullough

CURRENTLY READING:

Power and Responsibility: The Life and Times of Theodore Roosevelt, William Henry Harbaugh

Next up:

West Like Lightning: The Brief, Legendary Ride of the Pony Express, Jim DeFelice

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My reading rotation, with my current category in bold and my last completed from each category in blue:

  1. Next item from my book list, 52 Great Books to Read from the New York Public Library, Lynn Gordon , Chronicle Books, 1998.
    (The Great Gatsby, F.Scott Fitzgerald)
  2. Item suggested by and/or owned by my wife.
    (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, J.K. Rowling)
  3. Suggestion from my local library, or its latest annual community-wide One Read selection.
    (The Elementals, Michael McDowell)
  4. My personal choice, which may be from any of the other categories or something entirely different.
    (American Indians/American Presidents, Clifford E. Trafzer)
  5. A biography of one of the US presidents.
    (Mornings on Horseback, David McCullough)
  6.  Suggestion from a friend or family member.
    (The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
  • Wild Card–a title that was an impulse or recommendation and moved ahead of my next book already in the queue.
    (The Guilded Age: 1876-1912, Overture to the American Century, Alan Axelrod)
  • I am also reading one presidential biography in between each category.
    (William McKinley and His America, H. Wayne Morgan)

 

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My collection as it was recently. Owned presidents currently are: 1Washington, 2Adams, 3Jefferson, 4Madison, 5Monroe, 6Adams, 7Jackson, 8Van Buren, 9Harrison, 10Tyler, 11Polk, 12Taylor, 13Fillmore, 14Pierce, 15Buchanan, 16Lincoln, 17Johnson, 18Grant, 19Hayes, 20Garfield, 21Arthur, 22Cleveland, 23Harrison, 24Cleveland, 25McKinley, 26Roosevelt, 27Taft, 28Wilson, 32Roosevelt, 33Truman, 34Eisenhower, 35Kennedy, 37Nixon, 40Reagan, 41Bush, and 42Clinton.

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Goodreads Review: Washington’s Monument And the Fascinating History of the Obelisk — John Steele Gordon

Washington's Monument: And the Fascinating History of the ObeliskWashington’s Monument: And the Fascinating History of the Obelisk by John Steele Gordon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Expecting a history of a specific obelisk, I found this short book packed with stories of several others as well, traced to their ancient Egyptian origins and followed through their relocations in Europe and America. Also included was an abundance of trivial facts in the footnotes (what did the death of John Quincy Adams have to do with the Washington Monument!?), which I must admit I absolutely loved. While the naval, mechanical, and architectural terms were sometimes out of my grasp, this was written plainly enough to understand what was happening and how it was happening. Gordon reveals the magnitude of the incredible feats accomplished in the making and erecting these monuments millennia ago, moving them in the nineteenth century, and the equally difficult challenge of getting assistance for Washington’s Monument from a burdened and weary Congress.

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Goodreads Review: American Indians/American Presidents — National Museum of the American Indian

American Indians/American Presidents: A HistoryAmerican Indians/American Presidents: A History by National Museum of the American Indian

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Multiple authors contributed to this educational book published by the National Museum of the American Indian. I would recommend it to all non-native Americans, as it sheds light on a people long ignored by the public and perpetually mistreated by the United States in general. The presidents’ roles in the atrocious story have varied, with some intentionally abusing the rights of American Indians, others reflecting indifference or misguided attitudes, and few doing much to right past wrongs. By no means a hateful assessment, it certainly holds no punches. The authors cover all presidents except one (Buchanan is not even in the index!), up to the book’s 2009 publication. The only other thing I would like to have read is a conclusion that returned to what was mentioned in the introduction: The giant faces carved into a mountain in the heart of Indian territory in South Dakota, one of which belongs to Thomas Jefferson, suggested in the intro to be the “planner of cultural genocide”–an accusation not without merit.

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Goodreads Review: The Help — Kathryn Stockett

The HelpThe Help by Kathryn Stockett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It is hard, if you’ve seen the movie first, not to see the characters in your mind, as you read, as they were in the film. Especially Minny, but what a perfect fit for Octavia Spencer! I loved reading the darker details of this story that the movie glazes over, a history much more accurate, unfortunately. I never quite understood the naked man’s appearance, but I guess the irony is that the greatest threat to anyone’s health in this story came not from a black maid using a white lady’s toilet, but from a crazy white dude.

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Goodreads Review: Gentleman Boss — Thomas C. Reeves (President #21 Chester Arthur)

Gentleman Boss: The Life of Chester Alan Arthur (Signature)Gentleman Boss: The Life of Chester Alan Arthur by Thomas C. Reeves

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Chester Arthur is one of those “neverheardofum” presidents, but not for his lack of an effort to be remembered. Long a New York political cog and boss, Arthur steered another direction when he came into the job he never wanted–President of the United States. Reeves painstakingly explores Arthur’s time in the New York City Customhouse, a patronage-hogging job which President Hayes removed him from less than two years before seeing him enter the White House. In the nation’s top post, Arthur pursued a grand agenda, internationally and domestically, but to little effect, leaving him largely an empty glass on the table of history. A biography packed with detail despite Arthur’s destruction of many of his papers, Gentleman Boss is a terrific ride from Lexington to Pennsylvania Avenues.

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Presidential Biographies

The Biographies I’ve Read of Each U.S. President

From three online “Best of” lists, and impulse pick-ups.
  1. Washington: A Life, Ron Chernow
  2. John Adams, David McCullough
  3. Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, Jon Meacham
  4. James Madison: A Biography, Ralph Louis Ketcham
  5. James Monroe: The Quest for National Identity, Harry Amon
  6. John Quincy Adams: A Public Life, A Private Life, Paul C. Nagel
  7. The Life of Andrew Jackson (abridged), Robert V. Remini
  8. Martin Van Buren, The Romantic Age of American Politics, John Niven
  9. Old Tippecanoe: William Henry Harrison and His Time, Freeman Cleaves
  10. John Tyler: Champion of the Old South, Oliver P. Chitwood
  11. Polk: The Man Who Transformed the Presidency and America, Walter Bornemann
  12. Zachary Taylor: Soldier, Planter, Statesman of the Old Southwest,  K. Jack Bauer
  13. Millard Fillmore: Biography of a President, Robert J. Rayback
  14. Franklin Pierce: Young Hickory of the Granite Hills, Roy F. Nichols
  15. President James Buchanan: A Biography,  Philip S. Klein
  16. A. Lincoln: A Biography, Ronald C. White, Jr.
  17. Andrew Johnson: A Biography, Hans L. Trefousse
  18. American Ulysses, Ronald C. White, Jr.
  19. Rutherford B. Hayes and His America, Harry Barnard
  20. Garfield: A Biography, Allan Peskin
  21. Gentleman Boss: The Life and Times of Chester Alan Arthur, Thomas C. Reeves
  22. Grover Cleveland: A Study in Courage, To the Loss of the Presidency, Allan Nevins
  23. Benjamin Harrison, Charles Calhoun
  24. Grover Cleveland, A Study in Courage, To the End of a Career, Allan Nevins
  25. William McKinley and His America, H. Wayne Morgan
  26. Mornings on Horseback, David McCullough [Theodore Roosevelt]

The Ones Ahead

Biographies I plan to read later.
  • 27. The Life and Times of William Howard Taft, Harry F. Pringle
  • 28. Woodrow Wilson: A Biography, John Milton Cooper, Jr.
  • 29. The Harding Era: Warren G. Harding and His Administration, Robert H. Murray
  • 30. Calvin Coolidge: The Quiet President, Donald R. McCoy
  • 31. Herbert Hoover: A Public Life, David Burner
  • 32. No Ordinary Time, Doris Kearnes Goodwin [Franklin Roosevelt]
  • 33. Truman, David McCullough
  • 34. Eisenhower: Soldier and President, Stephen E. Ambrose
  • 35. An Unfinished Life, Robert Dallek [John F. Kennedy]
  • 36. Lone Star Rising: Lyndon Johnson and His Times, Robert Dallek
  • 37. Nixonland, Rick Perlstein
  • 38. Gerald Ford, Douglas Brinkley
  • 39. Jimmy Carter: A Comprehensive Biography, Peter Bourne
  • 40. President Reagan, Lou Cannon
  • 41. George H.W. Bush, Timothy Naftali
  • 42. First in His Class, David Maraniss [Bill Clinton]
  • 43. To be determined [George W. Bush]
  • 44. To be determined [Barack Obama]
  • 45. To be determined [Donald Trump]
  •  7. American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House, John Meacham
  • 16. Grant: A Biography, William S. McFeeley
  • 16. Personal Memoirs, Ulysses S. Grant
  • 33. The Autobiography of Harry S. Truman, Harry Truman and Robert H. Ferrell*
  • 34. Eisenhower in War and Peace, Jean Edwards
  • 41. 41: A Portrait of My Father, George W. Bush
  • 42. My Life, Bill Clinton

The Supplementals

Biographies I’ve read of other significant people in American history.
  • Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, Walter Isaacson
  • Alexander Hamilton, Ron Chernow
  • Santa Anna of Mexico, Will Fowler
  • Team of Rivals, Doris Kearns Goodwin
  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Malcolm X, Alex Haley

 

* Already read. Also the first presidential biography I ever read.

Special Thanks to Steve at BestPresidentialBios.com for his hard work and inspiration.

Friend Suggestion

The Books I’ve Read Since 2013 That Were Suggested by a Friend or Family Member

Solicted from Facebook, and in person.
  1. Last Days of Summer, Steve Kluger
  2. Ramona, Helen Hunt Jackson
  3. Room with a View, E.M. Forster
  4. Killing Kennedy, Bill O’Reilly
  5. Dr. Zhivago, Boris Pasternak
  6. Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK,                                       Gerald Posner
  7. Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut

Wild Card

The Books I’ve Chosen to Read Since 2013 That Were Not Part of My List Rotation

Impulse purchases, library pickups, or plucked from my own shelves, read out of order from my designated category list.
  1. Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins
  2. Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins
  3. The Boys in the Boat, Daniel J. Brown
  4. Bettyville, George Hodgman
  5. The Federalist, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, John Jay
  6. Old Tippecanoe, Freeman Cleaves
  7. The Princess Diarist, Carrie Fisher
  8. Santa Anna of Mexico, Will Fowler
  9. A. Lincoln, Ronald C. White, Jr.
  10. The Turner House, Angela Flournoy
  11. The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead
  12. The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom, Slavomir Rawicz
  13. Washington’s Monument: And the Fascinating History of the Obelisk, John Steele Gordon

My Choice

The Books I’ve Read Since 2013 Just Because I Wanted To

Impulse purchases, library pickups, or plucked from my own shelves, read at the designated time on my list.
  1. The Green Mile, Stephen King
  2. Refuge Denied: The St. Louis Passengers and the Holocaust,                                       Sarah Ogilvie and Scott Miller
  3. The Small Rain, Madeleine L’Engle
  4. Zoo, James Patterson
  5. The Autobiography of Harry S. Truman, Harry S. Truman (Robert H. Ferrell, ed.)
  6. I Am Malala, Malala Yousafzai
  7. Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, Walter Isaacson
  8. Alexander Hamilton, Ron Chernow
  9. The Human Age, Diane Ackerman
  10. American Indians/American Presidents, National Museum of the American Indian