Sunday, June 17, 2007

Amazing Lincoln

Terri --- Thanks for recapping our book club discussion. Fine job.

I’m still marveling over this book. I feel like I learned more about the Civil War in this 754 pages then I ever did in junior high.

Then again, maybe like A. J. Jacobs I was smarter back then or I’ve just forgotten a lot.

I still can’t believe the timing of his presidency. That the Civil War started within weeks of him being elected and that he was assassinated just days after the surrender.

I very much enjoyed reading about the deliberations made over every word in a speech and how the impact of all each cabinet member helped in the evolution of large announcements.

And I have much admiration for Lincoln and many of the cabinet members and generals after reading this book.


Team of Rivals, The political genius of Abraham Lincoln

You can't say that Ms. Kearns Goodwin isn't thorough. She spent over ten years researching and writing this 916 page book, the narrative ends on page 754 and she includes over 150 pages of sourcing and index. (Accuse a gal once of plagiarism and her next out will have one heck of a bibliography.)

Ms. KG gets kudos from us for bringing to life the Unions perspective of the Civil War and the machinations of the United States Government. We had some complaints about the editing. The editing was done by Ms. KG's husband which might explain the lack of brevity. It's probably hard to ask your spouse to make you dinner after you tell her the 15 pages she just wrote on some dudes luggage is extraneous. She also languished with pre-presidential candidate Lincoln. While she did an excellent job of bringing some of the early stories back there were some that while interesting didn't impact the political side of Mr. Lincoln.

In similar fashion to the Fitzgerald & Kennedy book the photographs included are placed in an unfortunate order. They give away (in non-fiction?) events that haven't happened yet. A minor complaint to be sure.

We all agreed that no leader today would dare to run their business or political cabinet like Mr. Lincoln. He brought the best of men to the table to achieve goals that were important for the country. His opinion of who was the best did not hinge on men he liked or were his advocates. A couple of these guys were down right anti-Lincoln but continued to do their jobs well so he kept them around. AMAZING!

The description of Lincoln signing the Emancipation proclamation was moving. It was impressive to learn that he had an acute awareness of the magnitude of that action. He also waited to sign it for the right moment, he has the ability to time things to achieve maximum support.

As the book drew to a close we were filled with dread. It is cruel to transform this man from the high school history version into a man of character and heart and then have him yanked away. Perhaps the lesson isn't in his death but in how he lead.

One amazing example was at the close of the civil war he chose to allow the men of the south to return home without facing retribution for their actions, and he let them return home with their weapons as long as they promised never to rise up against their country again. He immediately recognized them as fellow Americans rather than defeated enemies.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Extra Curricular Reading

Hey all


If anyone is looking for a quick read that's well written with good characterization and engaging contemporary themes, I recommend The Abstinence Teacher.  Let me know if you read it.  I'd be curious to hear what you think.


Mostly I just want to brag about having already finished one of the books.  I was so excited last night I stayed up reading long past my bedtime, and I finished this afternoon when I should have been making dinner.  Ah, fiction.  How I love thee!


Thanks again Melinda.



Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Thank You Book Faerie!

Each year Melinda is lucky enough to travel to New York to attend the Annual Book Expo. This is an amazing event for book lovers, it's the pre-publication promotional expose for the new season of books. The publishers bring in their heavy hitters to promote their upcoming (or newly released) books to book sellers from all over. This is one of the main events that decides what titles end up in the local bookstore.

Part of the draw is that the publishers give copies of the books to the attendees in order to promote their titles. To a book fan the idea of cruising around a huge convention center and grabbing any book you like is equivalent to that scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory where everything from the grass to the river is totally edible! Sign me up please. In fact, let's sit under a cotton candy tree and read the next Michael Chambon book.

You're really only supposed to grab one or two books, but there are plenty of opportunities to snatch more. Each attendee of an authors speech will get a copy of the book they are promoting and once the talk is over there are generally copies left behind. The savvy attendee (Melinda and her co-conspirator Mark) casually make the rounds and snap up some extras to bring back home.

Last year, Melinda bestowed upon us a number of titles, and it was so much fun during the year to pass the Hard Back, just-released Philip Roth book and mention to the shop keeper, oh yeah, I read that ages ago.

This year, Mel was fortunate to get to hear about some exciting upcoming books from authors that we have read and loved, Ian McEwan (Atonement, Saturday) , Graham Swift (Last Orders), Alice Sebold (Lovely Bones, Lucky) , Khaled Hosseini, (The Kite Runner)**, and the legendary Hip Hop producer Russel Simmons. We had a robust discussion about how excited we are to read Hosseini's new book (which is in stores now) but some of us (Christine) have decided to wait to buy it until she knows she can read it as having it around the house would be torture. Mel said something like she wished she could have gotten some of those books.

We knew we were in for a treat tonight because when Mel arrived at Deborah's she had a sizable box. But WOW what a fun night as she pulled out book after book after book.

Here's the Ian McEwan! (claps of joy as the little hard backed On Chesil Beach was passed around.)

Here's Matrimony by Joshua Henkin. (squeal)

And The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold (stop, you're killing us)

And Tomorrow by Graham Swift

And The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta (He wrote Little Children - amazing)

And (seriously...AND!?) Land of Lincoln, Andrew Ferguson

And (oh man, I feel like a Chicago housewife who got tickets to the Oprah show on the day she's giving away tv's.) Peony In Love, Lisa See

The excitement around the table was palpable. We each stacked our new books in order, some by size, others in order of to be read. Melinda was obviously enjoying our reaction and then she bent down into the box and pulled out the Khaled Hosseini A Thousand Splendid Suns and giggled, I lied, here's a copy for you, and you , and you... (more hand clapping.)

We smartly abandoned the proposed book for the next meeting and chose our next selection from the pile. (Can you guess? A Thousand Splendid Suns - duh)

Thanks Melinda! What fun!

**Seriously people, if you haven't read the Kite Runner, please go get it, it's wonderful!