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    1. Decision Points
    2. Unbroken: A World War II Story
    3. Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol.
    4. Life
    5. The Autobiography of Benjamin
    6. Cleopatra: A Life
    7. Decoded
    8. The Immortal Life of Henrietta
    9. Just Kids
    10. The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and
    11. At Home: A Short History of Private
    12. Colonel Roosevelt
    13. The Emperor of All Maladies: A
    14. Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet,
    15. Kardashian Konfidential
    16. As Always, Julia: The Letters
    17. Washington: A Life
    18. Spoken from the Heart
    19. Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search
    20. Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission

    1. Decision Points
    by George W. Bush
    list price: $35.00 -- our price: $18.89
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Isbn: 0307590615
    Publisher: Crown
    Sales Rank: 2
    Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars
    US | Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan

    Editorial Review

    In this candid and gripping account, President George W. Bush describes the critical decisions that shaped his presidency and personal life.

    George W. Bush served as president of the United States during eight of the most consequential years in American history. The decisions that reached his desk impacted people around the world and defined the times in which we live.

    Decision Points
    brings readers inside the Texas governor's mansion on the night of the 2000 election, aboard Air Force One during the harrowing hours after the attacks of September 11, 2001, into the Situation Room moments before the start of the war in Iraq, and behind the scenes at the White House for many other historic presidential decisions.

    For the first time, we learn President Bush's perspective and insights on:

    • His decision to quit drinking and the journey that led him to his Christian faith
    • The selection of the vice president, secretary of defense, secretary of state, Supreme Court justices, and other key officials
    • His relationships with his wife, daughters, and parents, including heartfelt letters between the president and his father on the eve of the Iraq War
    • His administration's counterterrorism programs, including the CIA's enhanced interrogations and the Terrorist Surveillance Program
    • Why the worst moment of the presidency was hearing accusations that race played a role in the federal government’s response to Hurricane Katrina, and a critical assessment of what he would have done differently during the crisis
    • His deep concern that Iraq could turn into a defeat costlier than Vietnam, and how he decided to defy public opinion by ordering the troop surge
    • His legislative achievements, including tax cuts and reforming education and Medicare, as well as his setbacks, including Social Security and immigration reform
    • The relationships he forged with other world leaders, including an honest assessment of those he did and didn’t trust
    • Why the failure to bring Osama bin Laden to justice ranks as his biggest disappointment and why his success in denying the terrorists their fondest wish—attacking America again—is among his proudest achievements
    A groundbreaking new brand of presidential memoir, Decision Points will captivate supporters, surprise critics, and change perspectives on eight remarkable years in American history—and on the man at the center of events.

    Since leaving office, President George W. Bush has led the George W. Bush Presidential Center at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. The center includes an active policy institute working to advance initiatives in the fields of education reform, global health, economic growth, and human freedom, with a special emphasis on promoting social entrepreneurship and creating opportunities for women around the world. It will also house an official government archive and a state-of-the-art museum that will open in 2013. ... Read more


    5-0 out of 5 stars Not what you might expect...
    "That is the nature of the presidency. Perceptions are shaped by the clarity of hindsight. In the moment of decision, you don't have that advantage." -G. Bush

    In a lot of ways this statement just about sums up the book. The President of the United States, maybe more so than any other person on the face of the Earth, has his/her every decision microscopically analyzed by just about everyone... after the fact, when the results are known and more information is available. I thought this to be a very interesting premise for a presidential memoir. It doesn't come across as an apology nor does it come across as an excuse. President Bush gives you the situation as he saw it and lets you make your own decision.

    I am not a huge fan of President Bush, but I don't think he is the utter failure as President that some consider him. I come away with some empathy (though short of being President, I don't think anyone could truly grasp the reality) for President Bush. Could things have been done better... more than likely. Could they have been worse... almost certainly... but how many of us couldn't apply those phrases to our own lives?

    If you are a Bush fan, I'd almost guarantee you'll like the book. If you aren't a fan.... you'll probably find some more ammunition to bash him. For myself, I don't at all regret the time spent reading the book and that is usually the measure that I put on literary material.

    5-0 out of 5 stars What you see is what you get - No question, this is written in HIS VOICE!!!

    The book is written thematically, not chronologically. This is important because it gives the book a much different flavor than one that is written month by month, and year by year. This book was not ghost written. This is his hand and his words, and it comes through on every page - all 512 of them.

    I had no expectations when I opened the cover other than to enjoy the book. I found it was written with a wonderful light hand, Bush being a story teller, no question about it. And he pulls no punches, he tells you the real deal and he does not filter it. Other people will write pro and con on this book depending upon their political filters. There will be none of that here. I am only interested in enjoying a book and telling you that you will also or maybe not.

    I am going to give you a flavoring of the book and you will know immediately if this is for you:

    * In the Presidency there are no do-over's

    * Quitting drinking was one of the toughest decisions he ever made

    * It wouldn't be the last time the student George Bush slept through a Yale lecture

    * He says he had the same personality as his mother. He would needle people to show affection and to make a point. He flares up rapidly. He and his mother both can be real blunt, a trait that gets them into trouble from time to time

    * Bush was enormously influenced by a history teacher on crutches at his prep school which was Andover Phillips Academy in Mass. His name was Tom Lyons (crippled by polio), and he nurtured, he hectored, he praised, and demanded a lot. He instilled in George Bush a love of history that remained with him throughout a lifetime.

    * Reverend William Sloan Coffin was a contemporary of the president's father, George HW Bush while both were at Yale. When George W. was a student at Yale, his father had just lost his bid to become a Senator from Texas. George W. asked the Reverend to perhaps write a letter to console his father, and the Reverend's former classmate. The Reverend responded, "Your father was beaten by a better man." I don't think the future President ever recovered from the remark.

    * Having spent considerable time in Texas over the last couple of decades I thoroughly enjoyed Texas wisdom which the President captures brilliantly in one statement. He refers to some people as "Book smart and sidewalk stupid".

    * He sums up his education by telling us that he went to Andover by tradition, Yale by expectation, and Harvard by choice.

    * The funniest story in the book is when he is sitting at a dinner party in Kennebunkport with his parents during his heavy alcohol stage, and he says to a contemporary of his parents, so what is sex like after 50. Everyone was aghast at the statement. The future President receives a note after he is elected. The note says, "Well George how is it?"

    * What you are looking at here is an absolutely honest, self examination.

    * When the President becomes introspective and talks about personnel, his philosophy is that the people who surround you will determine the quality of advice you receive and the way your goals are implemented.

    * He mentions meeting with Margaret Thatcher who told him that she usually makes up her mind about a man in 10 seconds, and very rarely changes it.

    You cannot write 500 plus pages of biography without revealing yourself. You simply cannot hide it for that long. I do not believe that this President has a bad bone in his body. Did he make mistakes, yes lots of them, and everyone else does too. It's all so easy in hindsight, and so difficult to call them accurately before the event. He takes responsibility, and welcomes history's future judgment of him. This is a man who sleeps at night.

    It's all here in 14 chapters, from stem cells, September 11th, Afghanistan, Iraq, Katrina, the Surge, his freedom agenda, and finishing with the financial crisis. You will wind up reading the whole thing, and looking for more. You will be critical, and at the same time consoling, for this was and is, a good man. They may have been errors of judgment, but not of the heart. From the hiring's to the firings, read this book and you will better understand a part of history we all lived through. He holds no punches and tells you what he thinks of the players who were part of his Administration.

    And then there's the family, his love of father and mother. Their loving imprint on him, and the child they produced. George Bush is the perfect example of the apple not falling very far from the tree. He is the product of a totally enveloping family where he was not pushed, but gently supported to find his own way. There were stumbles along the way including the decade long battle with alcoholism.

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book and ask you my fellow reader to come to it with an open mind, with a fresh eye, and try to see if you can capture some fresh thoughts on this very interesting man who has led a very interesting life. In the end it seemed to me that if George Bush was your friend, you didn't need many more friends - you were covered. Thank you for reading this review.

    Richard C. Stoyeck

    5-0 out of 5 stars Fascinating
    I voted for Bush the first time. I didn't vote for him the second time. I rarely read political books or memoirs, but the way Bush has carried himself after leaving office had me intrigued and gave me a new respect for the man.
    I started this book and, at times, got very bogged down with details that this mostly fiction reader doesn't like, but still, I appreciated it and didn't skip anything (as I usually will).
    It was a fascinating look into politics, what really goes on behind the scenes, and how truly difficult (as I imagined, but never really new)dealing with a national tragedy was.
    Humorous and smart, what I liked about the book was that, after I was done reading it, I felt that President Bush was an ordinary guy who managed to do an extraordinary job with class. Not perfect, not by a long shot, but that he admits his errors and does so, I believe, sincerely.
    A truly fascinating book.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Changed my opinion of the man
    I have never been a fan of Bush. In fact I really thought he was the worst president in history. I could not put this book down. He had an extraordinarily hard job, and when he tells of his mindset when making the decisions he made I have to admire him. I truly think that he did what he thought was the rite thing to do on each and every one of his decisions. I can honestly say that I now think that he did a good job.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Honest Reflection That Shows W is a Man After All
    I read this one right after the release, and being one of the many who was tired of W and ready for him to leave office, I have a new perspective on the man - no matter if you are a Democrat, Republican, or whatever political party affiliation you may lean I believe if you read this book with an open mind you will have a new perspective on W, too: he is a man, certainly not perfect, and every decision made with the facts and circumstances at hand is subject to second guessing. After all, hindsight is 20-20.

    I thought the reflections on alcohol and religion were refreshing in a politician - when do you hear of a politician having truly candid conversations on those two subjects? The realities of not finding WMD in Iraq, the repercussions of Hurricane Katrina, Scooter Libby, and the honesty come out in this book. Love him or hate him, I think this is an honest reflection, albeit with a few cards still held close to the vest - being President of the USA has to be one of the most difficult jobs ever, and wears on you. You try to make the best decisions at the time - sometimes they work out, and unfortunately sometimes they don't and you have to live with it. That is life.

    If you are looking for a good read on W's perspective, I recommend you pick this one up. If you can't get over the negative - or even highly enthusiastic - celebration of W's presidency, this one is probably not for you.

    5-0 out of 5 stars An interesting insight...
    This book provided an interesting, thematic look at the major issues in the presidency of America's forty-third president. Even if you do not share the policy leanings of GWB, you will most likely come away at least understanding hit rationale for the major decisions he made and be convinced that he placed serious thought and judgment into making them. I came away very surprised and gained a great deal of respect and empathy for his management style and processes, even in instances where the decisions may not have been ones I would have made in his place. A must for anyone interested in American politics. I found that many insights and pieces of information I did not get during his time in office. ... Read more

    2. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
    by Laura Hillenbrand
    list price: $27.00 -- our price: $13.99
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Isbn: 1400064163
    Publisher: Random House
    Sales Rank: 3
    Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars
    US | Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan

    Editorial Review

    On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood.  Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared.  It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard.  So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.

    The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini.  In boyhood, he’d been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails.  As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile.  But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.

    Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater.  Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion.  His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.

    In her long-awaited new book, Laura Hillenbrand writes with the same rich and vivid narrative voice she displayed in Seabiscuit.  Telling an unforgettable story of a man’s journey into extremity, Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit.
    ... Read more


    5-0 out of 5 stars One of the most stunning books of the year, September 24, 2010

    Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?)
    I read this book in two days flat and I know that, had I had the time, I would have read it in one sitting. This is a book that grips you, draws you in and leaves you feeling a slightly better person for having read it.

    The story is that of Louie Zamperini - a track and field star of the 1930's, who participated in the Berlin olympics, was part of the US air force in WWII, was shot down over the ocean, was adrift in the Pacific for over a month, was held as a POW by the Japanese forces and finally made it back to his life and has had the courage to live it to its fullest.

    Hillenbrand is a marvellous author. I was never tempted to read Seabiscuit and this was my first introduction to her work. She is one of a few authors who can write a non fiction story in the most gripping and vivid way imaginable. Instead of being flowery or overly embellished her prose relies squarely on research and on witness accounts and yet manages to never be dull. The swiftly moving story takes the reader from Zamperini's early beginnings, his swift rise to track star, the Berlin olympics and then to the World War. This is where the story really blooms. Hillenbrand settles in for the long haul here and we get to see the air force and the B24 bombers through the words of the men who actually flew them. The sequences where Zamperini and his friend Phil are adrift at sea are vivid and strangely beautifully described. The horrors that await them at the Japanese prison camps are not glossed over but neither does Hillenbrand wallow in the gore and violence as some authors may be tempted to do. There is always a strong sense of the respect the author holds for the men whose story she is being allowed to tell.

    History has perhaps focused its eye too exclusively on the war in Europe to the extent where the situation in the Pacific and the plight of POW's there has not recieved the attention and the respect it deserves. Hillenbrand's book and detailed research certainly makes a strong attempt to change that.

    Solidly based on statistics and army reports from both sides of the war, Hillenbrands book paints a clear picture of the hellish conditions that the POW's endured and the utter madness of the war that was being waged in the Pacific. This is a hard story to read but one that is well worth it. The falling apart of Louie's life and his slow path to regaining his life and sense of purpose is a story that is truly inspiring. This book will find a permanent place of honor on my bookshelf.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Epic Biography, October 2, 2010

    Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?)
    Louis Zamperini? Who is he? Laura Hillenbrand's near 500-page reply will answer the question not only once, but for all. He is the California boy who was a kleptomaniac. He is the running prodigy who competed at Hitler's Berlin Olympics, shook hands with the Fuhrer, and was almost shot by Nazi guards for stealing a Nazi souvenir. He is the American serviceman who entered the Pacific theater, crashed into the sea, and spent a harrowing forty-odd days floating on a disintegrating raft circled by aggressive sharks, scorched by a relentless sun, and gnawed to the bone by an inescapable hunger.

    Who is Louis Zamperini? He is a man who overcame all THAT only to be "rescued" by the wrong side -- the Japanese. He is the man who went from being a prisoner of starvation and sharks that actually leaped up and tried to snatch him out of the foundering raft to being a prisoner of Japanese guards who were every bit as predatory as the great white of the seas. He is the man who was beaten every day by a particular Japanese corporal named Mutsuhiro Watanabe, a.k.a. "the Bird." He is, in short, the Unbroken One -- the man who kept getting up, coming back, rebounding, and holding on to the tenuous thread that connected him with life and hope, past any duration that any of us could possibly imagine. And, as YOU can imagine, his story is compelling. In fact, in the capable hands of Laura Hillenbrand, author of SEABISCUIT, it reads like a thriller, a page-turner, a fictional product of a keenly talented mind -- proving once again that truth can trump fiction when it comes to stories and mankind's love of hearing them.

    When you reach the end of this man's incredible journey, you will be awed by the scope of Hillenbrand's writing. It is clear that she did a vast amount of research -- reading letters, telegrams, newspaper clippings, radio transcripts, etc., AND interviewing not only Zamperini himself, but his family members, friends, surviving fellow servicemen, and even Japanese captors. Woven in her biography are many statistics and facts from the history of World War II as well. You will learn about the science of survival -- why certain men live and certain men die -- and about the strengths and weaknesses of America's planes that carried servicemen over the vast distances of the Pacific Ocean. You will learn about the war strategy, the Japanese culture and its effects on treatment of POWs as well as on conducting (and refusing to surrender in) a war to the bitter end. And, sadly, you will learn about the aftermath of war in Japan.

    It's all here, bigger than life, packed into the small frame of one man from Torrance, California -- a man that could, and did, live to tell about a page in history we hope never to repeat. Both a personal tale of redemption and resilience, UNBROKEN is destined to become a classic in the category of narrative nonfiction. Ordinarily I'm a fiction guy, but I was spellbound from the start. Honest. Give it a try. It's big, but reads small. I think, when you reach the end, you, too, will sing its (and Louie's) praises (at 93, Zamperini is still alive and still "Unbroken"!).

    5-0 out of 5 stars Another masterpiece by the author of "Seabiscuit", September 28, 2010

    Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?)
    This is the long (500 pages) extremely detailed, meticulously researched and extremely moving story of a Hero. And yes, the caps on "hero" was intentional.

    In the first half of the book we get a detailed biography of Louis Zamperini- bad boy, then track and field star and Olympic contender. Possibly too detailed here, I admit. We then segue into WWI and Lt Zamperini's Air Corps career as a B-24 bombardier. Great stuff here, goes into fascinating detail about the B24 Liberator and the men who flew them in the Pacific. The last portion here is a harrowing tale of survival in the open seas, one of the best I have read.

    Then, Louie Zamperini gets captured by the Japanese. Folks, watching Bridge on the River Kwai will not prepare you for the brutality and inhumanity of the horrors Laura Hillenbrand brings to life here. Now, this is a gripping adventure story, well told, one that is hard to put down. But I had to put this book down in a couple places here, the story was that brutally true.

    A tale of unbelievable endurance, hardship and heroism. A real page turner, extremely well written and readable.

    5-0 out of 5 stars A well written, thoroughly researched story of survival, September 26, 2010

    Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?)
    No one can accuse Laura Hillenbrand, author of Seabiscuit: An American Legend, of ever doing a half-effort job of research when she writes narrative nonfiction. Spending seven years on this effort, the Author has produced one of the most detailed stories of an American POW being held by the Japanese during World War II that I have ever read. With the many interviews with the subject during her research, along with interviews of family members, other POW's and their families, reading over unpublished memoirs, personal letters, and military documents, it would have been easy for this book to have become a long drawn-out and sterile narrative that would read like a text book. Instead we're treated to a captivating and at times heart-wrenching story that takes a group of unknowns and present them in a way that you truly come to know them.

    The subject of the book is Louis Zamperini, whose life would have been an interesting read even before the events during WWII. A relatively trouble child who stole everything in sight, he grows up to become one of the greatest track stars of his time, shattering the national high school record in the mile and becoming one of the youngest members of the U.S. Olympic team in 1936. Many felt that Zamperini would become the first person to break the four minute mile. With the onset of the war, he was drafted into the Army Air Force and became a bombardier assigned to the semi-unreliable B-24. After surviving a number of bombing missions against Japanese targets his plane goes down in the middle of the ocean while searching for another downed plane. What follows is a story of survival by sheer will, first being adrift at sea for 46 days and then spending over two brutal years as a POW in Japan.

    Hillenbrand takes us step-by-step through the events, introducing us to other Allied prisoners as well as a number of the Japanese guards and personnel. Her descriptions of the brutality Louie, as well as other prisoners, went through are very detailed and heart-wrenching. His daily beatings from a guard known as "The Bird" would have been enough to break anyone but Zamperini endured each one. One thing I found interesting is not only did she name names of the guards that tortured the prisoners mercilessly she also did not shy away from pointing out the Japanese personnel who did their best to shield the prisoners even at the risk of their own safety. Then after the war the Author takes us through the post-traumatic years as Zamperini's life spirals downward, and his eventual rebirth as he learns forgiveness and peace.

    I would highly recommend this to those looking for an inspiring story of, as the sub-title of the book says, "Survival, Resilience, and Redemption." Just be aware, a large portion of the story will focus on the brutality and suffering inflicted on the POW's by the Japanese war machine. It can be at times a very disturbing and difficult narrative to read, one that can bring tears to your eyes. It is both one of the best books of the WWII POW experience I've read, and one of the most troubling.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Amazing, tour-de-force, destined to be a bestseller, November 2, 2010

    Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?)
    In "Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption," author Laura Hillenbrand (of Seabiscuit: An American Legend tells the story of Louis Zamperini, a bad boy turned track and field star, who participated in the 1936 Berlin Olympic and even met Hitler. Narrowly escaping arrest for attempting to piler a Nazi flag, Zamperini returned home, washed out as a pilot and eventually ended up in the Army Air Corps as a B-24 bombardier.

    Then, in May 1943, his plane goes down. He and one of his crewmates endure over 47 days before they find land, but, unfortunately, they land in enemy terrain, and are sent to a POW camp, where the story gets even more harrowing and brutal. The story of Zamperini's ordeal, survival and eventual return home, with its own attendant struggles, is one of the most gripping tales of heroism and sheer toughness, mental and physical, that I have ever read.

    I must admit, I was a bit worried that Ms. Hillenbrand, after having written the excellent Seabiscuit, would suffer a "sophomore slump." My worries were completely unfounded. Ms. Hillenbrand has the rare gift for setting atmosphere, including vast amounts of tightly-integrated background information, yet her narrative never drags or slows. Every detail was meticulously researched - I can only imagine how much work that took - and she did an incredible effort of setting the stage. I also appreciated the even-handedness of her approach, particularly when singling out the kind and humane guards in the Japanese POW camp, who took tremendous risks. Another standout section of the book, although brief, was the difficulty soldiers had in returning back to "normal life" after the war.

    This is one of the best books, historical or not, that I have ever read, and would make an outstanding movie as well. Five-plus stars.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Best Book of the Year, November 2, 2010

    Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?)
    Laura Hillenbrand's new book, "Unbroken", is one of the most incredible books I've read in recent years. It is the true story of Louie Zamperini. Zamperini, an Olympic 5000 meter runner for the US(Berlin; 1936) survives the plane crash of his bomber in the Pacific in May of 1943. The book recounts in vivid detail all that occurs over the next 2 and 1/2 years. Mr. Zamperini's story is absolutely incredible. This ranks with the best personal accounts of WWII ever written. This book is riveting!! Ms Hillenbrand's narrative style compels you to continue turning pages long after her accounts of the horrors Zamperini has endured have left you exhausted. This book is a MUST READ!! It is destined to be perched at the top of the bestseller lists for months to come.

    5-0 out of 5 stars War, survival and redemption., November 7, 2010

    Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?)
    There are thousands of books written about World War Two. Some tell the story of battles; some follow the history of the whole war, or this or that theater. Some focus on the plight of the Prisoners of War. Some are memoirs, or biographies.
    Unbroken must join the bibliography of the Pacific War as one of the best personal narratives written. Laura Hillenbrand, famous for her story of Seabiscuit, picks up the story of one young man, Louie Zamperini, troublemaker, runner, bombardier, and runs with it. He was lost in the crash at sea of his B24 Green Hornet. Lost at sea, he drifted for weeks in a life raft with two of his crewmates. They broke all records for survival in such a craft. Two of them made it, through shark infested waters, hunger and thirst to land. That's where their ordeal began.
    Now, a survival against nature story turns into something more terrible and ominous. Zamperini must contend and deal with the blackest shadows of human nature while a POW in wartime Japan. Against all odds he survives, after being officially declared dead and returns to a grateful nation.
    He and his fellow POWs suffer the after effects of their ordeals for years after the war and again, Zamperini sinks into his own private hell. Then, when in deepest despair, he meets a young Billy Graham and his life turns around once more. He finds finally redemption and returns to Japan not as a messenger of hate but as a herald of hope and forgiveness.
    I loved this book.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Marvelous, compelling story, November 5, 2010

    Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?)
    I remember quite clearly when reading Laura Hillenbrand's "Seabiscuit" about the famous racehorse that this might be a once-in-a-lifetime book for the author, that she would probably never find so compelling a story to focus upon. Hillenbrand herself says much the same thing in the afterword to her new "Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption" (due to be released to the public in the next couple weeks) -- but then she learned about Louie Zamperini. Zamperini, as the son of immigrant Italians in California in the 1930s, seemed a sure candidate for everybody's "Most Likely to Go to Reform School" list. Then, his older brother convinced him to try out for the high school track team, and a great natural gift for running was discovered. In short order, his academic and disciplinary record reversed itself, and soon Zamperini was a student at USC and one of the brightest stars of the American track scene, often touted as being the man most likely to break the fabled four minute barrier in running the mile. He was on the US team at the 1936 (Berlin) Olympics where he did respectably, although it was believed that with a little more maturity his real opportunity to win gold would come at the 1940 (Tokyo) Olympics. Then, World War II started.

    Louis Zamperini found himself a B24 bombadier in the Pacific, where long distance over-water flying in aircraft of dubious mechanical reliability probably killed more air crew than combat. In 1943 Zamperini's plane disappeared while on a search-and-rescue mission, and Zamperini and the rest of the crew were presumed killed. Instead, he and the pilot survived 47 days in a life raft before being found and "rescued" by the Japanese, landing Zamperini in a succession of POW camps for the next two years. It was a horrid, brutal experience, and it makes for intensely distressing reading. Zamperini was singled out by one particular chief guard, perhaps because of his sports fame, perhaps because of his unbowed attitude, for unrelenting, sadistic attention. Yet, despite the beatings and torture and almost nonexistent food and terrible living conditions Zamperini survived.

    Restored to the States after the end of the War, Zamperini married but quickly descended into a desperate spiral of alcohol and anger that threatened his marriage and his life. But, improbably enough, when he was dragged reluctantly to a Billy Graham camp meeting by his estranged wife, Zamperini found it within himself to let go of his wholly understandable anger and thirst for revenge, and literally reformed himself overnight, becoming an inspirational speaker and advocate for troubled youths. As of this writing, he is still hale and hearty, an indomitable optimist.

    Hillenbrand has once again found herself a perfect subject (Zamperini told her that it would be easier to write about him than Seabiscuit because he, at least, could talk), and again has demonstrated her skill in constructing a highly compelling story, vividly drawing upon the memories of a large cast of friends and family and former enemies. "Unbroken" is a marvelous book. The account of Zamperini's POW years is tough stuff, to be sure, but Hillenbrand's focus on an extraordinary character is unwavering.

    5-0 out of 5 stars An Incredible Tale of Hardship, Danger, and Courage., September 29, 2010

    Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?)
    This is a splendid book. It describes the terrible hardships endured by Louis Zamperini, former Olympian athlete, during World War Two bombing missions in the Pacific. In World War Two, I flew bombing missions over Germany, so the author's description of the tension, fear (even terror), and shock at the death of one friend after another rings painfully true. But for Zamperini, the worst was yet to come. On a flight to find a missing bomber in the vast expanse of the Central Pacific, his B-24 bomber developed mechanical trouble and plunged into the ocean. Zamperini and several of the crew managed to escape the sinking bomber and get onto a small life raft. There was precious little food and water on the raft, so they had nothing but occasional rainwater. For food, they ate raw fish, if they could catch one before the sharks did. Under a blazing sun, they drifted for an amazing 47 days before they landed on an island. But they were captured immediately by Japanese soldiers. Shipped to a prison camp in Japan, they suffered month after month of beatings, torture, and the threat of instant execution. When the war ended, the prisoners were liberated and sent home. But the war was not over for them. Although it was not discussed much back then, many suffered from post-traumatic disorder, a horror that can go on for years. Laura Hillenbrand has done a magnificent piece of writing here. It may leave you breathless, but it is well worth reading.

    5-0 out of 5 stars The Book of the Year, November 18, 2010

    Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?)
    This is likely to be the book of the year for several reasons. It is beautifully written and beautifully structured. It has a compelling and inspirational subject. It is filled to the brim with fascinating facts (Which parts of a shark are edible? What was the mortality rate in Japanese prison camps versus that in Italian/German ones? What is it like to fly a B-24?). It is the product of exhaustive research. It combines the advantages and attractiveness of biography with the strengths and strategies of suspense fiction.

    By now, most will be familiar with the subject. In Seabiscuit Laura Hillenbrand studied a California racer. She does the same in Unbroken, with the distinct advantage that (as her subject pointed out to her) he can actually talk and tell her what happened. Her subject, Louie Zamperini, was a difficult child who matured into an Olympic runner, racing in Berlin in 1936. He joined the Army Air Force in WWII, serving as a bombardier. His hideously-unreliable B-24 plummeted into the Pacific and he and two fellow fliers floated in an open raft toward the Marshall Islands, fighting heat, thirst, starvation, sharks and strafings from a Japanese plane along the way.

    Interned in several Japanese prison camps he was treated mercilessly and criminally. Saved by the American forces in the Pacific, the relentless bombing of Japan by B-29's and, quintessentially, by the flight of the Enola Gay, he was freed and returned home. Enslaved by persistent memories and alcohol, his marriage on the edge, he was saved by none other than Billy Graham. He remains alive today at 93, still feisty and active.

    This is the perfect Christmas gift for anyone, but particularly for those who remember the war, those who experienced it directly and those who need to be educated concerning it. Be warned, however. Once they start reading the book they will be absent from the rest of the family's holiday activities until they complete it.

    I highly recommend it and tip my hat to the author for her personal courage and tenacity in writing a great book. ... Read more

    3. Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1
    by Mark Twain
    list price: $34.95 -- our price: $18.17
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Isbn: 0520267192
    Publisher: University of California Press
    Sales Rank: 1
    Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars
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    Editorial Review

    "I've struck it!" Mark Twain wrote in a 1904 letter to a friend. "And I will give it away--to you. You will never know how much enjoyment you have lost until you get to dictating your autobiography." Thus, after dozens of false starts and hundreds of pages, Twain embarked on his "Final (and Right) Plan" for telling the story of his life. His innovative notion--to "talk only about the thing which interests you for the moment"--meant that his thoughts could range freely. The strict instruction that many of these texts remain unpublished for 100 years meant that when they came out, he would be "dead, and unaware, and indifferent," and that he was therefore free to speak his "whole frank mind." The year 2010 marks the 100th anniversary of Twain's death. In celebration of this important milestone and in honor of the cherished tradition of publishing Mark Twain's works, UC Press is proud to offer for the first time Mark Twain's uncensored autobiography in its entirety and exactly as he left it. This major literary event brings to readers, admirers, and scholars the first of three volumes and presents Mark Twain's authentic and unsuppressed voice, brimming with humor, ideas, and opinions, and speaking clearly from the grave as he intended. ... Read more


    5-0 out of 5 stars The Scholarly Mark Twain Edition, October 21, 2010
    The potential reader for this edition should be aware of several items. First, this autobiography is an oversize hardbook which means it may not fit into a bookshelf with other more traditional hardbooks. Second this is an academic press which means that there is a long introduction and discussion of prior autobiographical starts by Mark Twain (1870-1905) for two hundred pages. The actual autobiography of Mark Twain is only 270 pages of transcriptions from his dictation of his 1906 attempt to write his life story. Following the narrative are an additional 150+ pages of notes, index and appendixes. Two more volumes will be published later. Third, this edition is a rambling text with no chronological sequence. Mark Twain told stories as he remembered as they came to his memory. None of these observations are negative but the reader should be aware of these differences.

    This book aims to be the definitive edition by publishing everything that Mark dictated or wrote after 1905 in the order that it came into creation. Prior publications were much shorter as various editors organized what they thought was interesting, had his family's approval and was in some chronlogical sequence (Charles Neider did the best overall job of this fifty years ago). What the reader has here is Mark Twain's true speaking voice -- he is doing a monologue in your presence, going wherever his memory takes him.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, but beyond any adequate description, October 21, 2010
    Fifteen minutes ago I finished reading Volume One of the newly published "Autobiography of Mark Twain". It is no more possible to adequately describe this massive book as to attempt to fully capture the full, intricate realities of a vast range of wild mountains.

    Twain tried for many years to write his autobiography, but time and again his efforts ground to a halt and were abandoned, although fragments were kept for eventual use (and presented as part of this Volume One). It was not until Twain fixed upon the mode of orally dictating his autobiography that he found a method that really worked for him and allowed him to complete the project to his own satisfaction. The first portion of these 1906 dictations (plus explanatory editorial notes) form the heart of the present volume (two more volumes will eventually be released to complete the "Autobiography"). The result certainly does not follow a standard autobiographical approach (which Twain characterizes as a "plan that starts you at the cradle and drives you straight for the grave, with no side-excursions permitted on the way. Whereas the side-excursions are the life of our life-voyage, and should be, also, of its history.") The "Autobiography" as dictated instead is all side-excursion, almost stream of consciousness. Twain's intent was that it not be published in unexpurgated form until a hundred years after his death, leaving him free to say whatever he wished about whomever he wished to speak. Portions of it have indeed been published from time to time, in a highly edited form bearing little resemblance to what Twain intended as the true "Autobiography".

    In approaching the "Autobiography" the reader should not expect a conventional, chronologically arranged, continuous narrative in the traditional style. Twain strove intentionally, and successfully, to avoid that, instead reaching for an entirely novel style suitable for avoiding what he considered to be the usual "lying" (perhaps especially lying to oneself) found in standard autobiographies. The present volume is presented in four distinct parts: First is a lengthy explanatory section from the editors, providing the background for the "Autobiography" and explaining what Twain was aiming for; this section is probably necessary for better appreciating what Twain eventually achieved, but also may not be the best place to begin browsing. Second are the fragments of autobiographical material Twain wrote over the last few decades of the 19th century, fragments left over from his failed attempts to create an autobiography but retained by him as containing enough material and honesty to satisfy his desires. Third is the real heart of the book: oral dictations that left Twain free to dart and drift wherever his thoughts led him, free of any rigid structure; this section is most open to casual browsing. And fourth are lengthy notes and comments from the editors on Twain's text and dictations, correcting factual errors and expanding upon details.

    Reading the dictations is as near as one could hope to be sitting in a room with Twain, listening to him ramble along, mixing trivial events of forty or sixty years before with headlines from today's newspaper -- an effect that Twain was deliberately creating -- and dizzyingly flipping the pages of the calendar back and forth. Imagine Twain sitting there with a cigar and perhaps a glass of Scotch whiskey. Imagine yourself with the cigar and Scotch. It is wonderful, in the true, fundamental sense of that word.

    4-0 out of 5 stars A Must Read But NOT on Kindle, November 20, 2010
    Through this autobiography I am coming to gain even greater respect for this person I have admired for most of my own 74 years. A marvelous account of his life.

    However, because of poor eyesight I am reading the ebook version on my iPad using the Kindle reader. About 30% of the book is composed of clarifications and annotations by editors of the work. Unfortunately, those notes are in a separate section of the book and reference Twain's commentary by page number. However, the ebook version for the Kindle eliminates ALL traces of page numbering in favor of a digital code for each line. Thus there is no possible way to find the information that is being referred to in the editors comments. If possible stick to the hard copy or find a different digital ebook which retains the page references....I will for volumes 2 and 3.

    3-0 out of 5 stars To Potential Readers and Gifters, December 1, 2010
    It really should be made clear just what this book is and isn't. It is a completist's edition of a project Twain talked about for years but never actually sat down and wrote. In this scholarly volume, roughly one-third of the massive book details the process of its compilation, by Twain and by the editors (his contemporaries as well as the present ones), and includes what might today be called "outtakes" (several of which are quite interesting and enjoyable), pieces determined not to be intended as part of the Autobiography. One reader commented that "the book needs an editor". That misses the point; the scholarly editing is masterful. It COULD not credibly be edited in the sense of cutting it down as one might a contemporary manuscript to make it suitable for publication.
    Another one-third of the tome consists of scholarly notes explaining many of the references in the text. Many of these are clarifications of people (some major, some insignificant)to whom Twain refers, or locations. In many cases these are extraneous to all but the most scholarly or the compulsive who needs to know who EVERYbody is and cannot determine it by context. In some cases, they correct lapses in Twain's memory (he clearly didn't research or check many of his facts)
    Only one-third of this volume is the Autobiography itself, and it is only mildly interesting. It is certainly not a chronological narrative, much of it was dictated by an aging and bitter man(part of its sardonic charm), and much of it--- amazingly--- is drawn from a biography of Twain written, as a child, by his beloved daughter, which Twain explicates, albeit through the filter of the subsequent and ongoing grief Twain suffered since her youthful death.
    My eyesight is lousy but I was untroubled by the type. I read it in book form, but I can see where it might be problematic on kindle; one has to skip back and forth between the text and the notes, and kindle may not lend itself to that (I wouldn't know). The sheer bulk of the book is indeed troublesome, and one will need two bookmarks, one for text and one for notes (as I often use in reading History).
    Lastly, what remains as the "Autobiography"--- the reason, I think, most people would read this edition---is not terribly interesting nor funny. Fortunately, there is so much of Twain that is, and that is in print and easily available, and if one wants to read of Twain's earlier life, I would suggest reading or rereading Life on the Mississippi or his other (in a sense and ironically) more "autobiographical" works. The Library of America volume including Life... (as well as Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer) contains copious but manageable notes and biographical information. My opinion is that it would make a better gift than this to all but academics and (pardon me) twainiacs.

    5-0 out of 5 stars THE literary event of THREE centuries, October 19, 2010
    Publication of the unabridged, uncensored autobiography of America's greatest writer is not only the American literary event of the century, it is the American literary event of THREE centuries: the 19th, during which most of the events occurred; the 20th, during the first decade of which Twain actually wrote it; and the 21st, during which it is finally seeing the light of day.

    Having previously read the excerpts from the autobiography published in Twain's lifetime, I can honestly say that IMO they rank in the top tier of Twain's work in terms of quality of writing, insight, humor, provocation, emotional power, and just pure verbal delight.

    Typical of Twain's relentless thrusting off the shackles of tradition and convention even while exploring his past, Twain intentionally wrote (actually, dictated) his autobiography in a sort of stream of consciousness manner, rather than telling the story chronologically. Brilliantly done. At any given moment in the writing (dictation), he talked about what interested him the most and what most vividly came to his mind, resulting in a most powerful, fascinating addition to one's Twain library.

    I do, however, share the criticism of some other reviewers about the font (typeface) size. It is quite small, small enough to be daunting to readers not already as enthusiastic about Twain as someone like myself. Oddly, the over 200 pages of explanatory notes and appendices are the same size font as Twain's manuscript - that material could've been printed in reduced typeface to permit more pages and more readable font for Twain's words!

    5-0 out of 5 stars Mark Twain's last book....his autobiography, November 4, 2010
    We know of Samuel Clemens as Mark Twain and his legacy as an author has endured with high esteem in the hundred years that have followed Clemens's death in 1910. What an extraordinary book this is...the first of three volumes about Samuel Clemens. At long last, the public is allowed to witness this remarkable man in his own words and it is an undeniable treat of the first order.

    Clemens is introduced by editor Harriet Elinor Smith, who explains the process of how Clemens wanted to be remembered. It would not be an autobiography beginning at birth and proceeding sequentially throughout his life, but rather one that was prompted by reminiscenses that sprang to mind. In this way, his thoughts became more collective and certainly more jubilant.

    The anecdotes that Clemens tells are an outright riot! Many of them are "laugh out loud" remembrances as he fiddles with the German language, suffers with memories of the conniving Countess in Florence, plays practical jokes (the one with President Cleveland's wife at the White House is one of my favorites) and sneers at wealthy men of his era. Along the way he comments on famous people whom he knows, including General Grant and Theodore Roosevelt. Clemens is an astute observer of his peers...his descriptions, both physical and psychological...are uncanny and hilarious. When his friend, the Reverend Joseph Twichell, inadvertently dies his hair green and must appear before his congregation on Sundays trying to suppress the deed, can imagine the reaction from his flock.

    It is this personal humor that makes the autobiography shine. We often think of the Victorian era (even in the United States) as a rather staid time, devoid of laughter and full of polemics and retributions. But Clemens refutes any notion to the contrary. His life bursts with energy and although his narrative is presented to the reader in the jargon of the day, it nonetheless carries the day with vibrancy, color and wit. I highly recommend this autobiography's first volume and await the remaining ones. It is one of the best treasures of the year.

    5-0 out of 5 stars A new view of Mark Twain, October 21, 2010
    "WOW! This volume is a wonder. For one thing, it provides something like a mystery novel perspective on the archeology of Samuel Clemens'/Mark Twain's autobiography. He wrote fragments to be part of this document over a period of four decades. Simply getting a sense of the architecture for this work desired by Twain is a contribution of this work.

    Also, Twain notes that he is unable to be consistently honest about his life. Nice candor! He demanded that his version not be published until 100 years after his death. Figuring out exactly what his version was represents a major effort by the editor and others involved in this project.

    The book is divided into several sections. First, a sixty page introduction, where we learn of the origins of the autobiography and how it developed. Also, the assumptions underlying this version. Next, "preliminary manuscripts and dictations, 1870-1905." The raw material of Twain's autobiography. Then, the first volume of the autobiography.

    But it is the end result presented by the editor, Harriet Elinor Smith, that makes this volume so important. Twain comes across as cantankerous, humorous, politically savvy. . . . Early on, he makes comments about slavery. His acerbic commentaries on friends and family show a real edge to his writing. Even the photo on the dust jacket suggests that this work is about a real person and is not just a "feel good" work.

    This is not a strictly chronological sequence. Twain moves back and forth in time. As he notes (Page 220): ". . .I hit upon the right way to do an Autobiography: start it at no particular time of your life; wander at your free will all over your life; talk only about the thing which interests you for the moment; drop it the moment its interest threatens to pale, and talk about the new and more interesting thing that has intruded itself into your mind meantime."

    This volume ends with a letter from Helen Keller, suggesting how untraditional this work is. It can almost be described as "pastiche," where Twain brings in bits and pieces of material to make the points that he wishes to make. After the autobiographical portion, we read the explanatory notes (which flesh things out).

    I find this a remarkable work, providing a view of Twain that is hardly candy coated, but yet seemingly gives us insights into his nature, life, and his genius. I find this work almost overwhelming. Well worth looking at. . . . Clearly a major work.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Privilege and deep pleasure, November 7, 2010
    What a privilege to be alive for the release of this first volume of Twain's autobiography. How sad that some readers are unable to find their way around the apparatus of the volume; there is a table of contents, yes? Ah, what would Twain say? One can but imagine.

    I found the explanation of the recording and assembling of the "Auto" extremely interesting. The business of book publishing hasn't changed much, the complications of assembling and tracking manuscript sections, the copyright dilemmas--all germaine to anyone who writes. And the images of the places and circumstances in which Twain dictated-- The reader perches on the porch stair in Dublin NH, or drinks a second coffee while Twain in his heavy silk nightshirt, leans back against his bedpillows, and speaks.

    The book is lively, agile, brilliant. Twain's voice seems cleaer and stronger, or richer, than in other works. What hilarious story telling, fierce opinions, indignation, humanity and wit. I have been laughing out loud while reading, and still burst into giggles picturing the 14-year-old Twain stark naked, dancing like a bear, not knowing he's being watched. What writer hasn't wanted to remonstrate, line by line, against fatuous editing? And with such cutting, snarky wit. I'm scarcely 200 pages into Twain's actual work, and I'm reading more and more slowly, dreading the end of the volume and all the while thinking of people to whom to give the book when Christmas comes.

    I often despair about the world at the beginning of the 21st century--but Twain's new work released this year brightens the atmosphere significantly--

    5-0 out of 5 stars Tremendous Book, October 28, 2010
    Other reviews have said what can be said about the content of this book. It is an immensely enjoyable read. having been a fan of Mark Twain's non-fiction writing for many, many years, I've thoroughly enjoyed this. This is a five-star book, I shall not rate the content on the choices of the publisher.

    On that, while the print is small, the book itself is enormous for a book of less than 800 pages. The weight of the paper contributes heavily to that. While I appreciate the need to relate the weight of the work in physical form, I believe better choices could have been made to use larger print on thinner paper in the same spacial volume.

    But I bought this book for its content, not its presentation. And the content is exceptional. I cannot wait for the other volumes.

    5-0 out of 5 stars An amazing and unique piece of work!, November 3, 2010
    Whether you are a fan of Mark Twain or not this book is a history buffs dream come true. the bits and pieces and anecdotes are about the real world Sam Clemens lived in. An added bonus are the many pieces that give great insight into many, many important characters who lived in that period and who were friends, and sometimes not of Mark Twain. You will see quite clearly how Clemens perfected and kept the 'Mark Twain' persona distinct from himself. Not the most brilliant man in history, but one of the most astute students of the human psyche that has ever lived. Modern day psychologists are a joke when set against him.

    One caveat on reading the book. The first 200 pages are really only for the academic bibliophile and those retentive types concerned with the provenance of the sources. GO directly to page 200 or so and dive won't regret it. ... Read more

    4. Life
    by Keith Richards
    list price: $29.99 -- our price: $16.18
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Isbn: 031603438X
    Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
    Sales Rank: 4
    Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars
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    Editorial Review

    The long-awaited autobiography of the guitarist, songwriter, singer, and founding member of the Rolling Stones. Ladies and gentlemen: Keith Richards.

    With The Rolling Stones, Keith Richards created the songs that roused the world, and he lived the original rock and roll life.

    Now, at last, the man himself tells his story of life in the crossfire hurricane.Listening obsessively to Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters records, learning guitar and forming a band with Mick Jagger and Brian Jones.The Rolling Stones's first fame and the notorious drug busts that led to his enduring image as an outlaw folk hero. Creating immortal riffs like the ones in "Jumping Jack Flash" and "Honky Tonk Women."His relationship with Anita Pallenberg and the death of Brian Jones.Tax exile in France, wildfire tours of the U.S., isolation and addiction.Falling in love with Patti Hansen.Estrangement from Jagger and subsequent reconciliation.Marriage, family, solo albums and Xpensive Winos, and the road that goes on forever.

    With his trademark disarming honesty, Keith Richard brings us the story of a life we have all longed to know more of, unfettered, fearless, and true.
    ... Read more


    5-0 out of 5 stars You thought he'd remember nothing? Well, he remembers all of it. 'Life' is absolutely fascinating.
    Keith Richards. Right, he's the Rolling Stone you notice when Mick Jagger's not shaking and singing. The one who kicked his heroin addiction by having all his blood transfused in Switzerland. Who was --- for ten years in a row --- chosen by a music magazine as the rocker "most likely to die." Whose solution to spilling a bit of his father's ashes was to grab a straw and snort. Whose most recent revelation is about the size of Mick's equipment.

    Yeah, that's the guy. Wild man. Broken tooth, skull ring, earring, kohl eyes --- he's Cpt. Jack Sparrow's father, lurching though life as if it's a pirate movie, ready to unsheathe his knife for any reason, or none. Got some blow, some smack, a case of Jack Daniels? Having a party? Dial Keith.

    When you get a $7 million advance for your memoirs, there's no such thing as a "bad" image. But the thing about Keith Richards is, he wants to tell the truth. Like: he didn't have his blood transfused. Like: he didn't take heroin for pleasure or to nod out, but so he could tamp his energy down enough to work. Like: he and Jagger may not be friends but they're definitely brothers --- and if you criticize Mick to him, he'll slit your throat.

    Why does Keith want to undercut his legend?

    Because he has much better stories to tell.

    And in the 547-page memoir he wrote with James Fox, he serves them up like his guitar riffs -- in your face, nasty, confrontational, rich, smart, and, in the end, unforgettable.

    Start with the childhood. Keith grew up in a gray, down-and-out suburb of London. School: "I hated it. I'd spend the whole day wondering how to get home without taking a beating." By his teens, he'd figured the system out: "There's bigger bullies than just bullies. There's 'them,' the authorities." He adopts "a criminal mind." His school record reflects this: "'He has maintained a low standard' was the six-word summary of my 1959 school report, suggesting, correctly, that I had put some effort into the enterprise."

    His mother is his savior. She likes music, and is a "master twiddler" of the knobs on the radio. When he's 15, she spends ten quid she doesn't have to buy her only child a guitar. (No spoilers here, but much later in the book, you're going to fight tears when he plays a certain song for her.)

    The rest of the book? Keith Richards and a guitar --- and what a love story: "Music was a far bigger drug than smack. I could kick smack; I couldn't quit music. One note leads to another, and you never know what's going to come next, and you don't want to. It's like walking on a beautiful tightrope."

    What music interests him? Oh, come on: the music of the dispossessed --- black Chicago blues. Mick Jagger, who lives a few blocks away and is prosperous enough to actually buy a few records, also loves this music. To say they bond is to understate: "We both knew we were in a process of learning, and it was something you wanted to learn and it was ten times better than school."

    The Rolling Stones form. The casting is quite funny: "Bill Wyman arrived, or, more important, his Vox amplifier arrived and Bill came with it."

    Today bands dream of getting rich. Not the Stones: "We hated money." Their first aim was to be the best rhythm and blues band in London. Their second was to get a record contract. The way to do that was to play.

    Something happened when the Stones were on stage, something sexy and dangerous and never seen before. The Beatles held your hand. In 18 months, the Stones never finished a show. Keith estimates they played, on average, five to ten minutes before the screaming started, and then the fainting, until the security team was piling unconscious teenage girls on the stage like so much firewood.

    Fame. When it comes, there's no way out; you need it to do your work. The Stones at least brought a new look to it; they provoked the press, didn't care what the record company wanted. Only the music mattered. As Berry Gordy liked to say, "It's what's in the grooves that counts."

    "The world's greatest rock band" --- between 1966 and 1973, it's hard to argue that they weren't. Songs poured out of them: "I used to set up the riffs and the titles and the hook, and Mick would fill in. We didn't think much or analyze....Take it away, Mick. Your job now. I've given you the riff, baby."

    Drugs? Necessary. In the South, a black musician laid it out for Keith: "Smoke one of these, take one of these." Keith would move on beyond grass and Benzedrine to cocaine for the blast and focus, heroin for the two or three day work marathon. Engineers would give their all and fall asleep under the console, to be replaced by others. Keith would soldier on. "For many years," he says, "I slept, on average, twice a week."

    With money and success, though, there's suddenly time to think --- in Keith's case, about all the things about Mick that drove him nuts. His interest in Society. His egomania. His insecurity. And his promiscuity: "Mick never wanted me to talk to his women. They end up crying on my shoulder because they've found out that he has once again philandered. What am I gonna do? The tears that have been on this shoulder from Jerry Hall, from Bianca, from Marianne, Chrissie Shrimpton... They've ruined so many shirts of mine. And they ask me what to do! How should I know? I had Jerry Hall come to me one day with this note from some other chick that was written backwards --- really good code, Mick! --- "I'll be your mistress forever." All you had to do was hold it up to a mirror to read it... And I'm in the most unlikely role of counselor, "Uncle Keith." It's a side a lot of people don't connect with me."

    If only it could be so simple as a man and his guitar! But there are other people involved, in close association, with a lot at stake --- and here comes the business story, the drug story, the power story. It's funny and silly. And, after a while, sad. Mick breaks away from the Stones and makes a solo record: "It was like 'Mein Kampf.' Everybody had a copy but nobody listened to it." Mick gets grand. Keith's lost in drugs. From 1982 to 1989, the Stones don't tour; from 1985 to 1989, they don't go into the studio.

    And now they are rich. Beyond rich. Every time they tour or license a song, their wealth mounts -- Keith, by most estimates, is worth at least $250 million. It's ironic, really, for by any creative analysis, the Stones were over after "Exile on Main Street." And yet, here they are, almost four decades later, capable of producing the most lucrative tour of any year.

    Like so many things these days, music is about branding -- and there's no bigger brand than the Rolling Stones. Keith may slag his band mates; he'd never mock the Stones. Because the band is, if his version is accurate, really his triumph. Mick provided the flash, but in rock and roll, a great riff will always trump flash.

    A great riff will also trump time. We love rock for many reasons, and not the smallest is the way it makes us feel young, as if everything's possible and the road is clear ahead of us. And here is Keith Richards, who never grew up and is now so rich he'll never have to.

    His story slows as it approaches the present, and you start to wonder if this Peter Pan life can get to its end without real pain. And you think, well, there's another side to this -- if Mick started writing tonight, he could have his book out before he's 70. But mostly, you wish you could go back to the beginning of "Life" and start again.

    This memoir, written with the help of writer James Fox, is an intricately detailed account of Keith Richards life, both in and out of music-but mostly in. All the stories are here-the funny, the touching, the horrendous, and the amazing. Some are well known, some weren't even known to Richards-he only hears later, from others who were with him, what went on. And he's put it all in this book. Included are 32 pages of b&w and color photographs (including one of the band, with Jagger driving, in a vintage red convertible, across the Brooklyn Bridge) in two groups, plus photos throughout the book itself chronicling Richards' life. Also of interest is an early diary that Richards kept detailing the bands early gigs and impressions of the music the band played.

    Richards has been known as many things-"the human riff", as some kind of prince of a dark underworld filled with drugs, booze, and skull rings, as "Keef", a rock 'n' roll pirate, as someone who should be dead (several times over) from massive drug use and other lifestyle choices, and as someone hounded by law enforcement-looking to incarcerate this bad example to all the kids. But Richards is also known as a settled (for him) family man. But somehow he's survived it all. And now, with this autobiography, he's letting us into his life. This book looks back at all the times-good, bad, and just plain strange.

    Beginning with Richards' boyhood in post-war England, no stone is left unturned in detailing his young life. A life which changed forever with his discovery of American blues. From that era the book details the formation of THE ROLLING STONES (I would like to have learned more about Brian Jones' in relation to the formation of the group), which changed his life again-a life he continues to the present.

    This book is important, interesting, and at times, harrowing, with a myriad of details surrounding Richards, his band, and anyone caught up in their universe of music, good times, misery, drugs, violence, and just plain weirdness. But the book also shows another side of Keith Richards. The pain he felt (and still feels) when his young son Tara, died while Richards was on tour. The loss of musician and friend/band hanger-on, Gram Parsons. Looking back with regret as people close to him sunk into a hellish pit of drug addiction. And Richards' own account of his years of drug use-especially heroin and the misery he brought on himself, even while he was careful not to go to far over the edge.

    Of course no memoir concerning Richards would be complete without accounts of the ups and downs, over many years, with Mick Jagger. There's a number of fascinating asides and insights concerning their ideas of what direction the band should follow. Unfortunately, but not surprising, Jagger (and the other band members) are not heard from. That's unfortunate because of all the valuable insight concerning Richards' life on and off the stage, and the inner workings of one of the world's greatest rock 'n' roll bands, that his long time band mates could bring to the story. But others who have known Richards over the course of many years were interviewed. People like Ronnie Spector, Jim Dickinson, Andrew Oldham, Bobby Keys, and a number of fellow musicians and friends, all have telling bits and pieces to add to the overall picture of just who Richards is.

    The detail Richards and Fox have put into this well written memoir is almost staggering. Reading about the early days of the band is exciting and fascinating, if for no other reason the era they came up in is long since vanished. The discovery and idolization of musicians like Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Jimmy Reed, Slim Harpo, and other blues greats, trying to emulate the hard scrabble lifestyles of American blues artists, the small scruffy clubs the band played in the beginning, living in abject poverty and squalor, the large concerts in later years, the songs, the albums, the drugs, and the many fascinating (and sometimes disgusting) characters that drift in and out of Richards' life-it's all here. And taken together, this is a story only Keith Richards could live (and survive) to write about in such detail.

    While there have been other decent books on Richards and/or the Stones, for the straight, unvarnished truth, as he sees it and lived it, this is the book that matters. This memoir, written in a Richards-to-you conversational style, is interesting, exciting, gritty, informative, harrowing, and important. And with this book, written in his own words, we can't get much closer to the man and his life than that.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Truly Phenomenal - Similar in Quality and Candor to the Beatles Anthology
    The other reviewers have already done an excellent job of summarizing the topics he speaks of in the book, so I won't pile on that. I just wanted to emphasize the quality and openness and candor of this memoir.

    Many mocked his quote in the beginning that he truly remembers all of it, but it's abundantly clear that not only does he remember, but he's willing and eager to share it.

    Sure, the $7mm advance helps, but we've all read much-hyped bios that turned out to be self-congratulatory, unimpressive paper weights.

    This is not that. You will learn more about Keith than the most die hard fans do, and learn that he's far more than the caricature of a drug-abusing burned out rock star that the media often paints him out to be.

    I'm blown away.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Don't try this life at home - but it's sure fun to read about
    What a fun biography! What a life!

    Keith Richards is definitely my favorite heroin addict, ever.

    Random observations:

    --He refreshingly avoids recovery-speak in discussing his legendary drug abuse. Consequently this may be one of the best firsthand accounts of it ever written - clear, plain, detailed. I'd rather read this than Aldous Huxley or The Beats. While not encouraging anyone else to try it, he doesn't apologize or lather on phony regrets . He enjoyed it while he did it. A lot of it was just business for touring musicians- something to get you up for the next show on your grueling schedule, and something to mellow off the first drug's hard edges. He figures he stayed alive because he used pure products (often obtained, albeit illegally, from legal prescriptions ), and was meticulous about not overdoing it. There's a jolly scene where he describes himself cutting Turkish heroin exactly 97 to 3. Not 96 to 4.

    -- He's down to earth. More genuine, perhaps, than Jagger, whom he faults for accepting a knighthood after playing the rebel his entire life. (A class thing perhaps - Jagger the middle-class, good-student striver ultimately wanting acceptance by the elites; Richards the son of a factory worker, knowing that's not his bag and not really wanting it.) He'd rather hang with musicians, particularly good ones, than the jet set and Eurotrash.

    --He never turns to Buddhism, rants about politics or devotes himself to saving the planet. For this alone I'd lionize him.

    -- Richards prefers the band to the solo; for him the big moment is when the sound blends and you can't tell who's playing what. He likes hanging with his best buds, most of whom have been in jail. He's comfortable with black people in contexts most whites never reach - Rastafarians in remote villages where most white people would get shot, all-night parties with black musicians on the other side of the tracks after shows in the still-segregated South.

    --He really has led a charmed life, wriggling out of numerous busts where they had him cold - in Canada, Honolulu, Arkansas, and England. He's also survived auto wrecks and fires, physical mayhem and rioting English teenage girls, whom he regarded as scarier than the cops who staked him out for years trying to catch him with drugs.

    --Oh my God: all the women. Sigh. It's good to be king.

    Now for the pontificating. This is one of the most important books in rock history in recent years. Popular culture knows a hell of a lot about the Beatles but far less about the Stones. What folks know about them, they tend to know about Jagger instead of Richards. And what they know about Richards is disproportionately his indestructibility in the face of unbelievable drug abuse.

    Which is a pity. Let's not forget that the Rolling Stones were there at the conception, just like the Beatles. Teenyboppers rioted for them, just like for the Beatles. In 1964, two British polls showed them more popular than the Fab Four. Their rise was seen as heralding the Apocalypse, probably more so than the Beatles. Stones mania in England caught up with the Beatles by 1964 or 1965. The two bands would coordinate their singles' releases so as not to step on each other's hits. By the age of peak cultural and political rebellion, the Beatles were already breaking up while the Stones were just hitting their stride.

    While Lennon and McCartney were the latest pop-standard immortals, the Stones saw themselves as bluesmen. They singlehandedly brought the legacy of the Chicago blues to an enormous worldwide audience, reviving many blues careers. Their merging of early rock and roll and Chicago blues created what you today think of as rock - that big pounding sound filling stadiums. No one has ever surpassed them in its execution. Richards refers to them without braggadocio as the world's greatest rock and roll band, and that's true.

    So much of that can be attributed to Richards, their guitarist for half a century. He was never a glossy pop celebrity. He had bad teeth. He never came across as a virtuoso a la Clapton or Hendrix. But he and Charlie Watts were - I'm stealing a phrase from the book here - the band's engine house, while Jagger sang and danced out front, the band's public face.

    Richards was mesmerized during youth by the blues, but unlike a lot of older blues purists, he also loved rock and roll. The band's early insistence on playing it raised hackles among their base of blues fans; Richards parallels this to folkie disapproval of rock and roll. Richards, Jagger and Brian Jones spent two or three years in poverty singlemindedly pursuing the blues. They dissected every record they could find to replicate its sounds. And they really got it. Early American audiences hearing them on the radio couldn't tell if they were white or black. Richards' life changed when he first heard Elvis singing "Heartbreak Hotel" on a crackling Radio Luxemburg broadcast, but it was Elvis's guitarist Scotty Moore he really idolized.

    He describes how music is made, how he and Jagger wrote songs, how a sound was achieved, recording tricks. His discovery of five-string tuning - removing a guitar's lowest string and tuning the others like a banjo - changed the Stones' sound.

    The personal data intrigues, and not just the inside dope on his relationships with Ronnie Spector, Anita Pallenberg, Patti Hansen, Uschi Obermaier and others. Readers may be surprised to learn Richards was a devoted Boy Scout patrol leader and thinks it shaped him into someone who could run a band. Or that he was in a prize-winning boys choir. Or that he was nervous approaching women. Or that in later life he's become a devoted reader, preferring history (World War II, the Romans) Patrick O'Brian's "Master and Commander" series, and George MacDonald Fraser's "Flashman" books. (I salute his excellent taste.)

    The way to view his life is this: it's not a recommendation to everyone else to screw countless women, including gorgeous models, beautiful revolutionaries, black strippers, groupies and bankers' wives. It's not a recommendation to lead a jangled lifestyle for decades abusing every drug available while putting in recording studio sessions measured in days, not hours, without sleep.

    Richards is, more or less, a god in the Greek sense, and we marvel at him because he does things that most of us can't or don't really want to. He's unkillable. He's mega-talented, fabulously rich and famous. He has lived a charmed existence by his own rules. But this life killed or destroyed many around him weaker, less lucky or talented than he. Brian Jones was gone by 1969. Richards is the exception that proves these rules. That's the role of gods and kings.

    Don't try this at home. But it's sure fun to read about.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Life Rocks
    In the early eighties I used to see Keith Richards in various altered states in a hotel on the upper east side of New York City. What amused me then, and still does, is that in the morning the doormen in their crisp red uniforms would be taking his dogs for a walk in Central Park. Mr. Richards, himself, looked as though he might have recently been sleeping under a bridge. At the time, it never crossed my mind that this guy was even literate, much less erudite and, as evidenced by this memoir, insightful. Mr. Richards has written the rock 'n roll story from a musician's perspective and, if he takes a shot, he aims it for the ones who can take it, including himself.

    As he describes taking his seven year old son, Marlon, on the road for a Stones tour while he himself is a strung out mess, he doesn't sugar coat it and, not surprisingly, the years of drug addictiion, the arrests, and the close calls are all part of this story. Some stories are heartbreaking, others hilarious and he gives good anecdote. However, it is Mr. Richards dedication to the music and his fellow musicians that make this doozy of a book soar. Keith Richards, superstar, is still as excited about making music, playing music and learning about music as he was fifty years ago, which is why we're all still listening and what makes this book such a great read.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Love the way Richards mixes his own take with contributions from those closest to him
    While Keith's claim that he remembers it ALL may be stretching things a bit, the fact is that he remembers an amazingly diverse amount of information. A special feature of the book? The memories of Tom Waits, Patti Hansen (Keith's wife) and others who have known him through the years. Their insights help give perspective to the book.

    Along with plenty of details about the various rifts between Richards and (Mick) Jagger, there are odd little bit of info as well as quirky and fun additions- a recipe for sausages and mashed potatoes, lists of books, and authors that Richard likes. He is a voracious reader and has a massive library.

    In this autobiography, Richards clearly picks what he feels is worth including, leading to some baffling omissions. Chuck Berry is clearly revered by Richards and mentioned regularly, along with plenty of others who have remained his friends or influenced him musically.He also includes recollections of women who have been involved with him (and/or with Mick Jagger) - but Richards also writes very little about Jerry Hall, a woman who had a long-term relationship with Jagger. It is as though she barely existed although I've seen clips of The Rolling Stones in various documentaries and she was clearly on the scene. On the other hand, Marianne Faithful and Patti Hansen get plenty of page time.

    For those who want the scoop on police altercations and drug busts, admissions of massive drug use, info about Keith's use of heroin and how he quit using this very addictive drug, the truth about his relatively recent accident and brain is all here. Tour info, song inspirations, plenty of musical trivia...also included. At over 500 pages, this may seem lengthy to some readers but I found it well worth the time. After all, just think of the incredibly long career of The Rolling Stones! It is hard to imagine a short volume which includes information about Keith's involvement with the group as well as his private life.

    While I'd recommend reading this in chronological order, each chapter contains a brief summary of events covered in that chapter, allowing readers to pick and choose among chapters, if desired. ... Read more

    5. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
    by Benjamin Franklin
    Kindle Edition
    list price: $0.00
    Asin: B000JMLMXI
    Publisher: Public Domain Books
    Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars
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    Editorial Review

    This book was converted from its physical edition to the digital format by a community of volunteers. You may find it for free on the web. Purchase of the Kindle edition includes wireless delivery. Uniform title: Autobiography ... Read more


    5-0 out of 5 stars The Original American Dream
    It's a little presumptuous to write a "review" of a book as historically important as this, so I'll just give a few reasons why you should read it.

    It's well-written and engaging, even 200+ (nearing 300+; Franklin was born in 1706) years later. It stops in 1760, well before his involvement with the Revolution, but it covers in detail his youth, apprenticeships, the formation of his philosophy and ideals, and his path from poor roots to business and social success -- the first telling of the American Dream, the idea that a poor young man could Find His Fortune in the New World through enterprise, wisdom, and work.

    There is a high degree of self-hagiography here, and it would be amusing to tally up (for example) how many times Franklin praises himself vs. how many times he advises on the virtue of humility. He smooths over issues like his illegitimate son, he doesn't mention his membership in the Freemasons, etc. The construction is also a bit rambling ("Then I did this thing. Next, I did another thing. Then I did a third thing"), but Franklin simply did so many interesting things -- even in this short slice of his life -- that the book is interesting despite that. There's a great deal of discussion on his scientific and inventive accomplishments, and he talks at length about his development of his own personal moral code and how he achieved business success (along with Franklin's Personal Method You Can Use for Self-Improvement -- in some ways, this is the first self-help book!)

    All in all, this is very much worth reading, and gives a compelling picture of Franklin's life and times. I particularly liked the picture Franklin draws of contemporary American society -- free, open, and small, with most people in most towns all knowing each other, and business opportunities are wide open for anyone with industry and pluck. I'm not sure how similar modern-day America still is to Franklin's Philadelphia, but it's certain that Franklin -- and this book -- helped set the image that we still *want* to believe America conforms to. And for that alone, it's worth reading.

    If you like this book, you might also be interested in reading Alexis de Tocqueville's _Democracy in America_, for another view of colonial-era America, or any of Mark Twain's nonfiction (_Life on the Mississippi_, _Roughing It_, etc.), for similar accounts of America's growth and development a hundred-odd years further on. Any of those should be available as a free Kindle download.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Enlightening and Written in the Style of the Times
    This "Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin" does not contain the type of finished material one has come to expect in a finished coherent autobiographical writing covering the whole life span of the individual written by single author over a continuous period of time. This is really source material partially written over distinctly separate periods of time wherein the author, Benjamin Franklin, wrote on two different continents without access to the other parts of his text. With that said, I still think that this book is a wonderful and enlightening piece of work. It should, in my opinion, be considered for placement in every high school and college library, and it should perhaps be wise to consider it for required reading in those institutions. The book tells of the life and times in which Mr. Franklin lived, the attitudes of the colonists and of the British and the ways that things were accomplished in colonial America. It is truly amazing to me to hear first hand how a single individual with only two years of formal education can educate himself as this man did and to rise to make such truly great contributions to society, science, engineering, and politics. I highly recommend this book.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Kindle
    While reading "An Incomplete Education" I read that this was the greatest autobiography ever written. Out of curiosity I purchased it and read it and the recommendation was right on. This book was very intriguing and captivating.

    The only disappointing part was that the American Revolution and Benjamin Franklin's part was not detailed.

    Benjamin Franklin's list of virtues and his application to his life were amazing. Oh that young men today would seek to be so virtuous!

    Great read.

    5-0 out of 5 stars An Unfinished Autobiography of the Consumate American Life
    Franklin wrote this autobiography as a letter of instruction in the ways of the world to his youthful and illegitimate son of 40. It only covers the first half or so of his incredible life, so the things that really made him well-known are not covered, but there is plenty here anyway.

    Franklin recounts his family's modest life in England and the circumstances that brought them to Boston. He was among the youngest of a very large family, ultimately finding his way to Philadelphia to find work as a printer when an apprenticeship with an older brother turned sour.

    We always think of Franklin as being a slightly older statesman among the Founding Fathers, when in fact he was a full generation older than Washington or Jefferson. Unlike popular perception, he was an athletic and vibrant youth, who rescued a drowning Dutch companion and taught swimming to children of London's elite.

    Philadelphia in the 1720's and 1730's was a small town, never sure if it would really take off as a settlement. Franklin quickly befriended key politicians who felt Philadelphia had grown sufficiently to have a world-class print shop. He played a key role in the town's development, leading civic groups in establishing libraries, fire companies, meeting halls, and street cleaning services. Of course, he was also the consummate politician, serving in office, and networking his way to his first fortune by publishing government documents and printing the first paper currency. He also had a knack for working with the several important religious sects of that time and place, especially the pacifist Quakers, even though Franklin was a deist.

    Franklin was a clever businessman. In today's lexicon, he effectively franchised across the colonies his concept of the publisher/printer who would provide both the content and the ink on paper. By age 30, he had set up his business affairs so that his printing businesses in several colonies were operated by partners and he received a share of the profits, allowing him to pursue other interests.

    The autobiography is unfinished, so we don't hear his account of his pursuits of electricity, which made him as famous and well-known as Bill Gates is today, nor his thought on the Revolution. Franklin did play a key role in establishing logistical support to the British during their fight with the French in the New World. At that time and during his years in Europe, he was generally perceived as a Tory supporter.

    Read this book to learn how Franklin devoted himself to self-improvement by establishing clubs, lending libraries, a sober lifestyle allowing time for study, and his methods for measuring his personal performance against metrics he had established for a proper lifestyle. One will also gather a new appreciation for the fullness, utility, and richness of the English language when put on paper by a master.

    5-0 out of 5 stars A great story of a great man.
    This book is actually less an autobiography in the traditional sense we see today and more of a story told in two sections. The first is a letter to his son, while the second part he seemed to have been encouraged to write by a friend. The first letter is the story from his birth to his arrival in PA, while the send part picks up where the first leaves off and continues until just before our Revolution. But the result is the same - enlightenment about how important this man was.

    The prose in this book is, as you'd expect, 18th century so you get plenty of "thee" and "thy" but not to distraction. It is a compelling read and difficult to put down but the language gets tedious. As you can tell by my rating this does not diminish the quality of the book but may affect some potential readers.

    In all it's definitely worth your time and effort to understand one of the founding geniuses of our country. Really, this man is a true American hero. Where would we be without a free press, libraries and many of his other contributions? He was a skilled negotiator very much in the right place at the right time.

    Still, it would be all the more satisfying to hear his side of the events of the Revolution. I wonder at the gaping hole presented by this. Perhaps he was afraid of arrest or worse? One is left imagining whether there would even be a United States were it not for BF.

    It would be interesting if other readers might share other biographical recommendations, if any, that could shed light on the latter part of Mr. Franklin's life. This book is an essential first step towards a complete understanding of one of our founding fathers.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Living On Purpose, On Purpose -- And having fun too!
    This book came to me based on a recommendation by Anthony Robbins in his book "Awaken the Giant Within." And upon reading it, it occurs to me how many gurus have built on, or simply stolen, Ben Franklin's ideas for living a life with purpose, on purpose. (Cheers to Robbins for identifying his mentors and sources so openly.) "The Autobiography of Ben Franklin" is a quick easy read with many rewards. Learn about the man, discover the seed of modern self-help ideas, and see America though a unique set of eyes.

    About the writing. . . When Franklin took pen to paper his motivation was to share ideas with his son. In other words, he was writing a letter, and what a joy that it survived as a letter to each of us. Enjoy this book as insights offered by a dynamic individual. And, have the flexibility to enjoy writing that certainly isn't in the pop-culture mold of our century. I myself found this refreshing! If you like ideas and value the role mentors can play in our lives, then read this book today.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Best how-to manual to daily living
    Ben Franklin is the most amazing figure of American revolution. The essence of American life, a hero, a political figure, a self-made man, a scientist, a diplomat - turns out to be just a guy next door, a neighbor.

    I got this book on audio from a local library - and spent 6.5 wonderful hours listening to a friend, a teacher, a wise man. He is entertaining - but serious at the same time, he goes into great details of his dealings with people, business partners, politicians - but is never boring.

    Anyone who wants to learn how to connect with people, to become a better person, to grow a business and wealth, to be a good friend - and more - should read this book.

    I would recommend an audio format if you have choices - it really turns it into a conversation with Ben Franklin.

    5-0 out of 5 stars An Incomplete American Life
    Well, Ben Franklin's life was not incomplete, but his autobiography is. This is partly because Franklin never intended his book for publication.

    He was writing it for the benefit of his son - partly as a guide for life, and partly as a family history. Indeed, on the first page, Franklin writes that he has always enjoyed hearing stories about his ancestors, and hopes his son will be as interested to learn of his father's life. However, after Franklin's break with his son, he continues to write, but now it is for the benefit of all of his ancestors. Franklin's disagreement with his son William is just one of many details that are missing from this book.

    I was always interested in Franklin and it had long been a goal of mine to read his autobiography. Had I known that the years 1758-1790 were not covered, which were probably the most important and influential of his life, I might not have read it. And that would have been a mistake.

    For although the major events of the 1770s and 1780s are missing, like the American Revolution, the Treaty of Paris, and the Constitutional Convention, there is so much material about the early years of Franklin's life here that it is still a worthwhile book. Who knew Franklin was practically a champion swimmer, for example? We often think of Franklin as the elder statesman of the Founding Fathers, as indeed he was. Franklin was born 26 years before George Washington. But in this book we see Franklin as a boy and then a young man, whole periods of his life that are forgotten when one thinks of his later, great contributions.

    Thankfully, Franklin documents much of it, and it makes for terrific reading. His battles with his brother, his early struggles with established religion, his bold jump to Philadelphia, and then to London, when he was still so young. He even mentions that he was a regular patron of the local prostitutes in Philadelphia! This is not something you'd see in Poor Richard's Almanac, of that I am sure.

    Even though the book is lacking the major events of Franklin's later life, it is still rich in anecdotes and instruction. There is much to be learned from Ben, whether he was founding the first fire department or library, or making monetary contributions to every religious denomination in Philadelphia, or his attempts at achieving "moral perfection" - actions that demonstrated his industriousness, his tolerance, his wisdom.

    Franklin was an incredibly fascinating character and he remains one of the giants of American history. You wouldn't know it from reading this autobiography, but it doesn't matter; the historians have safely documented his legacy in other books. In these pages, in his own words, you learn what made Franklin tick, what he believed in, and why. And that's more than enough.

    Five stars. ... Read more

    6. Cleopatra: A Life
    by Stacy Schiff
    list price: $29.99 -- our price: $15.59
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Isbn: 0316001929
    Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
    Sales Rank: 7
    Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars
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    Editorial Review

    The Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer brings to life the most intriguing woman in the history of the world: Cleopatra, the last queen of Egypt.

    Her palace shimmered with onyx, garnets, and gold, but was richer still in political and sexual intrigue. Above all else, Cleopatra was a shrewd strategist and an ingenious negotiator.

    Though her life spanned fewer than forty years, it reshaped the contours of the ancient world. She was married twice, each time to a brother. She waged a brutal civil war against the first when both were teenagers. She poisoned the second. Ultimately she dispensed with an ambitious sister as well; incest and assassination were family specialties. Cleopatra appears to have had sex with only two men. They happen, however, to have been Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, among the most prominent Romans of the day. Both were married to other women. Cleopatra had a child with Caesar and--after his murder--three more with his protg. Already she was the wealthiest ruler in the Mediterranean; the relationship with Antony confirmed her status as the most influential woman of the age. The two would together attempt to forge a new empire, in an alliance that spelled their ends. Cleopatra has lodged herself in our imaginations ever since.

    Famous long before she was notorious, Cleopatra has gone down in history for all the wrong reasons. Shakespeare and Shaw put words in her mouth. Michelangelo, Tiepolo, and Elizabeth Taylor put a face to her name. Along the way, Cleopatra's supple personality and the drama of her circumstances have been lost. In a masterly return to the classical sources, Stacy Schiff here boldly separates fact from fiction to rescue the magnetic queen whose death ushered in a new world order. Rich in detail, epic in scope, Schiff 's is a luminous, deeply original reconstruction of a dazzling life.
    ... Read more


    5-0 out of 5 stars Masterfully researched and written biography of a great woman
    Stacy Schiff took a great risk when she wrote "Cleopatra: A Life." Can a woman branded a "whore" by the Great Bard himself, ever really have a reputation as anything else? Directly challenging 2,000 year old assumptions that were enhanced by the likes of Dante, and director Joseph Mankiewicz, is a tall order for even the most accomplished writer. Ms. Schiff brilliantly rises to the task.

    Ms. Schiff brings to vivid life a very different Cleopatra from the one depicted to us by playwrights and movie directors. Instead of a wanton seductress relying solely upon her looks, Cleopatra was one of the most authoritative rulers in the history of humanity, inheriting at the age of 18 one of the greatest kingdoms ever known, during a time in history when women had about the same social stature as farm animals.

    Furthermore, Ms. Schiff is a wordsmith extraordinaire. In beautifully constructed prose that reminded me more of Nabokov than your typical biographer, Ms. Schiff paints a lovely, nuanced portrait of a great and vastly misunderstood woman. And what life the author brings to ancient Egypt too! The descriptions of the ancient world in which Cleopatra lived were so vivid that you would think the author was Cleopatra's contemporary, and not her 21st century biographer.

    Ms. Schiff had a tough act to follow with herself; all her previous books have won, or been nominated for, just about every pretigious literary award you can think of.
    I wouldn't be surprised if she at least gets on the short-list for the Pulitzer with "Cleopatra: A Life."

    5-0 out of 5 stars A fuller, deeper, much more interesting take on Cleopatra.
    I'm an avid reader and certainly don't mind books by and/or about men, however, I've always wished there were more books about dynamic, interesting women. "Cleopatra: A Life" more than fulfilled this wish. What I knew about Cleopatra before I read this book came from long ago college classes, the movie with Elizabeth Taylor, and a viewing of the play about her and Antony at a Shakespeare festival. I had the vague impression that Cleopatra was first and foremost a woman who would cast an unbreakable sexual spell on any man who was convenient for her to control. I'm so glad and thankful that Stacy Schiff shows us that Cleopatra was so much more than a seductress; Cleopatra had wit, charm and superlative intelligence.

    The fact that Cleopatra lived through her 20's is a tribute to her intelligence alone, as I simply could not believe just how commonplace murder was for those with power in the ancient world. Then, to maintain her position as Egypt's sovereign, Cleopatra's circumstances dictated that she had to ally herself with the Romans, the world's greatest power at the time. For a time, Cleopatra maintained the upper-hand in the power relations with two of the most powerful Romans, Julius Caesar and Marc Antony; with both men she had much written about sexual relationships. In the end, Rome became her enemy, and they also became her biographer. After reading "Cleopatra: A Life", I get the sense that the patriarchal Romans couldn't bring themselves to write a narrative showing that two of their greatest leaders were outwitted by a woman. Imagine what a biography of Monica Lewinsky would be like if it were written by ardent supporters of Bill Clinton.

    Now, on a separate note, I've read all the reviews thus far for this book, and I've noticed a trend in some of the negative reviews. Although "Cleopatra" was written more for a general audience than Schiff's prior biographies, this is still a work of serious scholarship. I doubt this is a book that most people could easily read at the beach. So with this in mind, if you love the intriguing stories of antiquity, but a book that will demand your attention, then this book is for you. If you want a historical version of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" then you probably won't like this book.

    In closing, I loved this book. I hope Stacy Schiff's next book is about an overlooked, or misunderstood woman.

    5-0 out of 5 stars The elusive, evasive queen; Slandered for 2000 years

    Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?)
    Cleopatra: A Life
    Stacy Schiff

    Author Stacy Schiff is a Pulitzer Prize winner and in another case was a Pulitzer finalist. She also won the George Washington Book Prize, the Ambassador Award in American studies, the Gilbert Chiard Prize of the Institute Francais d' Am�rique and three NYT Notable Books, The LA Times Book Review, The Chicago Tribune, and Economist books of the year. She received Fellowships from: the Guggenheim Foundation and National Endowment for the Humanities, a Director's Fellow at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers and much, much more.

    The copy I received from Amazon for review was a typical advanced, uncorrected, proof, Review copy, which is usually a paperback format. Except that in this case the care given to the paperback cover, complete with a florid display of color in a four folded front and back cover, may be a clue to the coming of a hard cover of opulence. This sort of Review copy is more rare than most and it hints at the possibility of a forthcoming major film on Cleopatra.

    As for the content; ah the content... magnifique! One hundred, ten thousand words of unbridled perfection. Stacy Schiff's language is as effusive in was the Queen, which she adorns with deep research - research that blows the cover off more than two thousand years of intentional slanderous inaccuracies. Some by men who hated her, who were, I believe, because of their fear of women of Power, beauty, sexual excellence, confidence and intellect.

    In line after line, paragraph after paragraph, the writing, vocabulary, color and tone of the book is perfection. Words flow into sentences four to ten lines long, and in a few cases paragraphs often cover most of a page, ala Henry James, (Turn of The Screw, etc.) and if you are used to reading the classics in any language, you don't mind it a bit, and some may welcome it.

    Schiff expands her sentences sometimes into nearly page long paragraphs, with serial descriptions of sumptuously, voluptuous parades, banquets and artifacts. She seduces you into falling head over heels in love, and or lust with the girl queen, whose intellect, competence, strategic and tactical planning are equal to if not superior to that of entire enemy nations.

    Cleopatra, a Greek woman, who spoke at least eight languages, played most games as well as or better than her male companions, who were often in awe of her. She who could and did easily charm men with even half an effort, even those who resented, hated and were envious of her (and there were many) made Alexandria the art, cultural and commercial center of the world. Her net worth before her death was valued at roughly $95.7 Billion American dollars, the richest woman in the world, or ever, and among the richest humans (men or women) of all time.

    Her nation became a storied and mythical land in which women excelled in many fields and in comparison to Rome, it was a paradise of perfection. In that and the production of art, decorative items, jewels and ship building was unique, her output of grain was stupendous, as were the creation of exotic clothing, jewelry, and brightly colored clothing were unmatched in all of antiquity. It was a storied land of Amazon females which were also exquisitely feminine. In her case more so. And yet by most evidence and descriptions, though she was not not drop-dead gorgeous, she, by velvety soft, articulate and eloquent voice, and quick wit, quick response, with a satiric sense of humor and the ability to tease, roast, attracted men with her vibrantly vivacious force of personality and her amazingly classical education, which was often superior to that of her enemies. The fabled Library of Alexandria's, mythical contents, grew to 500,000 volumes in fantasy, though most present day estimates say it was closer to 100,000 to 250,000 scrolls.

    Few males could withstand or compete her charm wit and repartee'. These are good reasons why two of the most powerful men on earth fell deeply in comradeship and love/lust with her. Two men who threw away a kingdom and three quarters of the world, just to be with her, whenever possible. Yet, through all of this, she was not, "the whore queen."

    Caesar and Mark Antony were the Charley Sheen of their era, bedding down more women than Hefner, many of which were married to senators and other political and business types. The truth is that despite the slanders of Cicero, Octavian, her rival brothers and sister, Dolabella, Delius, half the women of Rome, and historians of her day later and long after her death, including Lucan, and for centuries afterwords many others using the errors and intentionally reading of motives onto the circumstances surrounding a woman, whose very existence caused them to shrivel in fear of castigation, or swell in lust, despite their fear, even when not in her presence.

    With sumptuous language, the author lays out the truth, beneath the rumors and libels. Schiff uncovers, with exhaustive research, the details as far as they can be deduced without eye-witnesses. She tabulates the incredible odds against Cleopatra even surviving her early teens when she was constantly avoiding assassination at the hands of siblings, adults, traitors, greedy and murderous others all around her. She became, of necessity, a skilled and fearless killer in an atmosphere in which at any turn, or step she could be herself murdered. It was an era where one either learns to kill or is killed. Yet she became a teen aged queen of incredible skills and outlived most of her enemies, and if Mark Antony had acted promptly, she and he would have outlived Octavian and reigned until old age, as co-queen of three-quarters of the world, perhaps including Rome as well.

    The truth concerning her denigrating title (The Whore Queen), by men whose masculinity was threatened by such female of great competence, is easy to unravel. In their case it was the ebony pot calling the kettle black. Most of her male enemies slept with every senator's wife of beauty or wealth, in Rome. Fear and envy was the motivation of the vast majority of those who slandered her. More importantly, was that there is not a shred of evidence of her sleeping with anyone other than Caesar and Mark Antony. Was she a master of poisons? Was she a killer? Was she seductive? Was she manipulative? Yes to the first three, possibly to the fourth, but she lived in a world far different from ours. A world of murder, especially of females in line for Queenship. Was she guilty of incest? No, there was no such crime in her world, nor did she consummate her marriage to her brothers.

    The Mark Antony of the movies and semi-fictional books, was not the Mark Antony of Cleopatra's world. He appeared erratically shifting between competent and ineffective after the death of his mentor Caesar. He failed to eliminate his physically weak chief rival, who was obviously out to destroy him. He seemed to want Rome, Egypt and his position to go away. It appears that the stress of a life of violence, war, intrigue, pressure rendered him inept. He seemed to just want to move away to secret island where love and peace would follow him all the days of his life. He became a fish out of water, and allowed a physical weakling to destroy him. Karma? Tired of warring? Wasted by love and trapped in a world of violence, a soldier who appeared at one time fearless, crumbling and losing his sanity and perspective? Reading between the Schiff lines, I say yes, to all of that.

    Of all of the historical biographies, I have read in my life this ranks it the top five-ten. If you read only one such book this year, I urge you to make Cleopatra: A Life, by Stacy Schiff, the one.

    5-0 out of 5 stars "It is indeed most fine, and befitting the descendant of so many kings."

    Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?)
    As an published author having written (fiction) about ancient Egypt myself, I have to admit I am in awe of this book and its author!

    Ms. Schiff went back to the classic sources and considered each as propaganda, exaggerated legend, and/or fact (the latter being an incredibly rare commodity in ancient texts). For the most part, all the ancient sources of information concerning Cleopatra are a mix of all three of the three aforementioned categories. We have very little by way of artifacts and almost nothing of Cleopatra's actual writings (maybe a fragment containing her preferred sign-off, "Let it be done." and possibly a bit of the end of a letter (that may be a copy of the original). Alexandria, the wonder of the world due to the Ptolemies, is now 20 feet underwater and was looted by Octavion immediately after the deaths of Mark Antony and Cleopatra. A few statues, pylons, and broken bits of structures have recently been pulled from the Alexandrian harbor, but not enough underwater research has been done to date to provide us with much new information.

    Considering all this, it takes great courage for a Pulitzer Prize winning (among MANY other awards) author to tackle such complicated, albeit compelling, subject matter in hope of extracting a logical, accurate-as-possible of not only Cleopatra herself but the torturous times in which she lived. Ms. Schiff refuses to simply reiterate either the oft-repeated Roman propaganda concerning the Egyptian monarch (the Romans despised Cleopatra, in great part due to the manipulations and falsifications of the scheming, obsessive, murderous and ultra-devious Octavion, aka Augustus ) or the glamorously romantic vision conjured and elaborated on by Shaw, Shakespeare, at least 3 spectacular Hollywood films (one silent), and numerous imitators.

    This volume not only makes an exhaustive effort to provide us with a clear understanding of the mind and life of one of the world's greatest leaders, male or female, but manages to successfully weave Cleopatra the person into the hellishly confusing context of the treacherous world in which she lived.

    This is, admittedly, no light read. If that is what is desired, readers might as well pick up the novel based on the Taylor/Burton cinematic extravaganza of a few decades ago. Ms. Schiff's style is scholarly and intense but not beyond the ken of most educated readers willing to pay attention to what they are reading (turn off the TV and rid yourself of background noise). There's a lot to keep track of, yes, but the story takes place in very complex and confusing times. Murder, even within one's own family was rampant, betrayal was a daily event, and a flash of gold or promise of power could turn a monarch's head so quickly that he barely caught a fleeting glimpse of his most loyal comrade as he wields a deadly weapon furiously over his head.

    It would be pointless to try and encapsulate the contents of the book in a short review, so I won't try. I will say I found it to be an admirably fascinating and enlightening read that was amazingly well-researched and stylishly written. Myths are considered and often dismissed as the creations of extremely opinionated authors of and after Cleopatra's time.

    Above all, however, this is the first book that struggles (successfully, in my opinion) to reveal to readers Cleopatra the person rather than the myth; she was not only a brilliant ruler but (to the shock of the ancient world) also a woman. Not only was she other than the dazzlingly irresistible vamp and witch of legend, but she possessed a mind, charm, education and wit so incredible that the two greatest leaders of the Roman world were so captivated by her that they were willing, even eager, to risk their lives and their countries just to be her close companion and sometimes lover (neither of them could legally marry her under Roman law). Cleopatra bore these men children, potential heirs to the vast riches of the most powerful empire in the world at that time. As the author points out, she also ushered in a new era that changed and more often than not improved endless aspects of the rest of the world over the subsequent centuries. We cannot truly understand Cleopatra's motives or actual feelings in many instances, but Ms. Schiff has shifted through all of the most reliable if any of them are truly reliable) authoritative works on the life and times of this most illustrious and fascinating ruler in order to present us with a far more realistic, logical and understandable (not to mention enjoyable) picture than has previously seen print. I wildly applaud her for this wonderful, highly successful and important effort. ... Read more

    7. Decoded
    by Jay-Z
    list price: $35.00 -- our price: $18.88
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Isbn: 1400068924
    Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
    Sales Rank: 12
    Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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    Editorial Review

    Decoded is a book like no other: a collection of lyrics and their meanings that together tell the story of a culture, an art form, a moment in history, and one of the most provocative and successful artists of our time.

    “Hip-hop’s renaissance man drops a classic. . . . Heartfelt, passionate and slick.”— Kirkus, starred review
    ... Read more


    5-0 out of 5 stars Your Preconceived Notions Will Be Shattered - Read it Before Your Friends Do, and They Will - Five Stars, December 1, 2010

    Bedford Stuyvesant was his country, and Brooklyn was his planet. With these words we are led into a world that you cannot imagine, that no film can do justice to. It requires hundreds of pages to absorb, and with each page you become further and further immersed. The graphic work accompanying the printed message is among the best I have ever seen, and it will help you to understand this very special person.

    Somewhere in every person's life if you can experience transformation from where you were born to what your soul intended you to become, there is always a MENTOR figure. Sometimes it is a teacher, a relative, or a friend, but always someone.

    For Jay-Z it was Slate, who was among the first street rappers, before they even put a name on the movement. He would stand in a circle; he could go 30 minutes just rhyming, as though he was trained for it. The young Jay-Z would stand and just be mesmerized by Slate, who seemed like an ordinary fellow until he stepped into the circle, and Jay-Z would transform himself by uttering the words, I can do that.

    And therein begins a WILD RIDE, from the Marcy Projects in Brooklyn to king of the hip hop movement. He would go from drug dealing and drug running to a billion dollar self created empire that would be the envy of any businessman. Years later, Russell Simmons another hip hop master, and mentor to Jay-Z would say, that one grows up wanting to wear a suit, but hip-hop would mean never having to grow up and instead one would wear sneakers to the board room.

    Jay-Z Decoded will have an interesting audience. Yes there will the kids who will own it and never read it, but for those of us, who read this book cover to cover, I promise you that you will not put this book back on the shelf without being affected by it.

    You will understand the hopelessness of ghetto life, of thousands upon thousands of young people who get destroyed before having a change to figure out what they are even involved with. Only a small number will come through the funnel to survive and thrive, and occasionally break out. Jay-Z is one who broke out, and every aspect of this life biography is fascinating to the uninitiated. Here's why?

    * The money is not in the singing, it's in the producing, owning the company.

    * Kids treated automatic weapons like clothing, they would wear them the way they would wear their sneakers.

    * In the hood, it was life during wartime.

    * Rap is the story of the hustler, and it is the story of the rapper himself.

    * Jay-Z starts wearing clothes designed by Iceberg, a European Sportswear designer. Upon meeting the designer, they offer him free clothing. The rap star walks away and builds a billion dollar clothing company from scratch. The story is all here and like the rest of the book, it's a page turner.

    * His views on politics will grip you. He meets Obama the candidate, and astutely figures out that the most important thing the future President brings to the table is that he will help millions of black kids realize that they can aspire to something other than being drug dealers.

    * He tells the future President that in one moment we will go from centuries of invisibility to the most visible position in the world.

    * From housing projects designed to warehouse lives, to knowing that the truth will always be relevant, he will tell you that it's not about brainpower but stamina, self-motivation, willpower, and standing up to the mental and physical challenge of meeting life head-on.


    I came to this book with an open mind, and I could not have been more pleased with it. From the discussions about Quincy Jones who revolutionized musical arrangements in his lifetime, to Bono and his commitment to use his celebrity and money to transform society, the whole book was an exercise in literary pleasure. It is a demonstration that Dag Hammarskjold the UN Secretary General who gave his life for peace was right when he wrote the following. "It is more noble to give yourself completely to one individual than to labor diligently for the salvation of the masses". Thank you for reading this review.

    Richard C. Stoyeck

    4-0 out of 5 stars This book is a must have..., November 25, 2010
    This book is definitely one for your collection of good books based on hip-hop. I grew up in the Bronx during the 70's and 80's and a lot of the "rap" traditions and "crack" traditions he writes about are valid and true. Once you read through the book you will learn a few things. My favorite new fact was how Memphis Bleek was originally not going to do Coming Of Age. I won't spoil it for you.

    While the book is great to read, it's also great to look at. The pages are thick. There are pictures on almost every page which relate to that particular topic. The art direction, overseen by Jay-Z, looks really good. Honestly, they should make this book a coffee-table edition.

    Now, the reason I did not give this book a five is for two reasons.

    1. I wanted more. I have a few songs and lyrics from him that I would have like to have seen addressed.

    Example: "...the fire I spit burn down Happy Land / Social Club, we unapproachable thugs..."

    Growing up in the Bronx, I knew what that line meant, but many people don't.

    "Happy Land Social Club was an unlicensed social club in the Bronx. On March 25th 1990, 87 people were killed in an fire set by Julio Gonzalez."
    - Wikipedia

    That line isn't deep but it made me stop and say "Wow! I forgot about when Happy Land got set on fire."

    2. It didn't address one of my 9 year discussion over a line Jay-Z says in You Don't Know (Blueprint).

    "I sell ice in the winter, I sell fire in hell, I am a hustler baby, I'll sell water to a well/whale."

    Either word works, but I'd like to know the true word. Did he intend to confuse us with a clever play on words?

    Nevertheless, the book is great. The people who gave the book 1 star ratings didn't read the book, as they say in their reviews, so please rate those posts as unhelpful. However, If you actually read the book, and still give it one star, then that's justified.

    3-0 out of 5 stars Disappointed, December 7, 2010
    So I have read all the hyped up reviews on Decoded and I can sincerely not agree.

    I am not a big Jay Z fan, however, I have always been a big hip hop fan. For years I have been waiting for Jay Z to write an autobiography because he is - no doubt - a fascinating character and of course one of the most important figures in hip hop to date.

    What is missing is some depth. He starts talking about things but he never gets deeper into it. Further, the man has had many beefs with many people over the years but he never has any bad word about anyone. Tupac and him had many differences back when Tupac was still alive, they were literally enemies. But he never gets over mentioning what a great Rapper Tupac was every now and then. Further, talks about his personal life e.g. his dad. There is no emotion when he talks about meeting his father for one last time. Or the part about the Beastie Boys: I am sure when they first came out he wasnt all that thrilled. Which person in the hood thought it was a great thing back then that three white dudes started rapping. Reading the book makes me feel like he is talking about someone else's life.

    Sure, he gives great insight on what hip hop has done for his life and I appreciate that because I can relate. But as far as learning about Jay Z as a person and his personal life, I am deeply disappointed as he remains the mystery that he has come to known to many of us.

    5-0 out of 5 stars For people who don't "get" rap and hip-hop, December 23, 2010
    Chris Rock famously said that certain rap, good rap, you can defend and explain on an intellectual level. Jay-Z is most definitely that kind of rapper, but he has done something that none before him have bothered to do; written a book offering his defense by way of explanation. He deconstructs the objections that many people have to hip-hop, its images of violence, explaining how the story in the music is the story of the life that he lived and the world that he knew. Haters hate rap for the same reasons that they tsk tsk and change the channel when a story about a shooting in the projects comes on the news; because they don't want to hear about the suffering of poor black people, and the struggles faced by those caught in the cycle of poverty that was imposed upon them.

    But honestly, I loved it most for the personal stories; the rags to riches "here's the moment when it all went down and everything changed" reflections. I mean seriously, why couldn't that jerk at Cristal just say "thank you"?

    This is a very good book. I really recommend the Kindle Edition for its ease of flipping back and forth from the endnotes to the lyrics just by touching the number in supertext.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Great read for non fans!, December 21, 2010
    This book is pretty amazing. For a fan of jay z it's put a lot of things into perspective of what he was feeling and how he came to create his lyrics. Usually a private guy, he let's you into his head and feelings in different times of his life. Even if your not a fan of Jay Z I would recommend reading this book just to shed more light on rap itself and how much feeling goes info it and how complex it can be, it's just not a bunch of words rhyming. It's poetry.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Great Book, December 21, 2010
    I loved the book from beginning to end. Gave me a greater respect for Jay-Z and what he encountered to reach the top of the rap game. Hats off to him!

    5-0 out of 5 stars A Must Have for Hip Hop Co, December 13, 2010
    If you are a Hip Hop connoisseurs, this is a must have for the archives. True lyricists and poets can appreciate the technical deconstruction of Jay Z's lyrics. True hustlers can appreciate the evolution of a street hustler to a legit business man. If you are looking for a Jay Z biography, this is not it. Instead, you will find the artist's thoughts about the world around him from his perspective (right or wrong).

    5-0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, December 6, 2010
    Just like the mogul himself and his lyrics- it's brilliant. It's a part how Shawn Carter became Jay Z, and part what you need to know to understand some of the most widely disseminated poetry of today.
    Don't judge it before you read it- he knows what he's talking about. I loved every word.

    4-0 out of 5 stars Interesting book and writing style, December 2, 2010
    I got this as a christmas present for my nephew who is into the hip hop scene. I skimmed through it and read a chapter or two and was impressed. Jay Z is about 10 years younger than me, but dicuss a lot things I remember from high school (Run DMC, Sugar Hill, Grandmaster Flash, etc). Its interesting to see it discussed from a generation behind me perspective. The prose is put together in an interesting almost melodic way... I guess its what we should expect from a poet / rapper. Anyway, the whole rap scene sort of ended for me when Ice Cube / Dr. Dre / Tu Pac left the building. But I think it will put things into good perspective and sort of give a history lesson to the current set of listeners. If I see it, I will buy an audible version for myself.

    5-0 out of 5 stars AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!, December 1, 2010
    Great book, put together really well. You learn life lessons from this book. Storys of living in New York in the 70'. I think it is a great booand you dont have to be a serious Jay-z fan to like this. Before reading this book I was a fan of Jay-z but after reading this book I am truly a big fan of him. I really recomend you read this I give it a 5 star rating. ... Read more

    8. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
    by Rebecca Skloot
    list price: $26.00 -- our price: $14.29
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Isbn: 1400052173
    Publisher: Crown
    Sales Rank: 11
    Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars
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    Editorial Review

    Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells—taken without her knowledge—became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. If you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they’d weigh more than 50 million metric tons—as much as a hundred Empire State Buildings. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions.

    Yet Henrietta Lacks remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave.

    Now Rebecca Skloot takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the “colored” ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to stark white laboratories with freezers full of HeLa cells; from Henrietta’s small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia—a land of wooden slave quarters, faith healings, and voodoo—to East Baltimore today, where her children and grandchildren live and struggle with the legacy of her cells.

    Henrietta’s family did not learn of her “immortality” until more than twenty years after her death, when scientists investigating HeLa began using her husband and children in research without informed consent. And though the cells had launched a multimillion-dollar industry that sells human biological materials, her family never saw any of the profits. As Rebecca Skloot so brilliantly shows, the story of the Lacks family—past and present—is inextricably connected to the dark history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over whether we control the stuff we are made of.

    Over the decade it took to uncover this story, Rebecca became enmeshed in the lives of the Lacks family—especially Henrietta’s daughter Deborah, who was devastated to learn about her mother’s cells. She was consumed with questions: Had scientists cloned her mother? Did it hurt her when researchers infected her cells with viruses and shot them into space? What happened to her sister, Elsie, who died in a mental institution at the age of fifteen? And if her mother was so important to medicine, why couldn’t her children afford health insurance? 
    Intimate in feeling, astonishing in scope, and impossible to put down, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks captures the beauty and drama of scientific discovery, as well as its human consequences.
    ... Read more


    5-0 out of 5 stars Thank you for this beautiful tribute to Henrietta Lacks, February 5, 2010
    Wow. This book should be required reading for scientists and students of life. The true story of Henrietta Lacks and her family has finally been told, beautifully, in this book. The book encompasses science, ethics, and the story of a family who was terribly wronged in the pursuit of scientific research. I could gush about this book for pages but I'll try first to hit the main points of why this book is so remarkable in list form for the sake of brevity:

    1. The author clearly developed a strong relationship with the Lacks family, which was absolutely critical to ensuring the story was told accurately and with the respect to Henrietta Lacks that was so deeply deserved.

    2. The storytelling is amazingly moving despite the need to convey a lot of scientific information. It reads like fiction.

    3. Ms. Skloot's research into the science is impeccable.

    4. The book is FAIR. It presents the unvarnished truth, obtained DIRECTLY from as many prinicpal people involved in the story as is humanly possible. It would have been easier to simplify the story into heroes vs. villians, but Ms. Skloot deftly handles all sides of the story.

    For some detail: I have worked with HeLa cells in the past, but did not know even the barest information about the story of Henrietta Lacks until a few years ago. It simply was not common knowledge, until a few less ethical folks released her name and medical records to the public. This obviously should not have been done without the express permission of the Lacks family, which Ms. Skloot obtained. In the past, others have not been as ethical. The book covers Ms. Lacks' early life, how her cells came to be harvested, and what happened to both the cells and her family afterward.

    The contributions of HeLa cells to science are absolutely staggering and cannot be over-stated. The sections where the science was described were clear and accurate. With the story of Ms. Lacks' family interwoven, this book was fairly close to perfect. I found myself moved to tears several times because of the fate of the Lacks family and Henrietta's daughter's indomitable spirit. I do not think anyone but Ms. Skloot could have written this book. She worked with the family for over a decade in order to get the story right. This was critical, as the family had been wronged too many times in the past.

    Thank you for this astounding work of art. I will be donating to the Henrietta Lacks foundation in honor of the entire family, and I hope many others will read the book and be similarly moved.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Captivating, engrossing, fascinating, heartbreaking, englightening...ALL in one stellar book!, January 16, 2010

    Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?)
    This is hand's down one of the best books I've read in years and I wish I could give it more stars. It is going to be difficult to capture exactly what makes this book so outstanding and so captivating, but I'm going to give it my best shot.

    First of all I want to say I am STUNNED that this is the author's first book. She has poured ten years of her heart, soul, mind and her life in general in this book. What she has given birth to in that long period of labor is worthy of her sacrifice and honors Henrietta Lacks and her family.

    Other reviews have given the outline of this amazing story. What I want to stress is that Ms. Skloot has navigated the difficult terrain of respecting Mrs. Lacks and her family, while still telling their story in a very intimate, thorough, factual manner. What readers may not know is that the Lacks family isn't just a "subject" that the author researched. This is a real family with real heartaches and real challenges whose lives she entered into for a very long season. The Lacks' family has truly benefitted from the author's involvement in their life and that is something I am very appreciative of. I believe that Ms. Skloot was able to give Henrietta's daughter, Deborah, a real sense of healing, deliverance, peace and identity that she had been searching for her whole life...that story alone would have made the book for me.

    It would have been very easy for the author to come across as condescending or patronizing or possibly as being exploitive as she wrote about a family that is poor and uneducated. Instead the story is infused with compassion and patience as she not only takes the family along with her on a journey to understand their current situation and the ancestor whose life was so rich in legacy but poor in compensation; she educates the family in the process. I get the sense that the author grew to genuinely love Henrietta and her family. I am in awe of this level of commitment.

    The author has managed to explain the complex scientific information in a way that anyone can comprehend and be fascinated by. The author's telling of the science alone and the journey of Henrietta's immortal cells (HeLa) would have made the book a worthy read in itself. Ms. Skloot and Henrietta captured me from page one all the way to the final page of the book. I read it in one pass and I didn't want it to end.

    The author manages to beautifully tell multiple stories and develops each of those stories so well that you can't help but be consumed by the book. This is the story of Henrietta. It is the story of her sweet and determined daughter, Deborah. It is the story of the extended Lacks family and their history. It is a story of race/poverty/ignorance and people who take advantage of that unfortunate trifecta. It is a story about science and ethics. It is a story that should make each of us reflect on the sacrifices made by individual humans and animals that have allowed us to benefit so much from "modern" medicine. It is a story about hope and perseverance. It is a story about love and healing.

    I cannot imagine a single person I know who wouldn't love this book and benefit from reading it. I will be purchasing the final copy of the book and am looking forward to reading the book again.

    I am counting the days til Ms. Skloot writes another book and can't wait to attend one of her upcoming lectures. A fan is born!

    5-0 out of 5 stars 2010 Non-Fiction Award Winner?, January 8, 2010

    Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?)
    As I recall this book was categorized as CANCER, I believe it might be more aptly described as science based non-fiction. In the last two decades I've seen occasional news items alluding to human cells taken from a black woman in the 1950's that have been replicated millions of times. The cells are referred to as HeLa and on the face of it I wouldn't have thought there was much of a story behind the extraction of these cells and their use by the biomed industry. However, this book dispells that rather naive assumption completely and puts a name and a face, a family, and a story behind the contents of many petri dishes and slides. THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS explains how the cells were obtained, replicated, distributed, and used without informed consent of the owner and family by John Hopkins and how they benefitted mankind w/o compensation to the family. Author Skloot tells the story of a family victimized by socioeconomic conditions and racism that can't get fundamental things like health coverage while these cells make a lot of money for the health establishment. It is a disturbing read that will stay with the reader long after the book is finished. It may also make the reader take a long hard look at the need for standardized health care in our society among many other things.
    The one thing that I found fascinating about this book is how Skloot managed to take a generally dry topic that might have been addressed in a scientific textbook and humanized it on a very personal level by developing a close relationship with Henrietta's family. The input received from the family took this book to a higher level and made it a very personsl story. From my perspective, it was very hard not to get involved with the Lacks family and not feel their sense of betrayal and loss.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Absolutely superb, January 17, 2010

    Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?)
    Equal parts history, psychological drama, expose and character study, Rebecca Skloot's gripping debut is a deeply affecting tour de force that effortlessly bridges the gap between science and the mainstream.

    Her subject is the multilayered drama behind one of the most important--and in many ways, problematic--advances of modern medicine. Captivated by the story of Henrietta Lacks, a poor African-American woman whose cervical cancer cells (dubbed HeLa) were the first immortalized cells grown in culture and became ubiquitous in laboratories around the world, Skloot set out to learn more about the person whose unwitting "donation" of the cells transformed biomedical research in the last century. Her research ultimately spanned a decade and found her navigating (and to some extent, mediating) more than 50 years of rage over the white scientific establishment's cavalier mistreatment and exploitation of the poor, especially African Americans.

    Skloot deftly weaves together an account of Lacks's short life (she died at age 31) and torturous death from an extremely aggressive form of cancer; the parallel narrative concerning her cells; and the sometimes harrowing, sometimes amusing chronicle of Skloots's own interactions with Lacks's surviving (and initially hostile and uncooperative) family members. Moving comfortably back and forth in time, the richly textured story that emerges brings into stark relief the human cost of scientific progress and leaves the reader grappling with many unanswered questions about the ethics of the scientific endeavor, past and present. While the goals of biomedical research may be noble, how they are achieved is not always honorable, particularly where commercialization of new technologies is at stake. Skloot offers a clear-eyed perspective, highlighting the brutal irony of a family whose matriarch was a pivotal figure in everything from the development of Jonas Salk's polio vaccine to AIDS research to cancer drugs, yet cannot afford the very medical care their mother's cells helped facilitate, with predictable consequences.

    The LA Times book review section named Skloot one of its four "Faces to Watch in 2010," an honor that, based on "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" is well-deserved.

    Five stars--it was hard to put down this compelling, admirable and eminently readable book.

    5-0 out of 5 stars A fantastic effort about the life of a forgotten woman, March 14, 2010
    Henrietta Lacks was born to an impoverished family of in rural Virginia in 1920. Her family worked on the same tobacco fields that their slave ancestors did during the preceding century, and after her mother died she grew up in her grandfather's dilapidated log cabin that served as slave quarters. She left school after the sixth grade to pick tobacco for ten cents per day on the farms of local whites. Henrietta had her first child with her first cousin Day at age 14, and they eventually married and moved to a small town outside of Baltimore during World War II so that Day could work at Bethlehem Steel for less than 80 cents an hour.

    In early 1951, Henrietta went to the gynecology clinic at Johns Hopkins Hospital after feeling a "knot" in her womb. After she was taken to a "Colored" examination room, the gynecologist on duty found a firm mass on her cervix that seemed cancerous, but was unlike anything he had ever seen. He sent a slice of the mass for analysis, and Henrietta was soon diagnosed with cervical cancer.

    Henrietta returned to Johns Hopkins a few weeks later, where she underwent treatment for cervical cancer. She was given a generalized consent form that gave permission for her doctors to perform any operative procedures necessary to treat her illness. However, she was not told that one of the staff gynecologists was collecting specimens of clinic patients with cervical cancer for a clinical study, and biopsies of healthy and cancerous cervical tissues were taken from her during her initial procedure. The cancerous cells, which were named HeLa after the first two letters of Henrietta's first and last names, proved to be the first human cells that could be grown indefinitely in a nutrient broth, and the Johns Hopkins researchers were overjoyed at this long awaited success.

    The treatment she received at Hopkins was state of the art, but was unsuccessful, due to the aggressive nature of her primary tumor, and she succumbed to her illness several months later. The researchers wanted to acquire more specimens from her tumor ridden body by performing an autopsy with biopsies. Her husband, after initially denying a request for an autopsy, was misled into agreeing to allow the Hopkins pathologists to perform a limited autopsy, after he was told that the doctors wanted to run tests that might help his children someday.

    The HeLa cell line was provided to scientists and organizations worldwide for minimal cost, as neither the researchers nor Johns Hopkins profited from the first immortal human cell line. However, a number of companies made millions of dollars by mass producing HeLa and selling them at a much higher cost. HeLa was used in numerous important biomedical studies, including the development of the Salk polio vaccine at the University of Pittsburgh in the mid-1950s, cancer and viral research projects, and studies of the effects of weightlessness and space travel on the human body by NASA.

    During this time Henrietta's husband and children were completely unaware that her cells had been harvested for medical research by the Hopkins doctors. By that time most of them were living in poverty in Baltimore, and were unable to afford basic health insurance. Articles about HeLa began to appear in medical journals and in the lay press, but it wasn't until 1973 that the family accidentally learned about the HeLa cell line. The family was contacted by Johns Hopkins, so that their cells could be analyzed and compared to those taken from Henrietta 22 years earlier. Once again they were misled into believing that the purpose of these tests was to determine if any of her children also had cancer, which caused Deborah, Henrietta's oldest surviving daughter, many years of anguish.

    Once Henrietta's name was released in the media, the family was besieged by journalists and others wishing to profit from her story, causing her husband and children to become distrustful and wary.

    Rebecca Skloot became interested in Henrietta Lacks after hearing about the HeLa cell line and its forgotten host as an undergraduate student. She spent many months and countless hours attempting to contact the Lacks family, and she slowly but painfully gained the trust of Deborah and her siblings, after she promised to tell the family's story alongside the history of HeLa.

    The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a fantastic achievement, given the hurdles that Skloot had to overcome to obtain information from the Lacks family, Johns Hopkins, and the other key actors in this story. In addition to an in-depth history of this ordinary yet quite remarkable family, she provides just the right amount of information about HeLa and what it meant for biomedical research, along with information about informed consent from the 1950s to the present, the effect of race on medical care in the United States and the views of African-Americans toward medical experimentation, and the biology of cancer. The book is meant for a lay audience, but it would be of interest to those with a formal medical background. I found the book to be a bit overly sentimental and personal at times, but this is a very minor criticism of a fabulous book.

    3-0 out of 5 stars 5 star story, February 17, 2010
    Just so id doesn't sound like I damn this book with faint praise, let me say that this was an excellent story told well (for the most part). I'll save the synopsis for others. Needless to say, Henrietta Lacks' story is just as gripping as the science that was done with her cells. You will most likely enjoy her story (as I did).

    My criticisms:

    The author spends a rather substantial portion of the book describing her own efforts. It didn't add to Henrietta's story and leaving it out would have made for a better, more concise narrative.

    Black people were treated inhumanely to say the least (go look up the Tuskeegee Syphilis Study, for example). At the risk of sounding callous, this is well trod ground and some of it could also have been omitted for the sake of brevity without losing any of the story's impact.

    Lastly, there is an implicit condemnation of the doctors that took her cells (the author does say that this was "common practice" at the time). I can tell you that as a former cancer patient who has been biopsied more times than I care to remember, once a doctor removes something from you, it's gone. They are not going to pay you for it.

    Those criticism aside, this is a worthy read.

    5-0 out of 5 stars An astonishing scientific, sociological, racial exploration--and an engrossing work of art, December 28, 2009

    Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?)
    Rebecca Skloot's story of Henrietta Lacks and her cancerous HeLa cells is both a fascinating history and an engrossing work of art. The book combines sharp science writing with some of the best creative nonfiction techniques and a heartbreaking story. The result is a stunning portrayal of twentieth century medicine, science, race, and class like nothing I've ever read before.

    Skloot skillfully interweaves the saga of a poor young black mother and her children with an elucidation of the almost primitive-seeming medical practices that were once customary, and the culturing and dissemination of the woman's cancer cells (unbeknownst to her or her relatives) around the world. This was a period when even paying patients were seldom if ever asked for consent and frequently experimented on without their knowledge. Skloot brings to life not only Henrietta's tragedy but also her own quest with Henrietta's daughter to find the woman behind the HeLa cells and the incredible accomplishments those cells have made possible. Just about all of us on the planet have benefited, while medical corporations have made billions and Henrietta's children received not one cent.

    A disturbing and even haunting aspect of the situation is that the 'Immortal Life' involved here is not that of Henrietta's cells alone but rather of her cells overcome and transformed by the terribly aggressive cancer that killed her. That is what has lived on and been used in thousands of experiments and inadvertently contaminated other cells lines around the world, replicating so much times that one scientist estimated all the HeLa produced (laid end to end) could circle the earth more than five times.

    As the author states in her opening, the history of Henrietta Lacks, her cells, and the way the medical establishment treated her family raises critical questions about scientific research, ethics, race, and class. It's also a supremely engrossing story and one that taught me more about race in America, medical ethics, science, and what makes writing matter than anything I've read in years. Original in scope and presentation, personal, thought provoking, and even profound, this is the kind of nonfiction that rarely comes along.

    3-0 out of 5 stars Good try, but could have been better, July 31, 2010
    I'm a big fan of science and medical non-fiction, so when I saw the rave reviews for The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, I was excited to read it. It started off strong; I'd give the first half five stars. The oral history of the Lacks family was fascinating, and I loved reading about how the cells got their start in the lab. When the author introduced the adult family (Deborah, et al), I felt a strong sympathy for them and what they'd been through. I was already recommending it to friends, anticipating that the second half would be as good.

    However, once I got to the second half, it went downhill considerably. The writing was fairly tight in the beginning, keeping all of the stories woven together in a comprehensible way, but seemed to unravel as the book went on. When I read the introduction, I didn't understand why Skloot was so defensive about inserting herself into the book (in my experience, medical non-fiction authors do it all the time), but I soon realized why - because by the second half, the book becomes less about HeLa, science, history, and ethics, and instead turns exclusively into a memoir about Skloot's dealings with the family. And at this point, the family became unsympathetic and insufferable. The writing became repetitive, somewhat informal, and ridden with unnecessary details. One reviewer called this book "deftly written" and I'd have to disagree. The second half gets one star.

    The book ended on a strong note, with the Afterward. The Afterward took us back to questions of bioethics. As I was reading it, I wondered why the Afterward was a separate part - couldn't it have been woven into the second half of the book?

    In short, I thought this book was merely ok, but as the reviews show, a lot of people loved it. If you think that you're one of the people who will love it, read it. If you're looking for a book that's just outstanding, look somewhere else.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Is Immortality really worth the price?, January 21, 2010

    Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?)
    Rebecca Skloot has written a book that certainly sounds like it could be science fiction, but in truth it is incredible science. However, it's not only about the science, but more importantly about who is behind it all. She has put a very real face to one of the most important medical research discoveries of our lifetime and given an appropriate name to the HeLa cells used in that research all over the world; Henrietta Lacks.

    This book recounts the life of Henrietta, the death of Henrietta and the immortal cells she left behind that became the basis of many life saving discoveries in the medical field. HeLa cells are those which were taken from Henrietta's cancerous tumor many decades ago. They were easily replicated and viable for testing therefore they became an important staple in laboratories doing medical research right up to the present. Many have her cells to thank for their treatment and cures of deadly diseases.

    Sounds like a generous donation to the medical community, doesn't it? But, what if Henrietta and her family had no idea any of this had taken place? They didn't know that her doctor had taken the cells, and upon realizing how unique they were, shared and traded them with other researchers. They especially were unaware that these were eventually being sold for a profit among labs and medical companies. Was this a case of explotation or was it simply how science progresses?

    The author finds the surviving family of Mrs. Lacks and realizes there is far more to the story than it would first appear. She touches on each of the sensitive topics that present themselves as the family approaches her with so many questions left unanswered. The more I read, the more fascinated I became with the complexities.

    The Lacks family are uneducated and living in poverty, struggling to understand how their loved one could have saved so many lives while her own could not be saved. They find it hard to believe their mother has done so much for the medical community, and made some companies millions of dollars, yet they cannot even afford good medical care. They wonder how cells were named after her yet there was no true recognition of her by her full, real name. The children hope that Ms. Skloot will not be another journalist to take advantage of them, but that she will give their mother the place she deserves as a real person, not just a "cell donor". Ms. Skloot does exactly that and I believe they would be very happy with the care she has given to the subject.

    It's my opinion that everyone studying medicine & science should read this book to gain insight as to the genuine lives of patients. The understanding that there is much more to a person than their cells, their lab results, their disease, etc., is such an important lesson to be learned. To take a quote from the book, stated by the assistant who helped retrieve the cells while Henrietta was in the morgue, "When I saw those toenails I nearly fainted. I thought, Oh geez, she's a real person. I started imagining her sitting in her bathroom painting those toenails, and it hit me for the first time that those cells we'd been working with all this time and sending all over the world, they came from a live woman. I'd never thought of it thay way".

    I would also highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the ethical and legal aspects of the medical and scientific communities. There is also a significant component relating to the Johns Hopkins, the black community and black history. Every aspect was fascinating and eye-opening.

    If you are wondering how this could have happened, be warned that it could just as easily happen to any of us tomorrow, as there are still no laws in place preventing any doctor or hospital from keeping and using our tissue, or our children's umbilical blood, or our parents tumors for research once collected. Perhaps it is better that we all contribute to furthering scientific discoveries. But, you might rethink "immortality" after hearing this story. Just one more good reason to read this book.

    3-0 out of 5 stars Two different books, August 25, 2010
    I enjoyed the first half of the book. It was informative and educational. The second half - not so much. It took a bad turn with the introduction of Deborah and their trip together. The author depicted her as a woman who has the mind of a hyperactive 5 year old with ADD. "Oh my god. . . . I did this to her?" Maybe. Maybe not. The book went from the scientific and factual to the land of superstition and sensationalism I was left with the impression the book was a collage of facts and embellished observations. It's a good idea to leave your readers for a desire for more. I was left with a desire for less. ... Read more

    9. Just Kids
    by Patti Smith
    Paperback (2010-11-01)
    list price: $16.00 -- our price: $8.99
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Isbn: 0060936223
    Publisher: Ecco
    Sales Rank: 27
    Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars
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    Editorial Review

    It was the summer Coltrane died, the summer of love and riots, and the summer when a chance encounter in Brooklyn led two young people on a path of art, devotion, and initiation.

    Patti Smith would evolve as a poet and performer, and Robert Mapplethorpe would direct his highly provocative style toward photography. Bound in innocence and enthusiasm, they traversed the city from Coney Island to Forty-second Street, and eventually to the celebrated round table of Max's Kansas City, where the Andy Warhol contingent held court. In 1969, the pair set up camp at the Hotel Chelsea and soon entered a community of the famous and infamous—the influential artists of the day and the colorful fringe. It was a time of heightened awareness, when the worlds of poetry, rock and roll, art, and sexual politics were colliding and exploding. In this milieu, two kids made a pact to take care of each other. Scrappy, romantic, committed to create, and fueled by their mutual dreams and drives, they would prod and provide for one another during the hungry years.

    Just Kids begins as a love story and ends as an elegy. It serves as a salute to New York City during the late sixties and seventies and to its rich and poor, its hustlers and hellions. A true fable, it is a portrait of two young artists' ascent, a prelude to fame.

    ... Read more


    5-0 out of 5 stars How Patti Smith became Patti Smith...absolutely riveting!
    Before she became the Godmother of Punk, Patti Smith was just some girl who came to New York in search of herself. We have a tendency to view her as always having been a rebel, guitar in hand, spouting her distinctive mix of poetry and invective at society. But the reality was that Smith came to New York as a refugee, uncertain of who she was and what she wanted to be. That's sometimes a bit hard to believe or realize, but in "Just Kids" Smith reveals just that: she wasn't one half as confident then as she is now, and that she had no idea what she was going to do once she arrived in New York. While this is true of almost everyone from her generation, it is somehow shocking and bizarre to ponder. More interesting was that her first lover and partner in New York was none other than future photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. The bulk of "Just Kids" is Smith's recollection of Smith's early years in New York with Mapplethorpe and how they came to create their own image as artists and autuers and to craft their image and art. Again, it seems weird to think of either of them as being anything other than fully formed individuals, and that, in and of itself, seems supremely bizarre. We seldom think of the intervening events that came to create them as artists, yet here is Patti Smith lying bare exactly how she came to be what she became. The result is a fascinating and spellbinding narrative that you can scarcely set down. Ultimately Smith learns that Mapplethorpe is gay and both go on to find their own loves and their own directions in life and in art. In that degree "Just Kids" feels like only the beginning of a captivating story, the transition to another chapter, and I sincerely hope, a transition to another volume of memories, as I'm no doubt certain that Smith has a wealth of other memories than span well into the 80s, 90s and beyond. But for now I'm heartened to hear what she has to say as for now, the era before she became Patti Smith. And rather than being a trip down memory lane, "Just Kids" reminds us that everyone had to start somewhere, and success is never easy or certain. Smith's prose also wonderfully captures an era of New York City that has largely faded to the mists of time and memory. It is a time and place I was glad to revisit for a while. Immensely enjoyable and quite readable "Just Kids" is probably one of the best rock autobiographies I've ever read!

    5-0 out of 5 stars Where friendship and art meet.
    This is an interesting memoir, especially for fans of Mapelthrope or Patti Smith. For the younger generation who may not be familiar with these two names. Maplethorpe was a photographer with a style that was recognizable no matter his subject (he died of AIDs in his early 40s in 1989) and lets just say he wore his homosexuality proudly (for more on mapelthorpe I recommend Mapplethorpe: A Biography). Smith is the poet singer song writer often referred to as the grandma of punk rock and an activist for many causes to this very day. In this Memoir Smith writes about her relationship with Maplethorpe in the late and early 1970s before they became famous. I thought it was fascinating to read about these two icons before they realized who the were or wanted to be. Its hard not to think of Smith as a poet rebel, guitar in hand or Mapelthorpe as the in your face artist, but Smith's book takes the reader back to when both were "Just Kids." You see Smith and Maplethorpe as young people, not always secure in who they are, groping to find their passions that were burning inside but not fully understood. In this memoir Smith also presents a picture of a New York that no longer exists, and that alone makes this wonderful reading. Not all song writers can successfully write lyrics as well as prose, Smith though has a gift with the written word that is transcendent. Heart felt and honest, like her music, I highly recommend this book. For more honest reading concerning Hollywood Icons in the 1960s I have to recommend "Misfits Country."

    5-0 out of 5 stars Memoir Served With Nostalgia & Humor
    Just Kids is Patti Smith's memoir of her and Robert Mapplethorpe's time on the edge, two kids who found each other on streets of New York and were determined to become artists.

    Just Kids doesn't inundate the reader with biographical details about Mapplethorpe or too many of Smith, it`s not a diarists memoir but more of an impressionistic one. Smith writes like her prose is poetry, it flows easily over the page, and flows easily from scene to scene as she and Mapplethorpe struggle to define themselves and their art. What it does give is a sense of the person Mapplethorpe was, a person who cared about Smith, and she about him. Her insight into Mapplethorpe is both sympathetic and empathetic, without seeming to have the forced perspective of hindsight. It may be, but Smith's understanding and acceptance of Mapplethorpe's dualities seem contemporaneous to the moment. We're witness to the portentous moment Mapplethorpe is given his first camera, and when Smith was releasing her first album, Horses, she knew no one else but Mapplethorpe could do the cover photograph. Just Kids is interspersed with Mapplethorpe's photographs of Smith.

    Smith has a good sense of humor about herself in this period, living at the Chelsea Hotel, Allen Ginsburg tried to pick her up because he thought she a good looking young man. Or how no one in her and Mapplethorpe's circle believed she was neither a heroin addict nor a lesbian.

    Smith who claims among her influences, Rimbaud and Baudelaire, is firmly in the romantic vein, down to the presentation of the book with rough hewn page cuts and sepia wash, all combine to the nostalgic feel of the book. If someone were to write a memoir for me, this is what I would wish it to be.

    5-0 out of 5 stars So Crazy I Knew I Could Break Thru With You
    I just finished reading Patti Smith's "Just Kids." I read it like a glutton. Scarfing it up, page by page, long into the night. Occasionally I would have a glass of wine, or put it down to think back to my own memories of New York from the late '60's +. It's a book filled with possibilities. Patti's mantra, possibilities, "one who siezes possibilities," sung in "Land." It's a book of drive, vision, ambition, talent, risk, verve, destiny, love, fidelity, friendship.

    I had to stop occasionally to wipe away a tear. The New York City of Patti's book doesn't exist anymore. Back then it was city on verge of bankruptcy. Back then you could actually afford to live in Manhattan, have a low pay job, go out at night, and live your dreams. If you spent your food money on art or seeing a band or nursing the two drink minimum you could see greatness every day of the week. New York City is culturally dead now. There is no community, art, music, culture. There is no longer a sea of possibilities. But as "Just Kids" sanctifies, testifies, signifies, artists will find a way. It's probably out there in the Rust Belt - with dead shells of former factories - or in the Heartland - or somewhere in America with foreclosing homes and decay - or some other country - somewhere - it's happening. Artists find a way because they can't help themselves. They are ornery and can't be contained. That's the message in "Just Kids," have a dream, make an oath, keep it real, do it. Damn the torpedos! Full speed ahead!

    But back then, back in the day, the Dead Zone was New York City. We spilled out of Jersey, Long Island, BBQ Bridge & Tunnel crowd, who could no longer be contained. I first saw Patti on WOR on a Sunday night talking about graffiti subway cars as Jackson Pollack. I have "Seventh Heaven" and "Witt" with her evaporating signitures, "Ha Ha Houdini" in hand-minted offset typeface. She was the one with the true grit to climb out of the audience and get up there and do it.

    Robert Mapplethorpe I came to appreciate. It took me a while to warm to him. It took me a while to warm to him in "Just Kids." Patti makes a complex man human, and it's a loving portrait of an artist often sensationalized. Patti keeps at it until you see him through her eyes. As Sam Shepard paraphrased, his dream wasn't my dream. But it's a dream she knew well, and she uses all her talent to make it real for us.

    In "Just Kids," Patti and Robert's finding one another thru pure happenstance, is the stuff of kismet. Their support and love for one another is palpable. There is new information about both of them in this book that nobody but they could possibly know. This, if nothing else, makes this book necessary and vital.

    Nothing I've read about either Patti and Robert comes close to this book. I thought I'd read, heard, knew, everything about Patti Smith. We have mutual friends. I was at the same places, at the same time, as she. Robert Mapplethorpe is equally well documented. This is the stuff of the Inner Sanctum.

    God, what a testiment. This is a great gift. Robert would be proud. He'd say, "Patti, no!" Thank you.

    5-0 out of 5 stars As great as one of Patti Smith's live performances.
    Have you ever awoken from a dream and yearned to tell someone close by all the seemingly concrete details that made so much sense in unconsciousness, but upon consciousness are rendered incomprehensible, even worse, banal when spoken? Or, have you ever had to retreat midway through a story about how interesting a scene or city was to have experienced with that sad qualifying statement: "Well, I guess you had to be there," those blank stares and yawns from listeners way too much to bear?

    Well, I have. Patti Smith has not, at least not in the case of her exquisite new memoir, "Just Kids". The difference between me and her is that my attempts to transcend mere description when writing about my past always deflates either into senseless name dropping or banal "my summer vacation essay" style explorations, whereas Smith, in "Just Kids," transcends all the pitfalls of the memoir genre and tells a poignant tale of two struggling artists in the late 60s - 70s in New York City--her and Robert Mapplethorpe--without sounding pompous, pretentious or boring.

    It's always the inexplicable that's most interesting. If you strip away what's ineffable about the spirit of a defining period of time you are left mainly with the banal: eating, sitting, hanging out, arguing, making money, paying rent, and so on. That's why memoirs are so difficult to execute and only a talented writer tempered with restraint, such as Patti Smith, can adequately do the genre any justice.

    As I was reading "Just Kids" I was continually struck with just how easy this book could have degenerated into a self-absorbed, indulgent tale of bohemianism and name dropping. The story itself is set up to lend itself to this sort of abuse. The fact is that Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe were in New York City during an especially vibrant and exciting time for art and artists and otherwise bohemian types. The beats, rock and roll, which was still relatively new and exciting, Andy Warhol, the Velvet Underground: the list goes on: see, I'm name dropping; it's hard not to do!

    Instead, Smith uses a contemplative voice to recount her and Mapplethorpe's travails as they both went from two unknown starving artists to the great stars they later became. Where it could have been an appallingly boring story of braggadocio, such as telling the story of their ascendancy from front of the house to the "round table" at Max's Kansas City, instead is done masterfully through Smith's self-depreciation and reluctance.

    As much as the reader gets an insight into Robert Mapplethorpe, his personality, sexuality, and art, he still never lets the mystery of his character bleed through, certainly not a two dimensional character. In a way, he's the one holding the reader in suspense throughout the book. This demonstrates just how talented Smith was to carry this off--and how telling! for it was ultimately Smith who never completely came to an understanding of him. For instance, on numerous occasions she states her bewilderment at a finished piece of art, or his subject matter (the gay S&M underworld of New York City, e.g.) or the sudden choices he would make, for instance running off to San Francisco. The true nature of the cohesion in their relationship was not in the things Mapplethorpe did, per se, but in the transparency of the processes behind Mapplethorpe's art and life. Isn't it the processes of an artist that other artists are most drawn to?

    In some key ways, the two were very different. He was supremely ambitious and she was content at creating her art in obscurity, at least in the beginning. In a way, she was the grounding figure, ultimately benefiting him with some stability, whereas he was the ambitious figure ultimately benefiting her with some will to achieve. What a perfect match! They were each other's greatest champions! and it's this element that is the most important narrative thread throughout the book. Could they have done it without each other?

    Smith's perspective on this fascinating period in New York's art-bohemian scene is insightful. Having an avid interest in this cultural phenomenon, I especially enjoyed it. I am familiar with many of the people who fill these pages and the intimacy with which Smith tells the story brings me closer to their cultural milieu.

    In the end, the two (as happens so often in life) drifted apart: not out of transgression, betrayal, loss of interest, but because they were maturing and finding their own ways to carry on the art and life they dreamed of together, that they promised one another they would never abandon. She eventually moved to Detroit to marry Fred Sonic Smith of MC5 and he stayed in NYC.

    The last chapter describing Mapplethorpe's death and Smith's presence during it is nothing less than heart wrenching. I knew it was coming, but was not prepared for the impact his death would have on me that afternoon. This is where Smith really shines! Her tender ruminations on the dying and death of her lover and friend, her soul mate, is perfect. She adroitly straddles the line between sentimentality and description masterfully, never letting you stray too far into the sadness of it (as she did not let herself get lost in the despair of his death) while also avoiding mere description, leaving you to perhaps, say to yourself: "Ah, drag," close the book and go on about your business. This book sticks with you.

    As a side note: God! how I would have loved being there in New York City at this time! I grew up in North Jersey in the seventies. I was too young to have had access to NYC during most of the period discussed in this book. But, even if I did, I was unlucky to have been a philistine Jersey redneck (which is different than any other redneck, but not necessarily in a good way). I did actually go to NYC often in the late-late 70s and early 80s, but thought it was bohemian enough to walk around the West Village and hang out in Washington Square Park doing whippets until one in the morning. How sad. What a squandered opportunity! Oh well, I guess there's a reason why I went to diesel school, instead. Reading Patti Smith's book, at least, allowed me to live vicariously for awhile.

    I also recommend seeing Patti Smith live. She drew blood for us, literally. I will never forget her.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Just kids --- but what a life!
    Patti Smith was broke and hungry when she met Robert Mapplethorpe, high on LSD, at a park in the summer of 1967. Smith would become the "Godmother of Punk" and the rebel poet and rocker. Mapplethorpe would become a world-famous, often hated, photographer of sadomasochistic images and self-portraits with bull-whips.

    Almost immediately the two became lovers and the closest of friends. Smith writes, "we had mutually surrendered our loneliness and replaced it with trust." They went through poverty, obscurity, drugs, fame and the AIDS that would kill Mapplethorpe.

    When Smith was a young girl, the sight of a swan produced a transcendent moment of being: "The swan became one with the sky . . . and I felt a twinge, a curious yearning, imperceptible to passersby, my mother, the trees, or the clouds." This is the way Smith would think and why she was so good at what she did.

    This is a real human love story and certainly worth reading -- especially for those of us who were young and eager to change the world in those days.

    Highly recommended.

    - Susanna K. Hutcheson

    5-0 out of 5 stars A glorious read
    A glorious read. I cannot express how much I've enjoyed this very moving story of unconditional love, fierce loyalty and boundless spirituality.
    I initially caught an excerpt in the January 21st issue of Rolling Stone which gives a great preview of what to expect.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Tender "tough-girl"
    This is a tender memoir by Patti Smith of her early years, as she searches for an identity as an artist/writer/poet/performer in 1970's new York City. Her loving relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe, her life at the famed Chelsea Hotel, her meetings with the artists, the junkies, the crazies, and the blessed who wandered through the Village during the era of change in the 1970's is revealed to us. Patti lived amidst a swirl of creative primordial ooze - meeting Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Sam Sheppard, Lenny Kaye, and so many others.

    She reveals herself as an innocent kid, coming from a simple, middle-class and loving home who braved the Big Apple for better or worse. It is a wonderful inside glimpse into Patti's metamorphosis, told with acceptance and love. Those who may have only heard Patti Smith perform as an outspoken tough-girl will marvel at the tender heart that beats inside that slender body. Those who know her better, recognize parts of ourselves. I loved this book! ... Read more

    10. The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America's Childhood
    by Jane Leavy
    Hardcover (2010-10-01)
    list price: $27.99 -- our price: $12.00
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Isbn: 0060883529
    Publisher: Harper
    Sales Rank: 36
    Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
    US | Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan

    Editorial Review

    Jane Leavy, the acclaimed author of the New York Times bestseller Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy, returns with a biography of an American original—number 7, Mickey Mantle. Drawing on more than five hundred interviews with friends and family, teammates, and opponents, she delivers the definitive account of Mantle's life, mining the mythology of The Mick for the true story of a luminous and illustrious talent with an achingly damaged soul.

    Meticulously reported and elegantly written, The Last Boy is a baseball tapestry that weaves together episodes from the author's weekend with The Mick in Atlantic City, where she interviewed her hero in 1983, after he was banned from baseball, with reminiscences from friends and family of the boy from Commerce, Oklahoma, who would lead the Yankees to seven world championships, be voted the American League's Most Valuable Player three times, win the Triple Crown in 1956, and duel teammate Roger Maris for Babe Ruth's home run crown in the summer of 1961—the same boy who would never grow up.

    As she did so memorably in her biography of Sandy Koufax, Jane Leavy transcends the hyperbole of hero worship to reveal the man behind the coast-to-coast smile, who grappled with a wrenching childhood, crippling injuries, and a genetic predisposition to alcoholism. In The Last Boy she chronicles her search to find out more about the person he was and, given what she discovers, to explain his mystifying hold on a generation of baseball fans, who were seduced by that lopsided, gap-toothed grin. It is an uncommon biography, with literary overtones: not only a portrait of an icon, but an investigation of memory itself. How long was the Tape Measure Home Run? Did Mantle swing the same way right-handed and left-handed? What really happened to his knee in the 1951 World Series? What happened to the red-haired, freckle-faced boy known back home as Mickey Charles?

    "I believe in memory, not memorabilia," Leavy writes in her preface. But in The Last Boy, she discovers that what we remember of our heroes—and even what they remember of themselves—is only where the story begins.

    ... Read more


    5-0 out of 5 stars The Man behind the Hero, and the Hero behind the Man - A Wonderful Page Turner that you will LOVE!!!!

    How wonderful in an age when we don't have heroes anymore, we can go back to an earlier age in our lives, when we did. We can then hand a book like this to our children, and perhaps, just perhaps they can come to understand how a different generation from their own, could have revered such a man as Mickey Mantle, who represented everything that we all wanted to be.

    For all of us, it was a dream that could not be fulfilled, but that didn't mean we couldn't still fantasize about it, and maybe that's why some pay so much for collectibles. We are able to hold, or touch something that belonged to the hero, and the hero's journey.

    First of all, you must love sports, and sports heroes to thoroughly enjoy this book as I did. Ms. Leavy has captured the real Mickey Mantle, and although she covers the warts and all, this is still very much the story of a hero, a hero of mythic proportions. In ancient Rome there were the Gladiators. In the 20th century, we have our sports heroes, and surely Mickey Mantle captured America's attention like no other.

    He made us forget about Joe DiMaggio who dominated an earlier generation of Yankees in center field. DiMaggio knew it, and made Mantle pay for it emotionally for his entire career. You might want to read Joe DiMaggio: The Hero's Life by Richard Ben Cramer, a great biography of Mantle's predecessor in center field.

    Ah, and can Ms. Leavy write; she is accomplished, having earlier penned a magnificent biography of Brooklyn Dodger hero Sandy Koufax. When I began to read about Mickey, I at first wondered if she could capture the same spirit she captured in "Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy". By that I mean could she capture the essence of the man and the time in which Mantle lived. She had done this so well with Koufax, could she do it again.

    How do you replicate in words, what it was like to have Mantle in the Bronx, and the Dodgers in Brooklyn? If you are a reader living in Texas, or California, can you do it? The author answered that question and more. This lady is at the top of her game as they say. Through 416 pages she covers it all, Mickey's extraordinary potential, and his partial realization of it, having been plagued by injuries during his entire playing career. What haunted him at night is laid out, from his belief that he would die at an early age as his father did, to his first years in baseball where DiMaggio would not even speak with him. Do you want to know what it was like for this young magnificent talent to be snubbed by the leader of the team while trying to build his own identity? It's all here in story after exquisite story. Myths are shattered while new truths are revealed.

    The author is clear, and admits she's biased. Mickey is her guy, just as he was our guy. She loved him, and we all loved him, and now many years after his death, we love him even more, and still feel our loss, a loss for a youth that none of us can ever have again. The title of the book says it all, "The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America's Childhood". How appropriate for a title for this man, and at this time.

    We were moving from the age of innocence under Eisenhower into the turbulent world of the 60's with Viet Nam, JFK, Civil Rights, drugs and the counter culture, but through it all, there was the constancy of Mickey Mantle and the Yankees. You either loved him and them, or you hated them. There was nobody on the fence when it came to the Yankees, and it's probably still a true statement today.

    Even in those cities that hate the Yankees, no team in baseball filled the stands in enemy territory like the Yankees, and it's all based on the myth and mythology which survives for as long as any of us remember this man and his extraordinary exploits. The most exciting hitter in baseball playing drunk, and with extraordinary pain, and injuries. Nobody knew the real Mickey, maybe no could. We know more about him now through this author and others, than we did when he was setting world of sports on fire.

    The book is organized into five parts. The unifying theme is the author meeting Mickey in 1983 at the Claridge Hotel, a casino in Atlantic City. In those days, baseball did not pay like it does today. Although Mickey was paid $100,000 per year by the Yankees for years, very few baseball players saved any money, and basically all of them had to find careers after baseball in order to survive. Late in his life they asked Mickey what he would be paid today if he were in the game. He said, "I don't really know, except I would probably be sitting down with the team owner, and saying, how you doing, PARTNER?"

    In each of the five parts of the book, the author continues the story of her meeting Mickey at the Claridge Hotel, and then she reverts back into discussing his biography along chronological lines from his first days in baseball, through his last.

    Here's some of the things you will learn in this wonderful book:

    * In four quick phrases, you learn the essence of the man. He was so gifted, s flawed, so damaged, so beautiful.

    * Admirers were so enamored of Mantle that they were willing to pay anything for memorabilia. Both Billy Crystal the comedian, and David Wells the pitcher got into a bidding war for a damaged glove that Mickey played with. The spirited bidding made Crystal the winner at $239,000. The author has done her homework, and engages the reader in a real and detailed understanding of the collectors' world and how it influenced Mantle, who could make $50,000 in an afternoon signing his name. His near mint rookie card went for $282,000 in 2006.

    * Originally a shortstop, legendary manger Casey Stengel said I will personally make this man into a center fielder. DiMaggio went ballistic. It's quite a story and its aftermath went on for years. As was explained in the book, Stengel loved Mantle and disliked DiMaggio.

    * Other players could not believe Mantle's abilities. It was said that he was more speed than slugger, and more slugger than any speedster, and nobody had had more of both of them together. Stengel said this kid ain't logical, and he's too good. It's very confusing. When you compared him to others, and the others that came before him, Mantle was unique, and he had the charisma to match. Together it was an unbeatable combination, and then add in a media crazed New York.

    * Branch Rickey the general manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates who would make history breaking Jackie Robinson into the majors, once said about Mantle, "I hereby agree to pay any price for the purchase of Mickey Mantle."

    * It was said about Mantle and his teammates that they lived over the speed limit and being with Mantle was like having a get out of jail card free card. Nobody could play ball like Mickey, and nobody could play like Mickey. The stories, the philandering, the booze, the nightlife, it's all here, and it's here in abundance.

    * Mickey was generous to a fault. If you were his friend, you did not need other friends. He was there for you through thick and thin. Teammate Joe Pepitone got divorced. Mickey told him, I got two rooms at the St. Moritz. You come stay with me. Pepitone stayed two years.

    * And then there's the naivet�. He's constantly getting conned into putting money into bad deals with bad people. In one deal, his teammates asked him, did you have a lawyer. He responds that he didn't need one, the other guys already had a lawyer in the room.

    We haven't even touched upon the game of baseball itself and Mantle's contributions to the game, his impact. Leavy covers it all, and there's much to cover. The World Series where Sandy Koufax, a pitcher who during a five year period was deemed to be unhittable, strikes out Mantle, and then in the seventh inning, Mantle makes contact with what he felt was the fastest pitch he had ever seen. The ferocious noise of the bat making contact with the ball was painful to those sitting in the dugouts, and then the ball wound up in the upper bleachers, but it wasn't enough. In the final inning Koufax would strike out Mantle again, and win the World Series. Mickey goes into the dugout and says, "How in the f---, are you supposed to hit that s---.

    You will not put the book down. You will re-live your youth. You will be filled with joy at the thrill of one hero and the world of baseball. You will also find much sorrow in the sadness of life after baseball, of cutting ribbons at gas stations for a thousand dollars, doing bar mitzvahs on weekends, and attempting to live on past glories. What an American story, and only in America could it have happened. Thank you for reading this review, and I gladly give this book five stars.

    Richard Stoyeck

    5-0 out of 5 stars Honestly Affectionate
    It's easy to love a hero, an ideal, an image. But Leavy shows us that it is better to love the reality, a man whose gifts and flaws were both larger than life. This sympathetic but honest depiction of the golden boy of America's golden era shows us the crushing internal and external pressure Mantle struggled with, including the burden of that, well, mantle of heroism he knew no one could ever live up to. And yet he tried. And gave us moments we still cheer for. Leavy's graceful writing, diligent scholarship, and, above all, devoted dedication make this illuminating, heart-wrenching, and ultimately inspiring story one of the best books of the year and one of the best books about sports ever written.

    5-0 out of 5 stars A thorough and honest review
    A through and painfully honest review of one of the greatest and most compelling sports legends of the 20th century. As in her book about Sandy Koufax, Jane Leavy did meticulous research about the subject matter with numerous interviews with contemporaries. However, despite being a very well written book, the Koufax book left the reader with a sense that we never really knew Koufax. We saw many of his virtues, but there was little insight into Koufax's faults. He almost seemes too good to be true at times. Conversely, the Mantle book leaves very little unanswered. It is brutally honest, showing Mantle as a human being with flaws, warts, imperfections as well as redeeming qualities.

    Unlike Koufax, Mantle has been the subject of many books, and his accomplishments, relationships, alcohol issues and sexual exploits have been well documented. But Jane Leavy has broken new ground by her research and personal interactions with Mantle and has provided new insights about the Mick. An outstanding book.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Baseball plus
    "The Last Boy" is a superb job of research and writing, a rare combination indeed. The author covers Mantle's
    baseball career quite lucidly, but adds the enormous dimension of his alcoholism, in detail, and places it all
    in the contest of American societal development during his years in the spotlight . . . and beyond. A page-
    turner from the very first. This must take its place among the very best baseball books on anyone's shelf.
    Well done.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Mantle's Life - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
    As a baby boomer, I grew up with some of the greatest home run hitters of all time - Mantle, Mays, Snider, Maris... the list goes on. We use to play home run derby as kids and would choose who got the first choice in who they were representing. Mantle was always #1. As kids, he had this image of being infallible. Not the greatest fielder, but pure power when it came to hitting. He truly was our sports hero. The season of 61 when the M&M boys were chasing Ruth's single season record was the most exciting sports season for me as a kid. I saw them both hit home runs in Cleveland that year.

    This book provided me a perspective on Mantle I never realized as a kid. Mickey and his family were truly dysfunctional. And the extent of his drinking and womanizing was surprising. Jane Leavy does an excellent job of sharing the good, the bad and the ugly of Mantle's life. It certainly is a lot different than the hero we worshiped as kids. Her perspective on seminal events in Mantle's life including tracing down people related to the event (like the kid that found the Tape Measure Home Run ball), and the technical analysis of his stats and swing make this for a very interesting read. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in baseball history.

    5-0 out of 5 stars The Last Boy
    Great book about one of my all time heros. Sad, but poignantly sad and also full of what-ifs in his baseball career.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Simply Sensational Biography
    I am not old enough to remember Mantle's playing career, and his post playing days were marked by mostly embarrassing drunken escapades and a final year of atonement and sobriety. But reading this wonderful book gives me insight into the hold the man held over baseball and much of American popular culture for so long. He was one of the best players ever, but there was so much more to it than simply being a gifted slugger and center fielder. He was complicated, an active alcoholic for almost his entire adulthood, tender hearted but capable of great cruelty, and beloved by many millions.

    Read this book! Highly recommended. ... Read more

    11. At Home: A Short History of Private Life
    by Bill Bryson
    Hardcover (2010-10-05)
    list price: $28.95 -- our price: $14.46
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Isbn: 0767919386
    Publisher: Doubleday
    Sales Rank: 38
    Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars
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    Editorial Review

    From one of the most beloved authors of our  time—more than six million copies of his books have been sold in this country alone—a fascinating excursion into the history behind the place we call home.

    “Houses aren’t refuges from history. They are where history ends up.”
    Bill Bryson and his family live in a Victorian parsonage in a part of England where nothing of any great significance has happened since the Romans decamped. Yet one day, he began to consider how very little he knew about the ordinary things of life as he found it in that comfortable home. To remedy this, he formed the idea of journeying about his house from room to room to “write a history of the world without leaving home.” The bathroom provides the occasion for a history of hygiene; the bedroom, sex, death, and sleep; the kitchen, nutrition and the spice trade; and so on, as Bryson shows how each has fig­ured in the evolution of private life. Whatever happens in the world, he demonstrates, ends up in our house, in the paint and the pipes and the pillows and every item of furniture.

    Bill Bryson has one of the liveliest, most inquisitive minds on the planet, and he is a master at turning the seemingly isolated or mundane fact into an occasion for the most diverting exposi­tion imaginable. His wit and sheer prose fluency make At Home one of the most entertaining books ever written about private life.
    ... Read more


    5-0 out of 5 stars History as it should be taught
    This book changed my world. Well, at least my perception of my world.

    At Home is a fascinating account of how we got where we are today, domestically speaking. I read it whist living in a non-western, non-English speaking country and it illuminated for me the historical reasons behind some of the assumptions I make which are at odds with the society I'm currently living in, like why I think my dining room should be bigger than the one in my rented house is. Sure, knowing dates of major battles is important, but this book is history as it was meant to be: relevant, enlightening, and funny.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Outstanding, enjoyable, fantastic history of home, comfort, and human innovation. Buy this.

    Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?)
    I adore this book. I sat up late reading it, and I woke up at 4:30am (really) to continue reading it. I expect to press the book into the hands of several friends with a stern warning about returning it *immediately* after they finish.

    Yet, I have a hard time summarizing the book in a manner that will make you understand my enthusiasm. When I tried to explain to someone why this book was so wonderful, she crinkled up her nose and gave me a "You gotta be kidding" look. This book discusses so many topics, from the history of the toilet to the reasons behind the 1851 Great Exhibition to the impact of world exploration on furniture building, that any description sounds like Bryson threw a jumble of facts into a book and had done with it. On the other hand, I explained to my friend just one of the anecdotes (the one that ends with "Nothing -- really, absolutely nothing -- says more about Victorian Britain and its capacity for brilliance than that the century's most daring and iconic building was entrusted to a gardener") and she got interested. And she giggled.

    Because somehow, amazingly, Bill Bryson ties together this collection of historical anecdotes and "what really happened" within a clear and recognizable structure: the Victorian parsonage in which he and his wife live, which was built in 1851. The chapters walk us through each room and the items within it. In "The nursery," for instance, Bryson debunks the oft-cited premise that "before the 16th century there was no such thing as childhood;" talks about Victorian tools for childbirth (and how a doctor's reluctance to adopt obstetrical forceps in 1817 changed history when Princess Charlotte died in childbirth); discusses the slow evolution of child labor laws; and mentions how Fredrich Engels embezzled from his family business to support his friend Karl Marx in London. And, honest, that's just a sample. Bryson doesn't flit from one subject to another, or at least it never seems like it when you're reading; he goes into exhaustive depth about a lot of subjects, like the fascinating person you wish you were seated next to at a dinner party (but somehow never seem to be).

    And besides: He is funny. Bryson has a wonderful droll sense of humor that made me laugh aloud many times, though it never gets in the way of imparting information. On several occasions I interrupted my husband to read him a a section of text -- something that usually annoys him -- and he forgave me every time. Here's one of them, in a section about the popularity of household servants: "At Elveden, the Guiness family estate in Suffolk, the household employed sixteen gamekeepers, nine underkeepers, twenty-eight warreners (for culling rabbits), and two dozen miscellaneous hands -- seventy-seven people in all -- just to make sure they and their guests always had plenty of flustered birds to blow to smithereens." There's plenty of ways Bryson could have said that formally, but the insertion of his personal view made me giggle. (And, oh, estate visitors managed to slaughter over 100,000 birds every year, so those staff were not idle.)

    By the time I finished reading the book, I was struck by several things: How often coincidence influences history; the number of brilliant technical innovations introduced by people with absolutely no business sense (one example: Eli Whitney and his partners demanded a 1/3 share of any cotton harvest, without recognizing how easy it was to pirate the design of the cotton gin); how often people were oh-so-sure of things that weren't so (like what causes disease); and how many amazing inventions we take for granted.

    I urge you to buy this book. If nothing else, reading it will mean that YOU are the fascinating person whom everyone wants to sit next to at the next dinner party.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully eccentric

    Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?)
    If this book were a house, it would be one of those charmingly odd edifices put up by a single builder with a determinedly eccentric vision. The floor plan might be odd, and it might be a little hard to say exactly what architectural style it is, and on occasion you might find a gable where you'd expected a chimney. But you'd love it anyway.

    _At Home_ doesn't really have a theme, or an argument to advance. Rather, it's an interwoven fabric of anecdotes, historical tidbits, excursions, diversions, and useless but fascinating facts. Its organization (as a tour of the author's house) is just enough to give it structure and keep it from being a mere collection of curios. To pull this off requires absolutely top-notch writing skills--and Bryson has them.

    Still, this isn't a book to read in search of a cohesive understanding of much of anything. Rather, it's a book to be rambled through, eying the delightful scenery. (There's a more-than-passing resemblance to James Burke's _Connections_ series.) For example, the chapter on "The Passage" touches on the Eiffel Tower, the Vanderbilts, Thomas Edison's mania for concrete houses, the telephone, and the biggest mansion in Palm Beach, Florida. I'm not sure how much information any given reader will retain, but with writing this good, who cares?

    This is a big, sweeping story. It combines very broad historical scope with closely-observed minute detail. I did spot one or two places where Bryson's facts are incomplete or open to dispute. (To take a trivial example, the relationship among bushels, quarts, and liters is mis-stated.) I'm happy to let them go as quibbles; in general, Bryson is pretty good at overturning anecdotal history and providing a good, well-sourced, thoughtful synthesis.

    So don't look for a thesis, and don't approach _At Home_ as a textbook. Its joys are those of breadth, not depth. Step right in. Wander around. Make yourself comfortable. You might even get a little lost, but you won't mind. ... Read more

    12. Colonel Roosevelt
    by Edmund Morris
    Hardcover (2010-11-23)
    list price: $35.00 -- our price: $19.25
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Isbn: 0375504877
    Publisher: Random House
    Sales Rank: 44
    Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars
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    Editorial Review

    Of all our great presidents, Theodore Roosevelt is the only one whose greatness increased out of office. When he toured Europe in 1910 as plain “Colonel Roosevelt,” he was hailed as the most famous man in the world. Crowned heads vied to put him up in their palaces. “If I see another king,” he joked, “I think I shall bite him.”

    Had TR won his historic “Bull Moose” campaign in 1912 (when he outpolled the sitting president, William Howard Taft), he might have averted World War I, so great was his international influence. Had he not died in 1919, at the early age of sixty, he would unquestionably have been reelected to a third term in the White House and completed the work he began in 1901 of establishing the United States as a model democracy, militarily strong and socially just.

    This biography by Edmund Morris, the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award–winning author of The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt and Theodore Rex, is itself the completion of a trilogy sure to stand as definitive. Packed with more adventure, variety, drama, humor, and tragedy than a big novel, yet documented down to the smallest fact, it recounts the last decade of perhaps the most amazing life in American history. What other president has written forty books, hunted lions, founded a third political party, survived an assassin’s bullet, and explored an unknown river longer than the Rhine?

    Colonel Roosevelt begins with a prologue recounting what TR called his “journey into the Pleistocene”—a yearlong safari through East Africa, collecting specimens for the Smithsonian. Some readers will be repulsed by TR’s bloodlust, which this book does not prettify, yet there can be no denying that the Colonel passionately loved and understood every living thing that came his way: The text is rich in quotations from his marvelous nature writing.

    Although TR intended to remain out of politics when he returned home in 1910, a fateful decision that spring drew him back into public life. By the end of the summer, in his famous “New Nationalism” speech, he was the guiding spirit of the Progressive movement, which inspired much of the social agenda of the future New Deal. (TR’s fifth cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt acknowledged that debt, adding that the Colonel “was the greatest man I ever knew.”)

    Then follows a detailed account of TR’s reluctant yet almost successful campaign for the White House in 1912. But unlike other biographers, Edmund Morris does not treat TR mainly as a politician. This volume gives as much consideration to TR’s literary achievements and epic expedition to Brazil in 1913–1914 as to his fatherhood of six astonishingly different children, his spiritual and aesthetic beliefs, and his eager embrace of other cultures—from Arab and Magyar to German and American Indian. It is impossible to read Colonel Roosevelt and not be awed by the man’s universality. The Colonel himself remarked, “I have enjoyed life as much as any nine men I know.”

    Morris does not hesitate, however, to show how pathologically TR turned upon those who inherited the power he craved—the hapless Taft, the adroit Woodrow Wilson. When Wilson declined to bring the United States into World War I in 1915 and 1916, the Colonel blasted him with some of the worst abuse ever uttered by a former chief executive. Yet even Wilson had to admit that behind the Rooseveltian will to rule lay a winning idealism and decency. “He is just like a big boy—there is a sweetness about him that you can’t resist.” That makes the story of TR’s last year, when the “boy” in him died, all the sadder in the telling: the conclusion of a life of Aristotelian grandeur.
    ... Read more


    5-0 out of 5 stars A Comet in Decline

    Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?)
    If you've read the first two volumes in Edmund Morris' landmark biography of Theodore Roosevelt (The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt and Theodore Rex) you've been waiting for this one. The scholarship is every bit as detailed, the narrative every bit as well-drawn, but I nevertheless found myself enjoying this volume slightly less than the two preceding ones, if only because it describes sadder events, and Morris did such a masterful job of taking us through Roosevelt's Rise and Rule that his necessary decline seems even more poignant in comparison.

    This book does contain detailed, authoritative accounts of some of the most dramatic events in Theodore Roosevelt's life -- the assassination attempt he followed with the announcement "Ladies and gentlemen, I don't know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot; but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose[,]" and a ninety-minute speech, given with blood spreading slowly across his waistcoat; his hunting safari in Africa; his near-death experiences mapping the then-unexplored River of Doubt in Brazil (now named the "Rio Roosevelt" in his honor). If, like me, you followed reading Morris' prior volumes with Roosevelt's own autobiographical works -- the Autobiography of Theodore Roosevelt,Through the Brazilian Wilderness, and/or African Game Trails -- reading this will give you the details Roosevelt himself chose to leave out, and show you the viewpoints of Rooselvelt's friends, enemies, and family as well.

    So, all in all, if you've read the first two volumes, and especially if you've gone beyond them, this one's a necessary read. The problem with it is that, of necessity, this volume is tragedy, not comedy; this last section of Roosevelt's life was a comet in decline, overextended, his powers past their peak or locked into futile struggles that his native pride and will found impossible to decline. The same genius is still there -- both in Roosevelt himself and in Morris' biography -- but it's hard to read of Teddy's doomed-from-inception 1912 presidential campaign, of his near-quixotic determination to map the Brazilian wilderness as an aging man in his fifties, or of his relentless push for a war that we know will kill his youngest son, without feeling an inevitable sadness that caused me to put this book down on more than one occasion.

    The comet is still afire here, both in Morris's writing and in Theodore's life; but we know that at the end of this volume, it will go out, and Morris has done such a good job of creating sympathy, affection, and admiration for his subject that there's an inevitable melancholy suffusing this concluding volume.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Edmund Morris saved the best for last

    Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?)
    This book covers the last decade of Theodore Roosevelt's life, completing the trilogy begun with The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt (birth to winning the Presidency) and Theodore Rex (White House years). Roosevelt wrote so many books, articles and speeches, and was written about so often by contemporaries, that Morris is almost an editor rather than a researcher or analyst--about 20% of the pages are devoted to notes. Yet the books never turn into recitations of facts, all three are exciting and readable, with the feel of novels rather than historical accounts. They are peppered with vivid descriptions and aphoristic phrasing.

    Compared to the first two books in the series, Morris seems to have gained in confidence, or perhaps the sources from this period allow more definitive conclusions. There are fewer qualifications and stronger color in the writing. The other major difference is Roosevelt's position during this time allowed him to participate in world affairs and anything else that interested him, without any restrictions of public office. The first book is the most adventurous, but Roosevelt was not a major global or even national player. The second book is a little less fun to read due to the necessity of describing details of politics and administration. Only in Colonel Roosevelt does his mature personality shine through without cloud.

    There isn't much more to say. This is among the greatest popular biographies ever written, about one of history's most exciting characters. I definitely recommend reading the three books in order, but if you will only read one, I think this is the best choice.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Bully!

    Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?)
    What else can one say after completing the third and final volume in Edmund Morris's magisterial trilogy on Theodore Roosevelt. As Morris notes in his epilogue he started this series back in 1979 when Roosevelt was still suffering from the often scathing biographies by liberal academes who tended to view Roosevelt as a bully, a tyrant, a misanthrope and worse. This despite the praise heaped upon him by his "fifth cousin" Franklin Roosevelt, who essentially modeled his political career after TR.

    This book covers the Bull Moose's final ten years. Far from being a "comet in decline," Roosevelt kept up a pace that would leave much younger men exhausted and gasping for airs. He didn't seem to lose a moment of his life, pushing himself hard and fast through 60 years of his strenuous life, until finally his grizzled body could take it no longer, quietly passing away in "The House on the Hill" on a cold January evening in 1919, which Morris poignantly recalls in the closing chapter.

    Through the course of the narrative we are treated to Roosevelt's Africa Expedition, funded by Andrew Carnegie, his grand tour of Europe that followed, his break from the Republican Party and the formation of the short-lived Progressive Party that seemed would tarnish his reputation among Republicans forever, his journey Through the Brazilian Wilderness and finally his infamous battles with Woodrow Wilson over American neutrality in the great war that would cost the life of perhaps his dearest son, Quentin.

    Morris captures the fervor of Roosevelt's commitment but also his many inconsistencies, not least of all in his unbridled frustration with Taft and Wilson, who he felt were turning back his prized progressive reforms and dragging their feet when it came to hot button foreign issues. Morris notes that Roosevelt was never a true Progressive, but rather one with a small "p" who dearly hoped to keep progressive reform a part of the Republican plank. Failing to do so he launched his own campaign in 1912, but after that sought reconciliation between the "regular" and "progressive" Republicans. His biggest concern were effete Democrats like Wilson, who he felt were co-opting progressive reform without offering any substance to them.

    His ultimate disillusion was the way Wilson dragged out American neutrality long after the Lusitania and other passenger ships and freighters were sunk by German U-boats. Roosevelt's constant attacks on Wilson, through his editorials in The Outlook and Metropolitan journals, no doubt had a grueling impact on the Democratic administration, but as Morris noted the public mood was with Wilson, which Roosevelt eventually came to realize, having grown increasingly disappointed with "hyphenated Americans."

    This book completes Morris's compelling trilogy which I see will soon be available in a box set. If you haven't read the first two books, I would suggest the trilogy bundle as it offers perhaps the most complete portrait of Theodore Roosevelt other than Roosevelt's own accounts.

    5-0 out of 5 stars The Final Act of One of the Great American Lives

    Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?)
    And now, at last, the third and final act of one of the greatest accounts of one of the most remarkable lives in American history.

    "Colonel Roosevelt" brings to a close Edmund Morris' trilogy on the life of Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States, prolific author, naturalist, cowboy, husband and father. It picks up where the story left off at the end of volume two--Roosevelt's departure from the presidency in March 1909 and closes with his death in January 1919. The last decade of Roosevelt's life was often marked by loss, both personal and professional, but it was a dramatic and momentous one nevertheless, and receives full justice in Morris' masterful hands.

    It's all here: the triumphant African safari of 1909-10; the rift with his handpicked successor, William Howard Taft; the unsuccessful attempt to wrest the 1912 Republican nomination from Taft; the stand at Armageddon and the birth of the Progressive Party; the assassination attempt in Milwaukee, when TR insisted on delivering a speech despite the bullet in his chest; the shadows that darkened Europe and Roosevelt's increasingly militant stance for preparedness; the wounding of his sons and death of one of them in battle; and finally, death in his 60th year.

    What emerges more strongly in these pages than in the second volume, "Theodore Rex," is a vivid portrait of Roosevelt's inner life--the ongoing struggle between the man of repose and the man of action, between the philosopher and the warrior, between the party regular and the reformer. It's been more than 30 years since the appearance of volume one, and almost a decade since volume two hit the shelves. In this case, it was truly worth the wait. Morris has given us the definitive portrait of TR, one likely to stand for a generation or more.--William C. Hall

    5-0 out of 5 stars Definitive Biography of TR's Post Presidential Years - Brilliantly Written!!!!

    Without question, Edmund Wilson has now become the definitive modern biographer of BIGGER than Life Theodore Roosevelt. If you have read either of Morris' previous two biographies, you have come to expect a certain level of scholarship and readability. This third volume does not disappoint. Contrary to what many believe, it is my opinion that this volume can stand alone. Although it would be better for you to read the author's other works, you don't have to. For those of us who do not wish to read thousands of pages on TR's life, you will find a most enjoyable literary experience with this book alone.

    In ancient Athens it was the nature of their culture not to write obituaries upon the death of a famous person. The question was simply asked, did this person live their live with vigor, with gravitas? If the answer was yes, then this was a life worth living, worth emulating. We can answer affirmatively by reading Morris that TR lived such a life. Roosevelt probably crammed and jammed a lifetime of living into any one of his adult decades. It would be said of him, as it is said of Earnest Hemingway, that he was a man's man.

    Having said that, I welcomed this last work of the Morris trilogy on one our most gifted Presidents. I would also urge you to look up TR's speech; it is not the critic who counts, but the man who is in the arena. This is also known as the Man who is in the Arena speech. You will then be able to more fully understand Roosevelt's thinking on how to live a useful life, and it will help you better understand what Morris is saying.

    The book is organized into two parts, and they are chronological in nature. Part I is the period 1910 to 1913, while Part II is from 1914 to Roosevelt's death in 1919 at the very young age for him of 60. I am reminded of Robert Kennedy's (RFK) last campaign in 1968 when I read this book. RFK use to quote George Bernard Shaw at the end of each of his speeches. One of the oft quoted lines he used was, "Some men see things as they are, and ask why? I see things that never were and ask why not?"

    Edmund Morris puts out a number of why not's to us in this book that reads like an adventure. Had TR become President again in 1912 instead of Woodrow Wilson, many historians believe World War I might have been averted. TR had that much clout. Also, had he not died in 1919, he almost certainly would have taken the nomination from both General Wood and Warren Harding, and how different life and history would have been had Roosevelt won again in 1920. Could FDR have been elected in 1932, had TR won in 1920?

    This book is dedicated to facts, and there are footnotes to back up everything that Morris is saying with 553 pages of the 784 plus pages devoted to narrative. The book is also longer than it seems because the font used is Sabon set in a very small type, perhaps size 10 which necessitated the use of reading classes in my case, and the book is deckle edged, which I like. Just beware of the font size, if you have any vision problems at all.

    Here are some particulars which I loved about this latest Morris work:

    * TR's yearlong safari in East Africa is fascinating. From his thoughts to how he hunted, setting the stage for the hunt, what hunting meant to him, the necessity of the outdoor life, its influence on his political leanings, it's all here.

    * As he approached the end of his life, his feeling and reflections about how America had changed since his first years as President, what he called his glory days, but he had not changed.

    * Was he a bully, a warmonger, did he stage his own events to make himself look better - you decide?

    * After becoming and serving as President, the rest of his life, he wanted to be known as Colonel Roosevelt, which is why the book is appropriately titled.

    * It is only in reading through Theodore's life, that you realize how much Franklin Roosevelt owed to Teddy for his own political existence, and success. In many ways FDR's New Deal was modeled after TR's thoughts, actions, and programs. Morris spells it out.

    * Keep in mind, this is not a happy book, and certainly much less happy than the previous two books Morris has written about Roosevelt. This is attributable to many of the events in this book being tragic, including the death of one son, and the injury of another which leads to a more interesting thought.

    I could not help but realize that men like TR, and many others, did nothing to shield their own children from taking responsibility to serve their country in war. TR's children served and sustained injuries, and in one case death as a result. How many politicians in the present day have done everything they could not to serve, but to make it seem as though they served? This includes Presidents, Senators and Governors. People like TR are different than what we see today.


    In summary, Morris is dealing with one of the giants of American history, so there is much in the way of excitement and adventure for Morris to draw from. The prose is very vivid, and Morris does not disappoint. You may not finish this book without having to put it aside for a while, because there is much sadness in the last ten years of our President's life.

    Any man deemed to be great, must go through peaks and valleys, and in the case of TR both the valleys and the peaks were extremes. I gladly give this book five stars, and thank you for reading this review. You will love this book.

    Richard C. Stoyeck

    5-0 out of 5 stars A stellar conclusion to a great work
    I read volume one 16 June 1979, volume two on 22 Apr 2002, and did not know if I would live long enough to read the final volume. I am glad I did, since I enjoyed reading it the most of all. I am no especial fan of TR, a man with many flaws, but reading this book was totally rewarding, with seldom a dry or uninteresting page. I don't se how it could have been better done, and I finished it with great enthusiasm. The only error I noted is that on page 484 he calls John Sharp Williams "a Mssouri Democrat"! He was of course a Mississippi Democrat, amd in future printings of course that error will be corrected. We can all be grateful that the author has completed so magnificently his great work.

    5-0 out of 5 stars The most interesting man in America

    Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?)
    One of the most amazing things about Theodore Roosevelt is that no matter how many biographies I read of "the most interesting man in America," I still learn something new about him. Colonel Roosevelt is Edmund Morris' final installment in his Roosevelt trilogy (his first two books were The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt and Theodore Rex - both also highly recommended). Like its predecessors, Colonel Roosevelt is very sympathetic towards its subject, but not hesitant about confronting the truth when necessary. These three books represent the best written, most in-depth biography of TR and will probably be regarded as the definitive addition for quite some time. Unlike other recent accounts of TR's post-presidential life, such as Patricia O'Toole's When Trumpets Call: Theodore Roosevelt After the White House, Colonel Roosevelt covers every part of this time period comprehensively, from big events like the African safari to TR's race for chairmanship of the New York Republican Party in 1910 (something often skipped by other biographies). I do wish Morris had added more of his voice and analysis into the book. I think it would have been helpful to hear more of the debate about TR's decisions, particularly why he lost the 1912 race (Lewis Gould provides several interesting explanations in Four Hats in the Ring: The 1912 Election and the Birth of Modern American Politics (American Presidential Elections)). As it stands, Colonel Roosevelt stands as a recitation of the facts, with relatively little controversy. Still, this is a fitting tribute to a great man. ... Read more

    13. The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer
    by Siddhartha Mukherjee
    Hardcover (2010-11-16)
    list price: $30.00 -- our price: $14.99
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Isbn: 1439107955
    Publisher: Scribner
    Sales Rank: 50
    Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars
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    Editorial Review

    The Emperor of All Maladies is a magnificent, profoundly humane “biography” of cancer—from its first documented appearances thousands of years ago through the epic battles in the twentieth century to cure, control, and conquer it to a radical new understanding of its essence. Physician, researcher, and award-winning science writer, Siddhartha Mukherjee examines cancer with a cellular biologist’s precision, a historian’s perspective, and a biographer’s passion. The result is an astonishingly lucid and eloquent chronicle of a disease humans have lived with—and perished from—for more than five thousand years. The story of cancer is a story of human ingenuity, resilience, and perseverance, but also of hubris, paternalism, and misperception. Mukherjee recounts centuries of discoveries, setbacks, victories, and deaths, told through the eyes of his predecessors and peers, training their wits against an infinitely resourceful adversary that, just three decades ago, was thought to be easily vanquished in an all-out “war against cancer.” The book reads like a literary thriller with cancer as the protagonist. From the Persian Queen Atossa, whose Greek slave cut off her malignant breast, to the nineteenth-century recipients of primitive radiation and chemotherapy to Mukherjee’s own leukemia patient, Carla, The Emperor of All Maladies is about the people who have soldiered through fiercely demanding regimens in order to survive—and to increase our understanding of this iconic disease. Riveting, urgent, and surprising, The Emperor of All Maladies provides a fascinating glimpse into the future of cancer treatments. It is an illuminating book that provides hope and clarity to those seeking to demystify cancer. ... Read more


    5-0 out of 5 stars OFF THE CHARTS
    You remember the scene in the film "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid"? From the top of the bluff looking into the distance at dusk, Butch sees the lights of the pursuing posse which doesn't stop tracking them even at night and says "How many are following us? They're beginning to get on my nerves. Who are those guys?" In the same threatening way cancers have been dogging human beings since the dawn of time, and although we now know quite a lot about cancer we still don't really know "who are those guys" or how to shake them. And they sure are "beginning to get on our nerves" as Butch said. Almost one out of four of us will eventually wrestle with cancer -- the defining illness of our generation -- and lose our lives in the process. Until it catches up with us most of us will try to ignore this fact, just as when we were very young children alone in our bedroom trying to go to sleep at night we tried to ignore the monster that we sometimes feared might be lurking in our bedroom closet.

    Enter oncologist Siddhartha Mukherjee who almost parentally takes us by the hand to give us the courage to open with him the door to that dark and foreboding closet in order to see what is really lurking inside. Since eventually most of us are going to have to wrestle with this monster anyway -- either as a victim or as a loved one of a victim -- looking intelligently and closely into that dark closet does diminish fear and enhance wise perspective. And on this incredible journey into the depths of that darkness, what an absolutely marvelous guide is this modern day Virgil called Siddharta Mukherjee as he leads us on this long and often harrowing journey through the swarth that cancer has cut through mankind throughout time.

    Mukherjee is a veritable kaleidoscope. Turn his writing one way and you experience him as an exciting writer of page-turning detective stories or mystery stories; turn him another and he's a highly effective communicator of cellular biology; turn him a third and you get superb science writing; turn him a fourth and he has the grandeur and broad sweep of an excellent historian. It's hard to believe that this one book, combining all of these appealing characteristics, is the work of just one man. And underlying it all is his sterling medical training and credentials which have been enumerated often elsewhere.

    The book itself is a tour de force. It is the first book of such extraordinary scope regarding cancer. Its architectural structure brings to mind Melville's Moby Dick and how effectively and artfully Melville braided together the three strands of his great classic: a grand adventure story, the technology of whaling, and a treatise of humanity and philosophy. Equally effectively does Mukherjee weave together all the various facets of this iconic disease throughout history, from describing cancer from the patient's perspective, to viewing the never ending battles of physicians and medical researchers with cancer over the centuries, to examining the mysteries of the cellular nature of cancer itself and what really goes on in there, to the pro and con impact of this never ending plague on the spirit of the individual human and on our race as a whole, to peering into a crystal ball for a glance of cancer's and our future together. While doing all of this the alchemy of Mukherjee's writing continually turns science into poetry and poetry into science.

    Simply put, it is so good, and so incandescently clear and lucid, and so powerful, and so engrossing, and so easily consumed that you will not lay it down without someone or circumstances forcing you to.

    Had I read this book in my teens I would have found my life's career. I can only imagine that while you are reading this book, somewhere there will be some very young teenage girl or boy who will also be reading it at the same time you are, and who will become totally hooked by this book just as you will be, and who will go on to make a career in cancer research, a career that might provide the breakthrough that humanity has been searching and hoping for all of these many centuries. Thus although you will never know it, you will have "been there" at the initial motivation of that person and thus indirectly present at the earliest genesis of the eventual great idea.

    This book has THAT potential. It is THAT good.

    Kenneth E. MacWilliams

    5-0 out of 5 stars The Burden, The Mass, Onkos
    In the United States one in three women and one in two men will develop cancer in their lifetime. Dr Siddhartha Mukherjee, a medical oncologist, has written a definitive history of cancer. It may be one of the best medical books I have read. Complex but simple in terms of understanding. A timeline of a disease and those who waged the wars. In 1600 BC the first case of probable breast cancer was documented. In the thousands of years since, the Greek word, 'onkos', meaning mass or burden, has become the disease of our time. Cancer. The title of the book, is "a quote from a 19Th century physician" Dr Mukherjee had found inscribed in a library book that "cancer is the emperor of all maladies, the king of our terrors".

    As a health care professional and as a woman who is six years post breast cancer, Cancer has played a big part in my life. I used to walk by the Oncology clinic, and quicken my pace. I used to give chemotherapy to my patients, before it was discovered that the chemo was so toxic that it needed to be made under sterile conditions and given by professionals who specialized in Oncology. Dr Mukherjee, wisely discusses cancer in the context of patients, those of us who suffer. After all it is because of the patients, the people who have gone before us, who have contracted some form of cancer, they are the base of this science.

    Dr Mukherjee started his immersion in cancer medicine at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. He relates the beginning of the study of ALL, Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia, by Dr Sidney Farber in 1947. Dr Farber, a pathologist at the time decided to change his focus and start caring for patients. He was given a medication to trial for ALL, and though most of his patients died, some survived to remission. This opened his world and with the help of Mary Lasker, and Charles E Dana, philanthropists, they opened one of the first clinics that specialized in cancer care and research, The Dana Farber Cancer Center. Dr Mukherjee gives us the timeline of ALL and lymphomas and the medications that turned into chemotherapy. The development of specific care for blood cancers and the emergence of AIDS and patient activism. He discusses the surgery for breast cancer. It was thought that the more radical the surgery the better the outcomes. We now know that lumpectomies have an excellent outcome. But, women before me had a radical removal of breast, chest tissue, lymph nodes and sometimes ribs. The lesson learned is that breast cancer is very curable now and all those men and women, the patients who suffered, gave us the answers and cancer care has moved on.

    The onslaught of chemotherapies changed the face of cancer, and the 1970's served us well. In 1986 the first outcomes of cancer care were measured. Tobacco emerged as an addiction and soon lung cancer was a leading cause of death. Presidential Commissions ensued, politics entered the world of cancer, the war against cancer and the war against smoking. The Pap smear was developed, and prevention came to the fore. The two sides of cancer, the researchers and the physicians at the bedside, who often thought never the twain shall meet, recognized the importance of research to bedside.

    The story of the boy 'Jimmy' from New Sweden, Maine, became the face of childhood cancer. The Jimmy Fund, a Boston Red Sox charity in Boston, is still going strong today. 'Jimmy' opened the door to the public for the need for money and research, and care for those with cancer. We follow Dr Mukherjee with one of his first patients, Carla, from her diagnosis through her treatment. He has given a face to cancer. We all know someone with cancer, those who survived and those who did not. Cancer prevention is now the wave of the future.

    "Cancer is and may always be part of the burden we carry with us," says Dr Mukherjee. He has now written a "biography of cancer" for us, those without special medical knowledge. However, he does go astray in some discussions such as genetics. I have an excellent medical background, and found I was floundering at times. As I discovered,and Dr. Mukherjee agrees, our patients are our heroes. They/we withstand the horrors of cancer, and the horrific, sometimes deadly treatments. The stories of his patients make us weep, and the complex decision making about their care make him the most caring of physicians.

    The 'quest for the cure' is the basis of all science and research, and Dr Mukherjee has written a superb tome in language that we can all attempt to understand. The biography of Cancer. Cancer may always be with us,Dr Mukherjee hopes that we outwit this devil and survive.

    Highly Recommended. prisrob 11-13-10

    Jimmy Fund of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, The (MA) (Images of America)

    Early Detection: Women, Cancer, and Awareness Campaigns in the Twentieth-Century United States

    5-0 out of 5 stars The Everyman Book of Cancer
    The brilliance of this book is the effortlessness with which the author draws the reader into the world of cancer and keeps him there as a tourist or witness. Dr. Mukherjee's engaging style, precision of prose and overwhelming compassion imbue this work with an energy that carries the reader along a ride like none other.

    Whether the reader is a basic scientist or sociologist, a patient or healthcare provider, a philosopher or philanderer, this book will appeal, entertain and educate.

    A remarkable achievement.

    5-0 out of 5 stars "Cancer was an all-consuming presence in our lives."
    Siddhartha Mukherjee's monumental "The Emperor of All Maladies" meticulously outlines the trajectory of cancer (derived from the Greek word "karkinos," meaning crab) over thousands of years, starting in ancient Egypt. In 2010, seven million people around the world will die of cancer. Many have experienced the horrors of this disease through personal experience. The author provides us with a global view of this "shape-shifting entity [that is] imbued with such metaphorical and political potency that it is often described as the definitive plague of our generation."

    In "The Emperor of All Maladies," we meet a variety of patients, doctors, scientists, and activists. We also hear the voices of such iconic figures as Susan Sontag, author of "Illness as Metaphor," and Alexander Solzhenitsyn, whose "Cancer Ward" is a desolate and isolating "medical gulag." Cancer is such a complex subject that it can only be understood by examining it in all of its facets: through myths, the anguish of its victims, and the untiring efforts of its adversaries, both past and present, some of whom were well-meaning but horribly misguided. Mukherjee says in his author's note that he has made an effort to be "simple but not simplistic." In this he has succeeded.

    Ancient physicians thought that such invisible forces as "miasmas" and "bad humors" caused cancers. Many years of experimentation, studies of human anatomy, laboratory work, and clinical trials have shown cancer to be a "pathology of excess" that originates from the uncontrolled growth of a single cell. Cancer is "unleashed by mutations--changes in DNA that specifically affect genes that incite unlimited cell growth." What treatment to use--surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or a combination of these approaches--is rarely an easy decision. Equally significant are the efforts of public health officials, who seek to reduce cancer's mortality through early detection (mammography and colonoscopy, among others, are screening methods in use today). In addition, cancer may be prevented by encouraging people to avoid environmental carcinogens such as cigarette smoke.

    This elegant and heartrending narrative is far more than a biography of a terrible malady. It is also a story of paternalism, arrogance, and false hope, as well as inventiveness, determination, and inspiration. We meet Sidney Farber, who pioneered a chemotherapeutic approach to leukemia in children during the 1940's and helped launch "the Jimmy Fund"; William Halstead who, in the nineteenth century, disfigured women with radical mastectomies that, in many cases, were not curative; Paul Ehrlich, who discovered a "magic bullet" to combat syphilis from a derivative of chemical dyes; Mary Lasker, a powerful businesswoman and socialite who zealously raised money and political awareness in what would become a national war on cancer; and George Papanicolaou, a Greek cytologist, whose Pap smear "changed the spectrum of cervical cancer." Mukherjee constantly moves back and forth in time, showing how the past and the present are closely interconnected.

    Throughout the book, Dr. Mukherjee's keeps returning to one of his patients, thirty-six year old Carla Long. In 2004, she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a cancer of the white blood cells. Carla would have a long road ahead of her, one filled with pain, fear, and uncertainty. We look to the future with cautious optimism that even greater progress will be made in our never-ending battle against a treacherous and multi-pronged enemy. Mukherjee is a brilliant oncologist, gifted writer, scrupulous researcher, and spellbinding storyteller. "The Emperor of All Maladies" is a riveting, thought-provoking, and enlightening work that deserves to become an instant classic.

    5-0 out of 5 stars All In favor say "Aye"
    There seems little left to say so I'll take a different tack, look to another facet of this book and its author.

    Today I heard Dr. Mukherjee interviewed on the Terry Gross show (Fresh Air - NPR), where the topic, the book, was biased in favor of the author ... and a wonderful treat it was. While I am interested in cancer and progress toward cure, the fascinating aspect of today's experience was the man himself. In all the interviews of all the interviewers I've listened in on - mostly literary in nature - I've never heard a more articulate responder than Mukherjee. He's a poet. His choice of words slice in toward meaning like the scalpel itself. He avoids vagueness and ambiguity, courts acuracy and precsion like no one I've heard. He is a treat just to listen to, never mind his insights into the disease, it's history and possible future.

    I ordered this book today in order to get more of his artistry but I wouldn't discourage those seeking the phycician's prowess - that is there too. If I should be in that 25% that ends up with cancer, I would hope Dr. Mukherjee would be there to consult with me and console.

    5-0 out of 5 stars As magentic as a biography can be
    As a work of scholarship, this book is just tremendous. Mukherjee traces the history of our understanding of cancer from 2500 BC to present-day. He writes of political battles for public attention, incredible wiles in the biology of the disease, and schisms among the researchers sent to conquer it. All major developments are present and sourced in sixty pages of footnotes. From this grand historical scope, Mukherjee has crafted a tight and coherent narrative that I found very difficult to put down. I'm aware of no lay-account of cancer with anything approaching the level of depth present here. This book is one-of-a-kind.

    Like anything so vast, it isn't quite perfect. Certain structural changes would benefit fluency, though they've no impact on my unqualified recommendation.

    * More humanizing characteristics and quotations. Smaller researchers, and occasionally even key players, are summed by little more than what they've accomplished. There are perhaps a hundred contributors that Mukherjee covers, but with exception to a handful that have had tens of pages devoted to them or some peculiar eccentricity, they're interchangeable and unmemorable.

    * A more even balance between discovery and those stricken by cancer. Mukherjee is at his best when he's describing the struggles of his own patients. These stories are touching, personal, and an intensely interesting ground-level foil to the bird's eye view of much of the book. The retrospective of cancer discovery is so vast and detailed that these rare moments where the story reverts to the present can feel like an oasis.

    Roughly half of The Emperor is comprised of five and ten-page vignettes where Mukherjee poses a question ("If XY, then could XYZ ... ?") and resolves it with the travails of a researcher ("Person Q, a scientist at H, noticed ..."). These accounts are often gripping, especially as advances accelerate in the mid-1980s, but sets of four or five in a series are enough to cause my attention to drift.

    * A different ending. In the final chapters, Mukherjee suggests he'd originally intended to conclude with the death of a particular patient. By serendipity, that patient was still living in late 2009. Given the great strides in cancer survival and the sense he conveys that genetics may well provide the magic bullets that so occupied the fantasies of early researchers, concluding on a high note would have been within the spirit of the book. Instead, Mukherjee describes another patient that did in fact die. This person was not previously introduced. She was a better fit for the narrative, but including her account for that purpose didn't strike the right tone to me.

    Structure aside, I'd like to have seen Mukherjee become more of a prognosticator in later chapters. I was reeling at the sheer mass of information on display by the last page, but I also felt as if I'd accumulated a great depth of trivia with little binding glue to the present. There probably aren't a hundred people alive in a better position than the author to comment on the state of cancer research, to predict, or to theorize in new directions. But these insights are spare.

    These points aside, if you've even a tangential interest in cancer or biology, Mukherjee's opus remains a must-read.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Spectacular insight into the most feared of all diseases
    This is a spectacular book. I read 100 books a year and this is definitely in the top 10. It is very, very well written and, in some ways, it is like a mystery. The way the book is written, we follow the stream of research and clinical medical treatment over 150 years. It's like feeling around in the dark for a bomb that we know will go off. It is simultaneously horrifying and compelling. I am a doctor and think I am compassionate towards my patients. This book increased my compassion 10X. What surprised me the most was the politics involved in attempting to cure a disease that potentially affects everyone. Surgeons want to cut and oncologists want to drug. They each have their turf and don't want to give it up. The fact that 50% of all men and 33% of all women will get some form of cancer before they die is a very sobering one. The section on the evilness of the tobacco industry was particularly illuminating. I can't put the book down and will truly be sad when it is finished.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Fantastic insight into the science behind medical research
    Great book, I will read it again. I love learning and understanding the thought processes, errors and vast achievements of all aspects of scientific research, particularly medicine. This book does not disappoint. The author leans somewhat heavily on his thesaurus, be prepared to dig around in the dictionary. However, great history and insight into the scientific method. A fascinating peek into the mind of a scientist and a clinician. Must read.

    5-0 out of 5 stars The New Standard for Cancer Stories
    It is difficult to even imagine the stacks of reports, articles, notes and interviews that Dr. Mukherjee processed to produce this fabulous book. Each page explains, in very readable prose, complex, arcane subjects. For anyone looking for reason to hope that their cancer is curable, this book is trove of stories of lives saved and changed by the work of cancer researchers.
    This book will be referenced in other works for a long time. ... Read more

    14. Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy
    by Eric Metaxas
    Hardcover (2010-04-20)
    list price: $29.99 -- our price: $17.99
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Isbn: 1595551387
    Publisher: Thomas Nelson
    Sales Rank: 68
    Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars
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    Editorial Review

    From the New York Times bestselling author of Amazing Grace, a groundbreaking biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, one of the greatest heroes of the twentieth century, the man who stood up to Hitler.

    A definitive, deeply moving narrative, Bonhoeffer is a story of moral courage in the face of the monstrous evil that was Nazism.

    After discovering the fire of true faith in a Harlem church, Bonhoeffer returned to Germany and became one of the first to speak out against Hitler. As a double-agent, he joined the plot to assassinate the Fuhrer, and was hanged in Flossenberg concentration camp at age 39. Since his death, Bonhoeffer has grown to be one of the most fascinating, complex figures of the 20th century.

    Bonhoeffer presents a profoundly orthodox Christian theologian whose faith led him to boldly confront the greatest evil of the 20th century, and uncovers never-before-revealed facts, including the story of his passionate romance.

    ... Read more


    5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent Biography
    On the morning of April 9, 1945, German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed at Flossenburg concentration camp. The camp doctor, H. Fischer-Hullstrung, later remembered:

    [Just before the execution] "I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer kneeling on the floor, praying fervently to certain that God heard his prayer...I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God."

    Others testified that, up to his last day, the 39 year old Bonhoeffer remained cheerful. He knew what he had to do, was reconciled to God's will, and was able to climb the steps to the gallows "brave and composed."

    Who was this man who died so bravely--who Hitler himself, from his bunker beneath Berlin just three weeks before his suicide, ordered to be "destroyed?" He's the subject of best-selling author Eric Metaxas's new biography, "Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy."

    Shortly after his conversion in 1988, Metaxas read Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship and learned the story of the young man who, "because of his Christian faith stood up to the Nazis and ultimately gave his life." From then on, he was determined to tell the story to others. And tell it he has.

    Metaxas takes readers, in 592 pages, through Bonhoeffer's entire life, from his parent's courtship to his memorial service. No corner of the subject's life is left unexplored. Through the author's use of Bonhoeffer's personal letters to family and friends, earlier biographies, interviews with those who knew Bonhoeffer, and other thorough research, readers get a comprehensive and balanced look into one of recent history's greatest theologians.

    Appropriately, Metaxas emphasizes Bonhoeffer's theology and how it played out in his life. In contrast to "cheap grace," Bonhoeffer believed that true grace influences all aspects of a Christian's life. Christianity is more than formal religion, and it requires believers to be willing to sacrifice everything to God. Christianity is also more than legalistic morality. Ethics, according to Bonhoeffer, can't be reduced to a set of rules. These beliefs are what led this humble and devout follower of Christ to be involved in a plot to assassinate Hitler.

    How Christianity and assassination plots can be reconciled is hard for many to fathom--especially those who have lived only in peace and safety. We must consider Bonhoeffer in the context of his life, his country, and the war that he had no choice but to be a part of. Ethics, once so clear, become unclear. Do we lie to the Nazis, or do we give them information that leads to the deaths of innocents? Do we obey our nation's laws, or do we defy them by leading Jews into safety? Do we fight in Hitler's army, or do we refuse, knowing that we will be beheaded and leave our family destitute? These are some of the questions Bonhoeffer faced.

    But readers can sympathize with Bonhoeffer. Metaxas masterfully puts us in his world. We celebrate with him in his family's parlor. We study with him in his illegal seminary. We watch with him as his world unravels. And we see him agonize over decisions, decisions that are not so clear, and decisions that he often had to make without the support of others.

    Metaxas's "Bonhoeffer" will be one of the best books of the year. I've learned, as expected, much about the life of a great and inspiring Christian. But I've also learned about the world, sin and evil, what it really means to be a Christian, and what it really means to live. There are a few books that, years after I have read them, I realize have had a great influence on me. This will be one of them. You can't go wrong with this book; I give it my highest recommendation.

    I received a free review copy of this book through the Thomas Nelson Booksneeze program.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Review: Bonhoeffer
    Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one of my favorite theologians and one of the most influential theologians on my life and calling to the ministry. So when I saw this book being offered by Thomas Nelson, I had to jump on it, and I'm glad I did.

    Like many seminarians, I was introduced to Bonhoeffer through The Cost of Discipleship and Life Together. But I really didn't know a lot about the person. There was a little bit of background information in my copy of The Cost of Discipleship, but that was it. This book changes all of that.

    From his early childhood to his arrest and subsequent martyrdom for his involvement in the conspiracy against Hitler, Metaxas draws from the letters of Bonhoeffer as well as his family to write this biography. Metaxas weaves the brilliant story that is the life and death of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the man who stood and preached for what he believed. When the church in Germany failed to stand up to Hitler, Bonhoeffer did. This is his life. Through Bonhoeffer's life and death, we really do see the cost of discipleship.

    This book is a must have for all students of Bonhoeffer.

    I give this book 5 our of 5 stars.


    I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. Providing me a free copy in no way guarantees a favorable review. The opinions expresses in this review are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

    5-0 out of 5 stars Buy this book - It will not disappoint!
    I first learned of the impending publication of Eric Metaxas' book Bonhoeffer in 2009. Having read his stellar biography of William Wilberforce (Amazing Grace) in 2007, I knew I'd certainly enjoy this one. The wait did not disappoint.
    Mr. Metaxas once again combines his wit and intelligence to recreate the life of one of God's servants, this time Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Not knowing much about Bonhoeffer before cracking open the book, I immediately felt drawn to him through Mr. Metaxas' writing, intimate and personal without being hokey or homespun. Bonhoeffer's story is one that is translatable to any time, any country, any person who feels called to stand for uncompromised righteousness. The narrative of Bonhoeffer's life is completed with sparkling commentary on politics in early twentieth century Germany. Metaxas clearly devoted untold hours researching the life of Bonhoeffer. One little known story - that of Bonhoeffer's relationship with his fiancee Maria - is told in full.
    Brilliantly combined in the narrative are excerpts from Bonhoeffer's personal letters to friends and family. Metaxas uses these letters to vividly outline the essence of Bonheoffer - in his own words. One sees his devotion to family and the importance his played in his life, his fervent devotion to the Bible as the accurate and complete Word of God, and his unwavering faith and obedience in spite of the call to suffer and, ultimately, die for the cause of Christ.
    Learning about Bonhoeffer's life has only made me curious to read his work. I have a feeling I'll soon be devouring every book by Dietrich Bonhoeffer I can find. And I'm waiting patiently for Eric Metaxas' next biography. He's sure to not disappoint.

    5-0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Biography of a Courageous Pastor

    Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?)
    "When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die."

    Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote those words in The Cost of Discipleship, which was first published in 1937. Eight years later, on April 9, 1945, he answered Christ's bidding and was executed by the Nazis at the Flossenburg concentration camp for conspiring to assassinate Adolf Hitler the previous year. Bonhoeffer's last words, appropriate to a Christian facing death, were hopeful. "This is the end...For me the beginning of life."

    In Bonhoeffer, Eric Metaxas sets out to narrate Bonhoeffer's life for a new generation of Christians, who are unacquainted with the 1967 biography written by Eberhard Bethge, Bonhoeffer's closest friend. Metaxas is the author of Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery (2007), which was subsequently turned into a movie. His biography of Bonhoeffer is well written, well paced, and very insightful, especially regarding the theological, spiritual, and ethical evolution Bonhoeffer experienced in his conflict with the Nazis, which consumed the latter third of his short life.

    Dietrich Bonhoeffer was one of eight children born to Karl and Paula Bonhoeffer, and the youngest of five boys. He was the scion of illustrious families on both his paternal and maternal sides. His father Karl's ancestors included prominent politicians and scientists. Karl himself was chair of the department of psychology at the University of Berlin--in effect, the leading psychologist of Germany. His mother Paula's family included military leaders and theologians, including her grandfather, the prominent liberal church historian Karl August von Hase, and her father Karl Alfred, the erstwhile chaplain to Kaiser Wilhelm II.

    Bonhoeffer followed in the footsteps of his von Hase ancestors, studying at Tubingen before achieving a double doctorate in theology at Berlin. Following his studies in Berlin, Bonhoeffer did a year of postgraduate work at Union Theological Seminary of New York, where he attended and taught Sunday school at Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, then under the able leadership of Dr. Adam Clayton Powell Sr. Bonhoeffer was unimpressed by Union's scholarship, but his involvement with Abyssinian gave him a deep love for "Negro spirituals" and important insights into how segregation damages both minorities and the majorities who oppress them.

    Adolf Hitler and the Nazis came to power in 1933, when Bonhoeffer was just 27 years old. From the get-go, the Nazis attempted to subvert and control every traditional institution in Germany, including the German Evangelical (or Lutheran) Church. This attempted subversion drew Bonhoeffer into the opposition to Hitler that would eventually cost him his life. The struggle would also radicalize him in numerous ways. He increasingly realized that being a good German and being a good Christian were not coterminous. He increasingly began to practice a free-church ecclesiology in the midst of a state-church nation. And he increasingly realized that passivity in the face of evil was complicity with evil.

    Most of Bonhoeffer's work in the 1930s and 40s was professorial and pastoral. He helped found the Confessing Church, which was formed to oppose the Nazification of the state church. He helped found and lead the Confessing Church's underground seminary at Finkenwalde. And throughout this time, he wrote what have become classics in theology and spiritual formation: Life Together, The Cost of Discipleship, and Ethics (which he completed toward the end of his life).

    But all along, he was drawn increasingly into the conspiracy against Hitler. Bonhoeffer's social class and family were deeply involved in this struggle. His older brother and two brothers-in-law were also executed for their involvement in the conspiracy against Hitler. Interestingly, they undertook this conspiracy from within the government and military, not outside of it. At one point, when Bonhoeffer was about to be drafted into the Army, his family friends arranged for him to work for the Abwehr, or Military Intelligence. To many of his Confessing Church comrades, it appeared that Bonhoeffer had sold out. In reality, this position saved Bonhoeffer from military service and allowed him to continue pastoral work under the guise of doing assignments for the Abwehr.

    On July 20, 1944, General Claus von Stauffenberg placed an explosive device under a table at a meeting with Hitler. The explosion killed several people, although Hitler lived, scathed but otherwise unharmed. Bonhoeffer was already in prison, although his role in this conspiracy wouldn't become known for some time. Indeed, at one point, his uncle, General Paul von Hase, was able to get him special accommodations in the military prison just outside of Berlin. With the failure of Stauffenberg's bomb, however, the plot unraveled. Several thousand people were arrested, often because they were family members of conspirators, and several hundred were executed. The conspirators were aristocrats, military leaders, and civil servants--the traditional leaders of pre-war Germany. Why had they tolerated Hitler for so long? They had been working against him from the beginning, Metaxas makes clear, but Hitler's foreign policy and military successes made him very popular, and thus very difficult to work against.

    Bonhoeffer had seen this difficulty nearly from the beginning. In a sense, he was a prophet who foresaw where Hitler's regime would lead Germany, and counseled more radical action than conservative German's traditional leaders--religious, military, or civil--could tolerate, until of course it was still late. He, and they, paid for their dereliction with their lives.

    If I have made much of Bonhoeffer's involvement with the plot against Hitler, it is only because this is the most well-known thing about him. But Metaxas reveals the layers of theology, spirituality, politics, and commitment that characterized Bonhoeffer's life. His biography is well written and highly recommended.

    5-0 out of 5 stars "Bonhoeffer" by Eric Metaxas
    "He was quite clear in his convictions, and for all that he was so young and unassuming, he saw truth and spoke it out with absolute freedom and without fear." These were the words of Bishop George Bell at the memorial service for Dietrich Bonhoeffer. They capture the true essence of who Bonhoeffer was and what we, as those who follow in his trail aspire to become.

    In his Book "Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Marty, Prophet, Spy" Eric Mataxas has laid before us the formation, conflicts, relationships, burdens and passions of one of the greatest theological voices of the past century. While you read the pages you picture yourself in the esteemed halls of the German aristocracy and academia. You are transported to lecture halls, pulpits, private studies and the Bavarian Alps. While reading this account of the life of a man who faced conflicting feelings and passions from every side it is impossible not to feel that somehow you now know him and the breadth and depth of his passion for God.

    Mataxas paints a wonderful picture of the family background, early childhood influences and cultural zeitgeist of Bonhoeffer. The imagery, attention to detail and theology woven throughout the pages brings to life a man whose absolute zeal for God was never watered down theology or rhetoric, but was personal and resolute.

    One of the greatest gifts of "Bonhoeffer" is the inclusion of personal correspondence, texts of sermons and lectures and diary entries. It gives a behind the scenes feel to what the man himself was experiencing and how his inner devotion drove his life's work. As any nation marches toward war, it is reasonable to assume that a nationalistic pride would rise to the surface. Along with his German bearing and position, Bonhoeffer also was torn between the desire for a Christian Germany and the reality of Germany in the hands of a madman.

    This book is a precious gift for anyone who has read Dietrich Bonhoeffer's writings. It paints for us a deeper picture of a pastor, theologian, academic and patriot that has not before been appreciated. Eric Metaxas has once again written an epic biography of a man who has helped shape history and a man who far too few know. While the size of this book is daunting, the reward is well worth the time invested. I cannot recommend this book highly enough for everyone who love God and for everyone who wonders how that love of God can be reconciled with the love of their country.

    5-0 out of 5 stars The Best Biography on Bonhoeffer Yet!
    I discovered Dietrich Bonhoeffer about 18 years ago as a result of Steven Curtis Chapman's album, "For the Sake of the Call". He mentioned in the liner notes that he had been inspired to write the songs on this project as a result of having read Bonhoeffer's "The Cost of Discipleship". I knew I had to read it, and after having done just that, I became forever a follower/reader of all things Bonhoeffer.

    With that being said, when I requested a copy of Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas, I didn't realize what an incredible reading experience I was about to have. I have read much about Bonhoeffer over the years, as well as most of what he wrote, but I have never read such an interesting, engaging account of his life. I have even read Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Eberhard Bethge, who was one of Bonhoeffer's closest friends as well as member of the family by marriage...but, Metaxas' account is, by far, the best I have ever read.

    He shows the history of Germany as a culture; academically, scientifically and theologically. He shows the reader how Germany was ripe for the ascent of a monster like Adolph Hitler as a result of World War I. The German people were disenchanted, disheartened and nationally emasculated by their defeat, so when a man making the promises of a Fatherland restored to it's pre-Kaiser glory came to light, they ravenously accepted him. This was the Germany in which Bonhoeffer came of age, both physically and theologically.

    Metaxas brings to light letters, interviews and people in Bonhoeffer's life that I had never seen, or heard of, before. The passion that developed within the heart of the young Lutheran pastor and scholar is almost tangible as you read his efforts to hold the Church accountable in Hitler's Germany. The boldness that developed in his mind and heart only intensified as the times grew more and more difficult for the Church, and for him personally. The prophetic tenor that came from the voice and pen of this young man should never be forgotten, and thanks to Eric Metaxas, the information will always be available for the next generation of the brave and the bold within Christendom to learn from.

    I HIGHLY recommend this book for the Bonhoeffer "fan" as well as the 20th Century history student. Metaxas presents the information with vivid detail and puts the necessary spiritual emphasis where needed. Read it, digest it and recommend it...but never give it away. This is a book that should be read and re-read if for no other reason than to remind us that God has always raised up men to speak the truth no matter the consequences.

    I am a member of the Nelson Book Review Blogger program.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Bonhoeffer
    Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas is principally an exhaustive biography of the iconic Christian pastor who dared stand against the Third Reich- even unto death. But Bonhoeffer is also much more than a biography of a man. In detailing Bonhoeffer's life, Metaxas gives the reader a window into the events and worldview that led to the rise of Hitler and the willingness of the German people to follow him until it was too late.

    We are also allowed glimpses into Bonhoeffer's own heart through journal entries and letters to family, personal friends and his fiance. To read the doubts and wonderings of a man who ultimately trusted God and acted in accordance with His plan was, for me, inspiring. For example, as he sailed away from his homeland in May of 1939 to America in order to avoid putting the Confessing Church in the crosshairs of the Nazis by refusing to serve if drafted, he penned these words to his friend and confidant Bethge, clearly wishing He had heard definitively from God about his decision: "If only the doubts about my course had been overcome." He goes on in the letter, "So too one day we shall see quite clearly into the depths of the divine heart...and see a name: Jesus Christ." Bonhoeffer was, like I am, a human being whose heart at times was unsure but who was willing to take God at His word. If he could not see clearly now, he was sure he would see in eternity! Is this not the Christian walk? Paul spoke similarly in 1 Corinthians 13:12, "Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." Yes, Bonhoeffer was great and he was also just a man in need of God's constant grace and guidance.

    In Bonhoeffer, Metaxas also whets the reader's appetite for further study of Bonhoeffer's teachings and theology. We learn how the ordinands in the Confessing Church were instructed not only in doctrine but discipled into lives of devotion to Christ through the practices of Scripture memorization and meditation, confession one to another, and prayer- all practices that Bonhoeffer instituted at the outlawed seminaries he oversaw. We hear how he uses orthodox theology to wrestle with (and help others do the same) the monstrous situation in which they found themselves. Metaxas does a splendid job describing Bonhoeffer's wrestling with the idea of truth, for example, as he retells the process by which Bonhoeffer rejects the "easy religious legalism of never telling a lie" and enters into a deception that "stemmed not from a cavalier attitude toward the truth, but from a respect for the truth that was (so) deep." I really enjoyed Metaxas' forays into Bonhoeffer's teachings and writings. I was challenged to think deeper about God and His ways than I have done in the past. I am eager to read some of Bonhoeffer's original works such as Life Together and Discipleship.

    The final chapters of Bonhoeffer are fast moving and full of detail and intrigue about the Resistance movement within Germany, of which Bonhoeffer was a major player. Bonhoeffer's engagement to Maria von Wedemeyer and their relationship is also explored in these chapters. As I read their love letters to one another, another book went on my list for future reading. The details around Bonhoeffer's arrest, imprisonment and eventual murder lend the reader more insight into just who this man was. The final chapter of Bonhoeffer is aptly entitled "On the Road to Freedom." Metaxas explains, "We know that Bonhoeffer thought of death as the last station on the road to freedom." As a pastor in London years before his execution by the Nazi's Bonhoeffer had himself preached in a sermon, "No one has yet believed in God and the kingdom of God, no one has yet heard about the realm of the resurrected and not been homesick from that hour, waiting and looking forward joyfully to being released from bodily existence."

    As I stated at the beginning, Bonhoeffer is an exhaustive biography and it did take me quite some time to finish it. It was always interesting and well written. I am so glad I persevered because it has truly expanded my view of God and enriched my walk with Him. I highly recommend you take the time to read it.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Enthralling and Inspiring
    Eric Metaxas has done for Dietrich Bonhoeffer what David McCullough did for John Adams. This book is enthralling and inspiring, and it provides the context to better understand Bonhoeffer and his views. I started reading "Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy -- A Righteous Gentile Versus the Third Reich" this week and have not been able to put it down.

    Metaxas takes us on an engaging, chronological journey through Bonhoeffer's life. And what an exciting and meaningful life it was. Metaxas' portrait reveals a bright, athletic Dietrich Bonhoeffer who loved life, was curious, open-minded, generous and courageous.

    Bonhoeffer had a passion for seeking God's will through studying Scripture and prayer but also through exploring the world to make sense of it. He was learned in art, music and literature. He persevered in seeking God and once he felt God's will for his life was revealed to him, he acted upon it.

    Time and again I was surprised reading Metaxas' accounts of the events and interactions that shaped Bonhoeffer's character. For example, while attending Union Theological Seminary in New York City during the 1930s, Bonhoeffer, a bespectacled, patrician German, regularly attended an African-American church in Harlem where he discovered spiritual depth and powerful worship. He loved African-American spirituals. He experienced and persevered through some periods of depression. He believed the world idolized success and felt faithfulness to God's will is what counted most irrespective of the outcome. I won't say more for fear of spoiling it for you. Suffice it to say, by the time I reached the account of the concentration camp doctor who witnessed Bonhoeffer's final moments of life and his execution, I admired this man and was inspired by his tremendous faith.

    Dietrich Bonhoeffer is a new hero for me, thanks to Metaxas' book. To be honest, it has shaken me up, and inspired and challenged me to examine my faith and life. Many thanks to Eric Metaxas for the remarkable job he has done bringing this extraordinary man's story and legacy to life in a way that applies to each and every one of us today.

    5-0 out of 5 stars A Terrific Biography
    I have been fond of the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer ever since I first read The Cost of Discipleship. I had heard bits and pieces of his life story, and I knew of his involvement in the conspiracy against Hitler in the 1940's.

    But a new biography gives us a broader picture of his life and thought. Eric Metaxas shows us Bonhoeffer as a theologian of action. Bonhoeffer was not interested in theology for theology's sake. He was determined to boldly act upon his faith, which during the Nazi era led him into ethical quandaries demanding difficult decisions.

    Some have debated whether Bonhoeffer was solidly evangelical or more of a Barthian neo-orthodox thinker. Metaxas' book describes Bonhoeffer as the former, though he would have shared Barth's disgust at the vapid liberalism in American mainline churches.

    This book ably combines a look at Bonhoeffer the theologian and Bonhoeffer the man. We are treated to portions of his letters from more than twenty years of correspondence. We are also given a glimpse into his theology through extensive quotes from his writing. I can't recommend this biography highly enough. It's a gem that will undoubtedly make my top ten book list of 2010. ... Read more

    15. Kardashian Konfidential
    by Kim Kardashian, Kourtney Kardashian, Khloe Kardashian
    Hardcover (2010-11-23)
    list price: $25.99 -- our price: $13.77
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Isbn: 0312628072
    Publisher: St. Martin's Press
    Sales Rank: 142
    Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars
    US | Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan

    Editorial Review

    Confessions of life as a Kardashian sister—stuffed with family stories, advice, beauty tips and exclusive gorgeous full color photos, personal snapshots and the inside scoop on their life growing up into the gorgeous Dash Dolls

    The stars of not one but two #1 reality television shows, and frequent cover girls on all the weekly celebrity magazines, Kourtney, Kim & Khloé Kardashian live large and glamorous lives. But not everything is on the screen—how they really live, get along (and feud) as sisters is the subject of the Kardashians’ very first book. Kardashian Konfidential is their sisterhood autobiography, full of fun facts about their childhoods (guess who was the ugly duckling?), their beauty and style secrets, the wisdom they learned from their beloved father, and the street smarts they got from their mother that sustain them in life and in business.

    Kardashian Konfidential is bursting at the seams with photos, memorabilia, diary entries, datebook pages, and old Valentines the girls sent to each other, as well as many other artifacts put together just for their book. As glamorous, fun and fashionable as the girls themselves, this is the perfect buy-one-for-me-buy-three-for-friends fan’s book.
    ... Read more


    5-0 out of 5 stars Superficial!
    I've seen endless amounts of episodes of Keeping Up With the Kardashians and thought this book might be an interesting extension of the Kardashian brand. Although I like the fact that the book has colorful photographs and many pages of text, I am unimpressed with the content. For instance I don't think it's beneficial to include a section on how to do an at-home bikini wax. I also was disgusted by one section in which one of the sisters talks about how she overdrew her bank account one time. She refereed to having lost a few thousand dollars as if it meant nothing to her.
    I would not recommend teenagers reading this book. It seems to only show the superficial, fame-hungry side of the Kardashian sisters. Not to mention it seems to be written at a fifth grade reading level.
    I prefer the TV show since it has actual heart to it.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Dash Dolls Tell All, Bible!
    This triple mini autobiography is in fact better than I expected. We see so much of these women on television and in magazines that I thought there wasn't much else to tell, but this book instantly blew that theory out of the water. Starting out "famous for being famous" and turning that into family and individual brands takes hard work, and creativity, which whether we like to admit it or not, is something these women have a lot of. Sexy, quirky, fun, flawed, and ultimately human, these women prove tirelessly, purposely and not, that although in the lime light and living lavishly, they are just us like everyone else.

    Kourtney, Kim, and Khlo� made sure there isn't a boring page in this book. The colorful pages are jam packed with photos from childhood and beyond, some brand new and some we might have already seen. For those of you that think Kim is always the center of attention, she does have a few more pages of photos but besides that, the photo layouts are remarkable fair. This collaboration is also filled with family stories, advice, beauty secrets, and keepsakes all with very modern page set ups and designs. This book reads much like a magazine, and in some spots like an actual interview. Fun and freely assembled the aesthetics are very pleasing to the eye, just like these women! This entire project seems honest, light hearted yet sometimes emotional, positive, and definitely not your standard black and white plain font filled text.

    If you are intrigued by the Kardashian women and want to know more then definitely pick up this page turner for the inside scoop. (Don't expect dirty details) These three are easily relatable in so many ways, even more so now that they are aunts, a mother, and a wife. Kourtney speaks of Mason and how he has changed her life, Khlo� talks about her whirlwind romance with Lamar and of best friend/assistant Malika (<-- she should write a book!), and Kimmy cakes briefly brings up her divorce, and how she ultimately loves to be in love. They each talk about their family, each other, and of course lot about themselves. We gain insight on the dynamics of their sisterhood, and how unbreakable their bond is although they feud as most siblings do. They should be proud of themselves because at this point, whether we like them or not, it is irrefutable they are legit, respectable, businesswomen. Hollywood careers don't last forever in which they clearly comprehend, so it is understandable why these sisters are taking on so much, and work hard as more and more opportunities are thrown their way. ... Read more

    16. As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto
    Hardcover (2010-12-01)
    list price: $26.00 -- our price: $15.49
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Isbn: 0547417713
    Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
    Sales Rank: 78
    Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars
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    Editorial Review

    With her outsize personality, Julia Child is known around the world by her first name alone. But despite that familiarity, how much do we really know of the inner Julia?
    Now more than 200 letters exchanged between Julia and Avis DeVoto, her friend and unofficial literary agent memorably introduced in the hit movie Julie & Julia, open the window on Julia’s deepest thoughts and feelings. This riveting correspondence, in print for the first time, chronicles the blossoming of a unique and lifelong friendship between the two women and the turbulent process of Julia’s creation of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, one of the most influential cookbooks ever written.
    Frank, bawdy, funny, exuberant, and occasionally agonized, these letters show Julia, first as a new bride in Paris, then becoming increasingly worldly and adventuresome as she follows her diplomat husband in his postings to Nice, Germany, and Norway.
    With commentary by the noted food historian Joan Reardon, and covering topics as diverse as the lack of good wine in the United States, McCarthyism, and sexual mores, these astonishing letters show America on the verge of political, social, and gastronomic transformation.

    ... Read more


    5-0 out of 5 stars A foodie friendship, one letter at a time, November 15, 2010

    Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?)
    It's easy to recommend this book to dedicated foodies, and certainly to fans of Julia Child. "As Always, Julia" is the collection of the correspondence between Julia Child and her friend, mentor, and editor Avis DeVoto, from the time in 1952 when Julia wrote a fan letter to Avis' husband (regarding an article he'd written about kitchen knives) and mentioned in-passing that she was working on a cookbook, until the time several years later that the cookbook finally was published.

    If you're interested in Julia Child the person (and My Life in France wasn't enough for you, whether or not accompanied by the Julie & Julia movie), then "As Always, Julia" is a no-brainer, because these were the letters shared by two intelligent and opinionated women who were confiding in one another, not talking to a microphone. And confide they did: about Avis' child-raising and Paul Child's job as well as the difficulty of finding fresh shallots. It is, more than anything else, the story of a real life friendship, and better than any epistolary novel you can imagine. You will know these women well, at their most personal, such as Avis writing, "I like every part about growing older except what happens to your feet." (It's hard to imagine anyone compiling such a collection now, with all of us writing e-mail -- if that -- and only packrats like myself keeping copies of everything for decades.)

    But the book is interesting for several other reasons.

    Watching the creation of a masterpiece: Mastering the Art of French Cooking was an instant classic, and it was the result of years of hard work. But the words "it was the result of years of hard work" does not begin to capture the number of cooking experiments Julia (and Simca) did, or contract negotiations, or research into the equipment that Julia could expect a typical American housewife to own. She experimented with pressure cookers, for instance, to find out if they were okay for making chicken or duck stock. "First time the [pressure cooker] brew was so horrible I threw it away." Then, after adding the vegetables only at the end, "Again it was loathsome so I threw it out." Many ducks gave their lives for such research, and the Childs often found themselves "bilious" after all these experiments.

    Would-be writers (or any creator waiting for her ship to come in) may be heartened or inspired by the knowledge that even Julia had self-doubts. She wrote in 1953, "There is so much that has been written, by people so much more professional than I, that I wonder what in the hell I am presuming to do, anyway."

    A snapshot of foodie history: My mother was never excited about cooking, and I don't think she owned a copy of MtAoFC. But I do remember shopping for groceries in the 1960s and early 1970s, when cookbooks had to give detailed explanations about what cilantro is, or how to make your own coconut milk. It was worse in the 1950s, and much of the Avis-Julia correspondence is about what was (or usually wasn't) available, from decent jarred chives to fresh clams anywhere but the coastal cities. They also debated the wisdom of getting those newfangled dishwashers, Waring blenders, and other devices that, they started out agreeing, nobody really needed.

    A "daily history" of the McCarthy era: Nowadays, we tend to think of the time when Senator McCarthy held sway as a bizarre interlude in American history, but few of us remember it personally. Julia and Avis were extremely political women; one constant theme in their letters was the current political landscape, which they actively abhorred, and their letters become a chronicle of living through that time. "Oh god I wish this madness would subside, as I know it will, but it is exhausting watching all this go on," wrote Avis in 1953. "I do not enjoy watching the Senate floor turned into a bear-pit." There's so much political discourse, in fact, that it might lower the book's value for some readers. (Or raise it for others, if you're more political than I.) While I care about their views (or at least their passions) it often was more than I needed to know. But I could comfortably skip ahead through those parts.

    A view of intelligent, accomplished women in a pre-Betty Friedan world: Both Julia and Avis were upper-class women who saw themselves as "housewives" but simultaneously were engaged in serious endeavors. Avis was active in Boston-area intelligentsia (Bernard DeVoto had taught at Harvard), in politics (dinner guests included the Schlessingers and Kennedys), and in book publishing (not the least of which was her initial introduction of Julia to book acquisition editors). Julia was part of the government agency's social scene throughout Paul Child's career, not to mention her own cooking accomplishments in the 40s and 50s. This book is a picture of the years before "Women's liberation" were coined, including social mores. The poet May Sarton, a friend to both Avis and Julia, has a "special relationship;" the editor's footnote explains this meant that Sarton was lesbian. It was indeed a different world, and I'm grateful for a peephole into it -- and even more grateful not to live in it.

    As you can tell: I've really enjoyed this book. I think you will, too -- and not just for foodie reasons.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Julia, Unplugged, October 28, 2010

    Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?)
    Who would have guessed that Julia Child was a control freak?

    Judging by her own letters, it seems that she was often in various stages of irritation at her two co-authors of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, the book that launched her career. One co-author didn't do her share of the work, although in her defense, it's unlikely that any of them realized when they began, that they were embarking on what would be a 20-year-long project that was anything but smooth. Her other colleague was a hard worker, but something of a perfectionist, often second-guessing Julia's meticulous research. It's amazing the book was published at all.

    Julia became pen pals with Avis DeVoto, a reviewer of mysteries and wife of Bernard DeVoto, a writer and editor. Julia had written to Bernard about an article he had written and he asked Avis to answer the letter. Julia and Avis hit it off immediately and began a correspondence and friendship that lasted the rest of their lives.

    Julia was an expert at French cooking, but she knew little about book publishing and oddly, little about American cooking. She had never cooked when she lived in America, and had learned everything she knew about cooking in Paris, so she had peculiar gaps in her knowledge, such as that Americans keep their fresh eggs in cartons in the refrigerator, not in a bowl on the counter. Avis was able to keep such clangers from getting into the book, as well as steering Julia to editors who would be open to the idea of such an ambitious cookbook.

    Avis also acted as Julia's stateside researcher, answering questions such as whether cake flour was available, or just all-purpose flour. Avis alerted her to new trends in American cooking, such as the use of mono sodium glutamate (MSG) in the form of sprinkle-on Accent.

    They wrote about politics as well, with Senator Joseph McCarthy and his hunt for communists the topic of the day. Julia and husband Paul moved from Paris to Marseilles to Germany to Oslo during the 1950s, and she wrote Avis how they were adapting to each new home and how their attempts at language learning were going. Julia loved getting to know new places, but her heart always belonged to Paris.

    After two years of letter writing, Avis and Julia finally met in France, and they met a few more times over the years, until the Childs finally returned to the States for good and could see the DeVotos on a more regular basis.

    The letters span the years from 1952 to 1961 and are remarkably interesting despite their share of mundane matters such as the weather and who had what seasonal disease. Julia and Paul went to a play while they were visiting New York in 1957 and were impressed by the "young male lead, Richard Burton...he is English, I believe." In a prescient letter dated 1952, Julia told Avis "I'm enjoying [teaching French cooking to Americans] immensely, as I've finally found a real and satisfying profession which will keep me busy well into the year 2000."

    5-0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating Peek Into the Life of a Great Woman, November 2, 2010
    I love to cook and have been cooking for over 40 years. Surprisingly enough, I was never a fan of Jullia Child until much later in her life. I never saw her show on PBS, but recently I've been more interested in finding out more about her.

    As Always, Julia was a fascinating look into Ms. Chilld's personality and politics, as well as her views on cookery. I found the progression of her friendship with Avis to be a great read. I was afraid that I'd be bored just reading letters between two women, but what women they were!

    I also had no idea that Mastering the Art took so many years to right and edit and that a major publisher made the really dumb mistake of turning it down, wow!

    I found Julia to not only be a pioneer in the modern American kitchen, but a truly lovely and extremely bright woman. She was an avid reader, writer and very involved in the politics of the time.

    I would recommend this book for anyone who would like to know more about the fascinating person who was Jullia Child. I rate the book a solid 4.5 stars. The editing was excellent as well.

    Please note that I received an E-ARC copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of writing a review. I'm a little disappointed to see it's not available for Kindle yet, but online it says that the book is due out 12/10/10, so that may be the Kindle release date.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Two extraordinary women, one inspiring friendship, November 8, 2010

    Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?)
    Picture a young wife, circa 1963, faced with entertaining her husband's European business associates and friends (one of whom was a Swiss trained chef!), but whose only cookbook was "Betty Crocker's Picture Cookbook." Now, imagine her astonishment as she thumbs through her brand new book entitled, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." Talk about prayers being answered! Yes, Julia was responsible for awakening my passion for cooking that continues to this day.

    But much as I appreciated Julia as an excellent instructor and enjoyed her television appearances, I had no clue how intelligent, witty and warm hearted she was until I read these letters. In addition, what a pleasure it was to meet her friend, Avis DeVoto, every bit as charming and erudite as Julia. How extraordinary that these two "met" when Julia sent a couple of good French knives to Avis's husband, the writer Bernard DeVoto, after reading his article complaining about the lack of quality in American kitchen knives. That simple gift was the seed of a friendship that is beyond heartwarming to read about.

    For those of us who remember the late `50's, these letters also remind us of the turmoil surrounding the McCarthy witch hunts and the latter hearings, years that can only be described today as "bizarre." But it reminds us of how easy it is for just one person to create an atmosphere of suspicion and hearsay so poisonous, that, for awhile, it can intimidate an entire country.

    When I first began reading this rather large book, I thought I would keep it by my bedside and read a few letters each evening. Ha! "Bet you can't eat (read) just one!" Instead, I promptly gave in and let the rest of the world go by while I devoured every word until the end. I can't remember the last time that happened.

    History, humor, inspiring and unforgettable personalities -- what more can you want in a book?


    Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?)
    A great and lasting friendship was born on March 8, 1952, when a young American housewife living in Paris, Julia Child, wrote a short letter to historian Bernard DeVoto, complimenting him on an occasional piece he had written in Harper's lamenting the absence of good carving knives in the States, where knives seemed all to be made of stainless steel, which would not hold an edge. Mrs. Child included a French knife in her letter -forged carbon steel. Mr. DeVoto was swamped with work at the time so his wife, Avis, wrote back. Avis and Julia are one of the great pairs of friends in modern times. They were both sharp as pins, they were irreverent and opinionated, and, most of all, they both were genuinely interested in the people and things around them. Avis's letters are now released from archive and veteran culinary historian Joan Reardon has done a labor of love, combining Avis's and Julia's letters across the span of almost ten years (1952-61) to tell the story of a lovely friendship and of the growth to maturity of the author of one of the classic cookbooks of modern times.

    On February 12, 1953, Julia Child wrote her new pen pal, Avis DeVoto, to describe a dinner Julia and her two colleagues in their new Ecole des Trois Gourmandes had attended the night before with famed Parisian gourmand Maurice Curnonsky ("the Prince of Gastronomy"). "At the party," she wrote, "was a dogmatic meatball who considers himself a gourmet but is just a big bag of wind. They were talking about Beurre Blanc, and how it was a mystery, and only a few people could do it, and how it could only be made with white shallots from Lorraine and over a wood fire. Phoo. But that is so damned typical, making a damned mystery out of perfectly simple things just to puff themselves up." She concluded, tongue in cheek, by writing: "I didn't say anything as, being a foreigner, I don't know anything anyway." Two pares later, she's rhapsodizing over the kind of kitchen she'd like to have if she were rich: "I am going to have a kitchen where everything is my height [over six feet], and none of this pigmy [sic.] stuff, and maybe 4 ovens, and 12 burners all in a line, a 3 broilers, and a charcoal grill, and a spit that turns."

    That's Julia to a T, always unbuttoned in her opinions, wobbly in her spelling, bursting with energy, savoring whatever life offered her. She wasn't yet the world authority on French cooking she would soon become but she already knew where she was heading and she knew how she wanted to get there -every recipe tested, adaptations made to American materials, tastes and equipment, the `secrets' of French cuisine made clear and obvious to even the neophyte cook. (She commented once about another French cookbook that it should spell out what weight hen to buy for coq au vin -a five-pounder, which is what the recipe called for, would be an old hen: it wouldn't cook in forty-five minutes as the recipe stated; it'd still be tough as leather.)

    Julia hadn't finished her immortal Mastering the Art of French Cooking yet, but Avis and she were talking about it. Avis lived in Cambridge, Julia in Paris. Avis hoped to get Julia a decent publishing contract with Houghton Mifflin, a publishing house with which she had contacts. The letters continue through 1961, by which time Mastering had been published, not, alas, by Houghton Mifflin, but by Alfred Knopf. Bernard had died unexpectedly in 1955. Julia and her husband Paul had paid for Avis to visit them in France. The flurry of letters back and forty continued unabated but by that point the continuing themes of their correspondence are in place. As much fun as their letters are to read, at this point there are few new revelations. But who cares? These are first class letters by two first class people, and who would not want to know more about the forging of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, I?

    A warning: There is a lot about cooking in these letters, typically gone into in great detail. Julia asks Avis for American ingredients (dried spices, for example) and cooking equipment and counsels her how to make dishes, Avis corrects errors and un-Americanisms in Julia's prose. Other topics pop up repeatedly, most notably, in the earlier portions of the book, their caustic commentary on the Red Scare, Senator Joe McCarthy, and the spineless elected officials who time and again failed to confront him. These are two tough (but very warm) ladies. It's a treat to be let in on their intimate and prolonged conversation with each other.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Intelligent Correspondence, November 21, 2010

    Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?)
    In 1951, American West historian Bernard DeVoto wrote an article for Harper's magazine in which he deplored the lack of adequate knives for the American housewife. In Paris, Julia Child read the article and sent him a French kitchen knife. Avis DeVoto, Bernard's wife, who answered her husband's mail, wrote back to Julia. From this start, the two women corresponded until Avis' death in 1989.

    "As Always" covers only ten years of their 38-year friendship. During that 10-year period, Julia attended Le Cordon Bleu to learn how to master French cooking and decided to write a French cookbook for American women.

    Over the course of a 38-year friendship, the two women wrote hundreds of letters. Reading these letters was fascinating because interspersed in the two on-going topics of cooking and eating were discussions of politics, living in foreign countries, and many other topics.

    One has to wonder whether these two erudite and intelligent women would produce such a body of correspondence in this day of 140-character tweets, 500-word blog posts, and emails.

    If you love cooking, eating, Julia Child, cookbooks, and intelligent women, this book will fascinate you.

    5-0 out of 5 stars A Story of Friendship and Gastronomy! A must for every Julia Child fan!, November 5, 2010

    Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?)
    Julia Child's legacy still lives on whether through her foundation or her revolutionary television show on public television, "The French Chef." Despite her own WASPY upbringing in Pasadena, California in a well-to-do family, she had planned on becoming a novelist in New York City and went to serve her country in Ceylon where she met Paul Child, her loving husband. He accepted an assignment in France. There Julia decided to expand her knowledge on French cuisine and gastronomy with enthusiasm, fascination, and interest.

    THis book is not just about Julia Child but about a friendship between her and Avis De Voto, the wife of author Bernard DeVoto. Avis replied to her letter and there began a friendship of love, devotion, honesty, and candid between these two women until the end of their lives.

    Their letters also express the time in the 1950s whether set in Cambridge, Massachusetts where Avis lived with her family and all over Europe where Julia and Paul had managed to live in Paris, Marseilles, Germany, and Oslo among his assignments. In the duration, Julia had worked with Louisette and Simca, two French chefs, on a cookbook that was years in the making. In many ways, Avis was the fourth author of this book. She was the force to get it published in the United States through her contacts.

    In reading this book compiled by the author, the letters do go into details about food a little too much for me. Avis was also an accomplished chef. But it's a fascinating look at American life and the world of letter writing between two exceptional, brilliant women who revolutionized the publishing and cuisine industries to this day.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Witty, moving, consuming--a feast of fifties' culture, friendship, food, and love, November 4, 2010

    Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?)
    This is the kind of book where you come to know the writers like friends, grow to love them, and feel their joys and tragedies as your own. In the opening sections I was captivated by the chatty, literate voices of Avis and Julia, their generous wit and intelligence, and the exciting political and cultural circles in which they moved even more than any of the specific--and also wonderful--information about food. Avis is married to the noted Harvard historian, novelist, and Harper's columnist Bernard DeVoto and knows everybody, writing about Adlai Stevenson, Archie MacLeish, and the scions of American publishing as houseguests and `lambs.' Speaking of Dorothy de Santillana, a top editor at Houghton Mifflin, she remarks, "She used to be married to Robert Hillyer [a Pulitzer prize-winning poet and novelist]. She is now married to Giorgio de S., who is an Italian marquis and teaches history of philosophy at MIT and is a darling. . . You'll die when you meet Dorothy because she is very beautiful and enormously fat--I think this is really one of the rare glandular cases--it makes no difference because she is a great natural force and men gravitate towards her like flies. I'm quite sure she'd give her eye teeth to get this particular book."

    I was both amused and intrigued by this breezy kind of talk and the up close and personal views of American literati, their dinners and cocktail parties, and Julia's and Avis's thoughts on such subjects as the `new' stainless steel knives, Dick Nixon, frozen vegetables, roasting chickens, the French, Peyton Place, and McCarthyism. It was like being steeped in pitch-perfect Fifties culture as experienced by tremendously talented, intelligent women immersed in domesticity and serving others and yet somehow managing, quite heroically I might add, to craft lives where their own remarkable gifts shine through.

    It took me a while to realize just how courageous these women were because part of their outward cheeriness and generosity towards others is making it all look not that hard. As the years roll by and their labors on Julia's manuscript and for their families continue, you start to see along with all the recipes and other commentary more of the very real hardships they face and the steadfast determination that gets them through. The book is organized by editor Reardon so that you know when something very tragic or really wonderful is about to happen, and then you live through it with the women in their letters as it occurs. This makes for an incredibly engrossing, affecting read.

    As the Booklist reviewer pointed out, Avis thought Julia's book was as exciting as a novel, and their correspondence about creating a culinary masterpiece and surviving the ups and downs of midlife is certainly the same. In fact, it's richer, more sumptuous, true, and moving than almost anything I've read this year. You don't even have to be that interested in food or cooking to get swept up by the story. Thank goodness Houghton Mifflin had the good sense to publish their book this time!

    4-0 out of 5 stars More Julia, December 14, 2010
    I have loved and admired Julia Child since my Mother and I would sit mesmerized in front of the television in the 60's and watch her cook. What a difference from what we knew then!

    I'm midway through this almost fascinating book - the fascinating part is Julia. I didn't realize how long it took to bring this book to the public or how intelligent she was or how much effort she brought to the book - almost obsessive but what a success.

    What's starting to bother me is the conversations about knives, beurre blanc and McCarthy, none of which I care about. Also I don't like Avis at all. She's racist, spoiled and exaggerates"how busy she is" all the time. How busy can you be when you have live in help and two sons 8 years apart and one not home? The frantic pace she keeps is unbelievable and I can't imagine anyone living like that. With all that ruckus, she still seems to get to the market and even would like to invite her butcher for lunch - this after what seemed like endless dinner parties. It must have taken an hour at least to type all those letters to Julia.

    Two things that makde an impression on me that I had not thought about recently is the enormity of what is offered today in American supermakets and specialty stores compared to the 50's. The second is what a hunk Paul Child was and what an odd couple they made visually. The fact that they were so in love is reassuring.

    I doubt I will finish this as I find myself skipping around but it is an interesting endeavor to plumb the personality of this fascinating woman who lived such an extraordiary life.

    5-0 out of 5 stars A gold mine for Julia-philes, December 3, 2010

    Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?)
    For those of us whose appetite for all things Julia was whetted by My Life In France and the movie Julie and Julia, As Always, Julia is a gift. A bonus is getting to know the inimitable Avis deVoto, a vibrant and memorable character in her own right, whose role in creating the phenomenon that was Julia Child and Mastering The Art Of French Cooking deserves to be better known.

    Things began in 1951 when Harvard historian and foodie Bernard deVoto wrote an article for Harper's on the abysmal quality of American made kitchen knives. Julia Child wrote in response, mentioning her interest in French cooking for American kitchens and sending along a French knife. Bernard's wife/secretary Avis wrote back in thanks, requesting recipes for a couple of French dishes she remembered fondly from a trip abroad. Their ensuing correspondence resulted in a deep friendship and the eventual publication of Mastering The Art Of French Cooking, revolutionizing American kitchens, supermarkets and, it can be argued, quality of life. As Avis would say, "Wow."

    The French Chef and the Cambridge hostess had much in common. They were both curious and avid readers, loved parties, wines, politics, jokes and cooking and eating great food. These letters sparkle, even when the contents are gloomy. Julia's humor, honesty and exuberance leap from the page, her zest for life evident even when relating an anecdote about a truly awful ladies' luncheon in Oslo. It's prefaced with a succinct, "Gawd!" and ends with "Ugh." In addition, there is delightful commentary on people and events and wonderful glimpses inside Julia's marriage to that Renaissance man, Paul Child through their many moves, language lessons, health issues and conflicts between his job and her own ambitions.

    For her part, Avis' letters reveal a sharp and rigorous intellect, a deep commitment to home and family, and wide ranging interests. They provide a fascinating picture of domestic life among the Cambridge intelligentsia in the second half of the last century. Highly entertaining descriptions of what was available in grocery stores, uses of aluminum foil, quality of frozen vegetables, meals she cooked (often with the benefit of Julia's coaching) and parties she attended are interspersed with blunt and perceptive characterizations of public figures; Sen. Joseph McCarthy "...really insane," President Eisenhower "a dope;" and Adlai Stevenson "a nice man."

    It was Avis who knew the ins and outs of publishing and while MTAOFC might have seen the light of day without her help, it was her suggestions, contacts and guidance that made the book what it is. From initial feelers to Dorothy de Santillana (resident of The Pnk Palace), the only woman editor at Houghton Mifflin, through the devastating news that after seven years of consideration and work, HM turned it down, Avis was its indefagitable champion and just as euphoric as the Childs when it found its home at Knopf. Her letter to the Childs delivering the news is one of the most eloquent and charming in the book, espressing love, respect and admiration and joy.

    My only complaint is that the footnotes are somewhat distracting and perplexing. On the one hand Ms. Reardon provides a great deal of information on people we already know about (Richard Nixon, Arthur Schlesinger, Archibald MacLeish), information on people mentioned once in passing at a dinner party or something but ignores juicy details of incidents and anecdotes we'd love to know more about. Avis and Julia run away with two-thirds of the book, leaving Ms. Reardon and her footnotes in the dust, but she really tried. The section introductions are informative and good if perhaps the book could have done with more editing--there's a lot of step by step cooking in it, and some dullish passages about long-over political debates--but better too much than too little, and one can only imagine Ms. Reardon's state of mind when faced with the task of compiling these letters. Overall it's an heroic effort, and minor quibbles are just that. Highly, highly recommended.

    ... Read more

    17. Washington: A Life
    by Ron Chernow
    Hardcover (2010-10-05)
    list price: $40.00 -- our price: $21.55
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Isbn: 1594202664
    Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The
    Sales Rank: 102
    Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
    US | Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan

    Editorial Review

    From National Book Award winner Ron Chernow, a landmark biography of George Washington.

    In Washington: A Life celebrated biographer Ron Chernow provides a richly nuanced portrait of the father of our nation. With a breadth and depth matched by no other one-volume life of Washington, this crisply paced narrative carries the reader through his troubled boyhood, his precocious feats in the French and Indian War, his creation of Mount Vernon, his heroic exploits with the Continental Army, his presiding over the Constitutional Convention, and his magnificent performance as America's first president.

    Despite the reverence his name inspires, Washington remains a lifeless waxwork for many Americans, worthy but dull. A laconic man of granite self-control, he often arouses more respect than affection. In this groundbreaking work, based on massive research, Chernow dashes forever the stereotype of a stolid, unemotional man. A strapping six feet, Washington was a celebrated horseman, elegant dancer, and tireless hunter, with a fiercely guarded emotional life. Chernow brings to vivid life a dashing, passionate man of fiery opinions and many moods. Probing his private life, he explores his fraught relationship with his crusty mother, his youthful infatuation with the married Sally Fairfax, and his often conflicted feelings toward his adopted children and grandchildren. He also provides a lavishly detailed portrait of his marriage to Martha and his complex behavior as a slave master.

    At the same time, Washington is an astute and surprising portrait of a canny political genius who knew how to inspire people. Not only did Washington gather around himself the foremost figures of the age, including James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson, but he also brilliantly orchestrated their actions to shape the new federal government, define the separation of powers, and establish the office of the presidency.

    In this unique biography, Ron Chernow takes us on a page-turning journey through all the formative events of America's founding. With a dramatic sweep worthy of its giant subject, Washington is a magisterial work from one of our most elegant storytellers.
    ... Read more


    5-0 out of 5 stars A Washington For Our Time
    Why do we need another biography of George Washington? The four volume Flexner biography was published 40 years ago, and since then 60 newly edited volumes of Washington letters and diaries have been published, which Chernow has read closely. He has combed the important multi-volume biographies and reviewed the shorter more recent books. The bibliography is many pages, the text meticulously footnoted. Chernow brings keen psychological insight to this magisterial work. His preamble sets forth his purpose: to bring Washington to life, to get behind the grave, somber image so the reader will have a true appreciation of the man. Moreover, Chernow's writing is superb. The book - over 800 pages of text alone - never drags and one's interest never flags. You can open it anywhere and receive enlightenment. On Washington's leadership in the Revolutionary War: "His fortitude in keeping the impoverished Continental Army intact was a major historic accomplishment... He was that rare general who was great between battles and not just during them." On Washington's early charisma: "Long before he achieved great fame or renown, something about Washington's bearing and presence bedazzled people." It is a tribute to Chernow that he "remembers the ladies", with colorful descriptions of Martha Washington and her circle: "It is a testimony to Martha's social versatility that she won over women who were far more intellectual than she." On celebrity: "For all of Washington's professions of modesty, the thought of his high destined niche in history was never far from his mind." On religious tolerance, Chernow quotes a letter from Washington to a Jewish congregation in Newport: "'All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship...'" I approached this book with some trepidation - so long, so detailed, another Washington biography? Why read it? To find out how Washington did it. To study his character. To be inspired. To understand the virtue in moderation and self control. To feel, far beyond the cliche, proud to be an American.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, well-written and complete
    I liked Chernow's other biographies; particularly his one on Alexander Hamilton, so much that I advanced ordered this book. I am happy to say that I was not disappointed. If I had to describe this book in one sentence I would say that it shows why Washington was a great leader and a great man. Below is further information about the book, how it compares to other Washington biographies, and some caveats (mentioned at the end of this review) that I think a potential reader should be aware of.

    Why should you read this book when you think that you know all you need to about George Washington? I think that you should because this book is wonderful, both in the writing and in the level of detail. Chernow is a wonderful writer. As with his other biographies, Chernow gives us a picture that goes beyond a stiff formal portrait. He gives us, what I consider to be, a fair picture of Washington, with his faults clearly delineated as well as his positive attributes. Here is not the Washington promoted to a saint-like status, rather a man who made the most of all the opportunities that came his way. A man who was not above ordering gold braid and a red sash for his uniform, and a man who took offense at slights (although when necessary held his anger to himself) and a man who bristled when he was appointed to a military rank that he felt was too low. However, he was also a man who learned by his mistakes (and Chermow points out a lot of them) and was above all; courageous, conscientious, honest, and hard working. He shows Washington the man - a man who felt handicapped by his lack of a college education, a man with a volatile temperament that he kept tightly under control, a man who could lead men but found himself leading untrained and undisciplined ones. He shows Washington to be human, a man who "... adopted a blistering style whenever he thought someone had cheated him". Most of all he shows a Washington who prevented the dissolution of the army during the war and whose actions defined the presidency of the US. One of Chernow's objectives was to show that Washington made his own decisions, after consultation with those whose opinions he respected, and contrary to the charge made by his enemies was not controlled by men like Hamilton.

    What I found most interesting were the discussions of those aspects of Washington's life that are generally not covered in one-volume biographies. He discusses the economic factors that eventually turned Washington against Britain. Chernow discusses Washington the businessman (both as a planter and a land speculator) and his dealings with his London agents. Contrary to popular myth, Chernow shows Washington to be land rich but cash poor, frequently to the extent of being on the brink of economic disaster. Chernow devotes two chapters (and parts of others) to the issue of slavery. He makes it clear that Washington did not like the institution, but he viewed his slaves as an investment that he did not know how to dispense with without bring about his economic ruin. Furthermore, he unrealistically expected his slaves to act more like employees or soldiers and could not understand why some did not, or why some ran away.

    Remarkably, Chernow makes Washington come alive without sacrificing details. My touchstone for a biography on Washington is the extent to which it covers his family, particularly his brothers. Flexner's one volume condensation of his four-volume biography of Washington mentions George's older half-brothers, but not his older half-sister or his younger full brothers and sisters. Chernow mentions them all. He also clears up the story of how George acquired Mt. Vernon, and how it got its name. Chernow also discusses Washington's difficult relationship with his mother, a subject generally not covered in other one-volume biographies. The book also discusses such diverse topics as Washington's teeth, his height, and many of his illnesses.

    This is a complete biography of George Washington. It is divided into six parts, covering his entire life. In contrast, some biographies only cover part of his life. For instance, Willard Sterne Randall's biography of Washington focuses almost entirely on the revolutionary war. Chernow covers everything, devoting almost equal space to Washington's presidency as to his leadership of the army. The book contains 30 black and white photographs of paintings of individuals, printed on high gloss paper. The quality of the photographs is good, but lacks the color of the originals, which is unfortunate.

    I think that there are two caveats that a potential reader should be aware of. This is not a detailed military history - there are no maps or detailed discussions of tactics. It is more about the man and how he handled the problems of the war, than a history of the war itself. Neither is this book a political treatise on the Washington presidency. Chernow does, however, show how Washington, by his actions, created the presidency. For instance,Chernow shows how Washington changed the Senate's constitutional requirement of "advise and consent" to consent for actions he took. One should not take these caveats as an indication that the book was not excellent or is incomplete. It is just that there is a limit to what one can put into a single volume, even with more than 800 pages of text. Furthermore, this is a book about Washington's whole life, written for a general audience. In this it succeeds admirably.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Discover George Washington and Discover Our Country!!!

    Washington, A Life by Ron Chernow should be required reading by all of us, including our children. For most of us, the images we have in our heads of the founding fathers were formed a lifetime ago when we were children. Today our children are forming those same images in their minds, based on boring textbooks and teachers that have only a borderline knowledge of Washington, or that matter an interest. Had I been fortunate enough to have had a book like this several decades ago, my understanding and interest in Washington would have been remarkably different than the lifeless, waxwork image that most of us have.

    Chernow makes George Washington come alive, and how grateful we should be for this. Every few years a new book comes out on our country's first President, each one is pronounced the definitive one, and yet next year there is another one. What differentiates Chernow from all of the rest is his capacity to convey a living human being with an emotional life, something no other author has been able to do so far.

    First, let's discuss the mechanics of the book. Without the footnotes and index, we are looking at 817 pages printed with a small font. It's a big heavy book, but remember that many Washington biographies encompass several volumes, usually 3 or 4. Chernow was very reliant on the papers of the George Washington Project at the University of Virginia. This involves more than 130,000 relevant documents.

    First composed by John C. Fitzpatrick in the 1930's and 1940's, the papers occupy 39 volumes of letters written by George Washington. In recent years, this work has been expanded to 60 volumes, which now includes letters addressed to Washington as well as writings of his friends, family, and others who lived during his lifetime.

    One of the amazing statements I took out of the book was Chernow's comment that we now know more about George Washington than his own friends, family or contemporaries did. The book itself is divided into six distinct parts. They are:

    Part I - The Frontiersman

    Part II - The Planter

    Part III - The General

    Part IV - The Statesman

    Part V - Acting the Presidency

    Part VI - The Legend

    I am going to describe an instance briefly from each section to give you a feel for how interesting this book is. Chapter 4 of Part I is called the Bloodbath. In it Chernow describes vividly how Colonel Washington trained 160 green recruits to take on more than 1000 French soldiers with 360 boats and 18 pieces of artillery during the French and Indian War. This occurred in May of 1754.

    It is obvious that America's founder lost control of his troops who engaged in scalping, and other acts which the future President found to be degrading. Washington himself had to lie to his troops and tell them that additional soldiers were on their way to reinforce their position. He would regret the actions that took place in this encounter for the rest of his life.

    In Part II, chapter 17 Washington finds himself living in Cambridge Massachusetts adjacent to Harvard University, and regrets never having attended college. He lives in the house of John Vassall and encounters a young slave named Darby Vassall. Washington decides to take young Darby into his service and changes his mind, when the young man says, "What would my wages be." What most of us would find to be humor, Washington found to be insulting.

    During this period of his life, Washington is described by different people in the following terms, venerated, truly noble and majestic, vast ease, dignity, always buffed and polished. He always had an elegant sword strapped to his side, and had silver spurs attached to his boots. When asked how he would pick an officer, his reply was that he must be a true gentleman, with a genuine sense of humor, and the reputation of being able to rise.

    In Part III the General deals with the revolutionary war. Chapter 28 is about the Long Retreat. Washington is so disappointed when General Benjamin Lincoln must surrender Charleston, South Carolina along with 2,571 men with 343 artillery pieces plus 6000 muskets. Normally soldiers are allowed to surrender with dignity and march out with their colors, but not this time. To shame the Americans, we were required to lay down our arms in silence. The choice was than given to become a prisoner of war or return home after a solemn oath to refrain from further fighting.

    This part also includes the Benedict Arnold affair. If you think you know the story, believe me, you don't. Arnold comes through as an extraordinary American. Words to describe him include, fearless, racing on horseback to spur on his men, most enterprising, and dangerous as a warrior. Arnold had horses shot out from under him, and kept going. One of his legs was basically blown off, and still he would not stop fighting, refusing amputation; he was able to carry on. The first President of our country is totally enamored of Benedict Arnold.

    Arnold on the other hand felt betrayed by our country. Far superior to the generals he reported to, other generals took credit for the victories that Arnold won, and paid for with his body, in pain and parts. Officials in Pennsylvania officials falsely accused Arnold of exploiting his position for personal gain. The General demanded an immediate trial by court martial. Arnold felt that George Washington did not come to his defense, and this led to the ultimate betrayal. It is Arnold's betrayal that has erased all the major battles he won on behalf of this country - sound familiar.

    In Part IV, the Statesman, we see George Washington as perhaps the first American celebrity. He is the most famous person in our new country, a position he is completely uncomfortable with. His brother dead, he takes his children into his home, and raises them as his own. If you want to understand Washington, listen to what Nelly and Washy, the two children say to describe the General. He (Washington) never spoke of a single act of his life, during the war. He was a remote figure.

    Part V is Acting the Presidency. Chernow used a term that makes no sense unless you read the book. The concept is not creating the Presidency, but Acting the Presidency. Washington felt and knew when he became President that every act would be scrutinized. His fear was that of all the branches of government, only the Presidency possessed the power and potential to slip into monarchy, and subvert the Republican form of government. He would avoid this slippage at all costs. Chernow also explores the concept that many things which appear to be of little importance have the ability to have durable consequences.

    Bringing it all together, I believe from this day forward, we will now have a definitive, reliable, and wonderfully readable story of the life of our most important American. Creating what we call America was a very difficult task, but it was left to Washington to lead a war to create it, to win the Presidency to create the model for everything that would come afterwards, and set by example how each succeeding President should and would conduct himself.

    We have no idea what America would look like if George Washington did not exist? We don't know if America would have been at all, so much rested on his shoulders. Two-thirds of the colonists sided with the British initially. We do know this however. There were only two times in thousands of years of history when a perfect solution to the formation of a government took place. One was under Caesar Augustus, while the other was under George Washington. Now we have the definitive biography to tell us the whole story. Thank you Mr. Chernow and thank you for reading this review.

    Richard C. Stoyeck

    5-0 out of 5 stars The master chronicler of the American Experiment
    Chernow has done it again. Though many pundits complain that America lacks "public intellectuals", Chernow offers a wonderful reading experience that is both academically rigorous and yet popular biography.

    Washington has always seemed to me like an Olympian who rules from the mountain rather than a general, a rough and tumble pol, or even a businessman. He has certainly never appeared very human in my schoolbooks. We Americans have been brought up on so many ridiculous myths - I remember modeling my behavior on the cannot-tell-a-lie story about the chopped cherrie tree - but he is also seen as a neutral presider over the innumerable factions of bickering revolutionaries, i.e. the ultimate honest broker (I have never met one!). This wonderful biography truly penetrates the cloud around him to reveal the man.

    Alongside his career and times, Chernow investigates Washington's motivations, emotional life, and methods. Washington was ambitious, shrewd, and incredibly self-disciplined. But, in contrast to his popular image, he was also passionate, complete with a fiery temper that he learned to keep in check with great difficulty. And he made plenty of mistakes.

    As the book unfolds, we see that Washington learned certain lessons from experience rather than books, shaping his attitudes in a uniquely pragmatic and practical way. Though born to a plantation family, he was not the prime heir, so had to make his way more or less on his own; to his great regret, he had very little formal education.

    After working as a surveyor, he began his career under the British military. In this way, he was schooled directly on how to fight on American soil, which was unlike the European theatres and served him well in his tactics when he later fought the British. On a personal level, he came to despise aristocratic privilege, which all too often reserved position and advantage to the mediocre and undeserving. This was a clear sign of both his self confidence and his ego. This also was a tumultuous beginning for him. Indeed, he oversaw the massacre of a French envoy by Indian allies, which some claim was the spark that led directly to the Seven Years War. He also suffered many significant defeats, though emerged something of a hero.

    Then Martha enters the picture. Benefiting from his reputation, he made a crucially important marriage to the widow, whose holdings elevated him the status of a gentleman farmer; for the next 16 years, he operated at the pinnacle of Virginia colonial gentry. Instead of leading an idle pseudo-aristocratic life style, he applied himself to his business, with real estate deals and experiments in the management of his estates, in particular cultivating a variety of crops rather than mono-crops such as tobacco, which exposed his neighbors to suspiciously fluctuating prices. Observing the debt that was ruining his cohorts, he came to distrust both faraway officials dispensing favors and merchants who promised to manage everything from the delivery of extremely expensive European goods to the sale of his crops, he moved towards self sustainability.

    His experience as a business man convinced him of the need for independence and self-reliance: alone among the founding fathers, he died a very rich man with minimal debt. When the time came for the revolution, he was ready to risk everything to preserve his political and economic autonomy. Of course, his choice was helped by the real estate holdings he had in Ohio, which the British were refusing to allow him to exploit!

    Risking everything he had achieved, Washington took over the disorganized and poorly funded American rebel forces. After his early catastrophic defeat in New York, he concluded that he would have to harass the British to gradually wear them down rather than confront them directly in the field (as they expected he would, given the European war traditions of the time).

    This led to an extremely long conflict that was aggravated by the incompetent confederation government. From this, Chernow writes, he concluded that the US needed a strong executive with the power to tax and act effectively rather than relying on Congress or fractious state legislatures to lead. This explains very clearly why he championed the Federalists later. Once again, this was counterintuitive to conventional wisdom: the colonies had revolted against the British monarchy's policies and taxation, it was said, and did not want to replace it with another monarchical authority.

    At the victory, Washington retired with unsurpassed prestige, yet aghast at the chaotic mismanagement of the confederation government. To remedy this, and putting his place in history as the country's liberator in jeopardy, he joined the Constitutional Convention at its very start. As a savvy pol, Washington had waited a long time to commit himself as he examined his options. In an interesting aside, Madison tutored him in the political ideas and vocabulary then current. From his experience as a leader and executive, Washington had strong ideas of what he wanted to do, but he shrewdly relied on his more learned colleagues for the right way to describe and sell it politically, lending his prestige yet appearing majestically above the fray and hence the logical choice to become the first president. That is true political artistry.

    As the pioneer exemplar of a new kind of republican government, aware of the value of symbolism, Washington established many of the norms of executive power and practice that have survived intact to the present day. Fearful of the country fragmenting into competing sovereign powers, he also strove to manipulate the political forces into a durable union. This entailed avoiding to address the issue of slavery and the economic system it supported, which led directly to the Civil War. Nonetheless, by delaying the reckoning for a few generations, he may have prevented the union from immediate (and permanent) disintegration.

    Another part of his legacy, which Chernow covers in wonderful detail, is his careful though unequivocal support of Hamilton and the Federalists. With them, Washington created the foundation of the federal system of government that has evolved until the present today. Though still controversial, the Federal Government can raise funds, maintain an army, take precedence over states' prerogatives, and serve as a decisive economic actor even though the constitution does not specifically allow it. Once again maintaining the appearance of even-handed distance, Washington was the real mastermind behind the protean Alexander Hamilton, his political instrument of action. Chernow truly does justice to the immensity of this undertaking - it was the first republican government to rule over such a huge and socially disparate country.

    Chernow's book is extremely long and dense, a genuine masterpiece that will be the definitive treatment of this amazing life for a generation to come.

    Recommended with the greatest enthusiasm. This cannot disappoint.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Superb Popular History
    Chernow's "Washington: A Life" really does not add much that is new or fresh to our understanding of Washington the man, although his inclusion of the recently catalogued Washington letters, artfully woven throughout the book, is long-overdue, refreshing, and welcome. Rather, what Chernow has done is set himself the task of finally collating the massive amount of scholarship on the "American Cincinnatus" into a unified explanation of Washington as we understand him. And I am pleased to report that he succeeds admirably, producing a solid, well-researched, engaging work of popular history freely accessible to most readers. And this alone is no mean feat. But what also stands out for me is the tone of the work.

    I am not going to summarize the main threads of the book's arguments since the other reviewers have done so thoroughly and well. Suffice it to say, the other factor making this book so grand is its overall sense of balance. Chernow simply refuses to resurrect the breathless myth-culture of President Washington and present it as "fact," but neither does he diminish the man's amazing accomplishments. There is also no gloss of Washington's often paradoxical - even sometimes Quixotic - nature and the more unpleasant aspects of his character and life, not the least of which was his not-so-well sublimated vision of himself as a "Man of Destiny." Like Burlingame's "Lincoln" I reviewed a long time back, what Chernow produces is a person of "whole cloth," not an icon, and a person who had routine flashes of a certain kind of unique political genius and possessing what was, at heart, an elevating, evolving political conscience and sense of his place in history at exactly the right time and moment in the tumultuous history of the early American experiment.

    This book is not a valentine or a love-letter, and not a hatchet job. It is popular history done well, the use of sources measured, balanced, and up-to-date, and the clearest biographical picture we have yet, I think, of Washington presented again to the American public at large as he most likely was. While it is not a microscopic biography, neither are there any curious omissions or leaps in Chernow's narrative of this fascinating life. Just first-rate all the way around.

    Readable, engaging, comprehensive, and lavishly researched. It would be difficult to ask for more.

    Highly recommended.

    5-0 out of 5 stars A Needed and Definitive Biography of Cinncinatus
    Chernow's "Washington" sheds light on a founding father that many students of my generation know little about. It's refreshing to read this biography, especially after the magisterial work on Alexander Hamilton. The letters from Washington helps to fill in the gaps of the story we never knew and presented well by a master historian.

    It's a long read, but well worth the long nights of stories about a great man. Undoubtedly, there will be some who look at this story and say that there are too many "ifs" in the story and call Chernow a one-sided historian as they did when Chernow wrote the biography on Hamilton. To me, these are parts of history because history cannot be seen as the definitive account of humanity as truths are socially constructed by the living. Chernow does an excellent job of pulling back the dusty curtains of history to give us a three-dimensional view of one of our greatest founding fathers, whose life has been shrouded in shadow by his taciturn nature and forbidding character.

    The biography, like other commentators have already established, is very extensive and give a detailed account of how Washington grew from a repressed young boy under a illiterate mother to become the great general whose stoic personality lead America to final victory in the American Revolution. Cinncinatus is resurrected in his best incarnation within American History with interesting analysis on how he chose to be an impartial leader who acted in silence to make the best of a precarious situation for a seedling nation known as America.

    In conclusion, this biography will be a defining authority on George Washington and his formerly mysterious life.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Best Washington Bio yet
    Simply an amazing biography of George Washington! Comparable to James Flexner's bio, this is far more detailed in the fact that Chernow not so much breaks down the mythical ediface of Washington but explains him in such detail that the reader can actually get a sense of who he really was. Chernow digs deep into Washington's mind by citing the facts and primary sources that make him far more human than mythical. Though critcal of Washington on many issues, he is fair in reavealing that GW was driven by many normal human ambitions and was very critical about his image and his reputation. This was a great read and a must read for any American history reader who wants to learn more and enjoy learning about GW and the times he lived in.

    5-0 out of 5 stars A stellar biography
    A wonderful biography of George Washington. The author, Ron Chernow, is an accomplished biographer, having already penned lengthy tomes on John D. Rockefeller and Alexander Hamilton. This work is another triumph for him. And while short bios, such as from the American Presidents series, can be useful, there is nothing like a long detailed biography to give a reader a real sense of the subject. And the subject here is genuinely important--George Washington.

    The book is written in a literate fashion. It begins at the beginning, examining Washington's childhood and his family background. It discusses some of the enduring characteristics of his nature and when these began to manifest themselves (e.g., trying to quell his ambition and NOT seem as ambitious as he actually was). We do see him trying to struggle to control his anger and to address his tendency to let his pride hurt his efforts (note as an example his continuing complaining over lack of respect, rank, etc. when he was serving with British forces in the French and Indian War).

    The book considers his early military career, success and failure alike. His "luck" that helped propel him higher and higher in rank at a relatively young age (although part of this was the death of close family members--so it was not all "good news"). He was nervous about the fact of his male relatives dying fairly young; his own health was at points precarious (including while he served as president). The book describes his ascent, his public life, his military leadership, his political persona. We get a sense of the real challenges facing him as commander of the Revolutionary force and his sometimes painful experiences as President.

    We also learn of a more private side--his potentially dangerous flirtation with Sally Fairfax and his engagement and marriage to Martha Custis. His marriage may not have been the romance of a lifetime, but the two made a terrific team and were full partners in their marriage. Martha was pretty much what Washington needed--plus bringing him much wealth.

    His views toward slaves was more nuanced than many in his time, and the book addresses that nicely. His frustrations as president and how the stresses wore him down is well told. The struggles for power within his cabinet would weigh him down (e.g., Alexander Hamilton versus Thomas Jefferson).

    In short, a biography worthy of the person.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Washington: The Legend And The Man
    Recent trends have made the reader of any new history or biography expect a healthy dose of cynicism as reputations are drastically revised and accepted narratives questioned. Any new biography of George Washington especially seems to demand such treatment because he has undergone such idealization that he seems too good to be true. Ron Chernow's excellent new biography does wave away some of the incense, but actually confirms rather than dismantles much of the legend.

    George Washington was born the eldest son of the second marriage of a Virginia planter of excellent family but increasingly limited means. Young George grew up accustomed to uncertain finances and unsettled homelife. His father died young and his mother became more and more demanding and sharp tongued as she grew older. George never attended college and lived precariously, supporting himself as a surveyor, until an older half brother died and left him his Mount Vernon estate.

    Young Washington wanted a military career, but was held back by British prejudice against colonials and his own lack of education. His first foray into combat was embarrassingly unsuccessful, touching off what later became known as the French and Indian War. But even in his twenties Washington was already demonstrating the courage, fortitude, and common sense that later made him so successful. After the French and Indian War ended Washington returned to Virginia, married a rich widow, and worked hard to make Mount Vernon and his other properties successful. Eventually his reputation as a cool headed leader led him into politics. There he demonstrated that, although he was not a great speaker and lacked the imaginative flair of others, he was a great man and a great leader. It was those qualities, rather than military skill (he lost more battles than he won), that made men flock to him and remain loyal throughout the Revolution and after. And those same qualities made him the indispensable man to lead the new United States.

    Ron Chernow does an excellent job depicting Washington's many fine qualities and contradictions. Among the most interesting of these is Washington's attitude towards slavery. As he grew older he became more and more repulsed by it and eventually freed his own slaves in his will, but he also defended it as an institution in order to hold Virginia and the rest of the South in the new nation. He even went to great lengths to reclaim slaves who had escaped from him. Similarly, Washington dearly loved his home state of Virginia, but found himself increasingly alienated from other Virginia politicians like Jefferson and Madison who opposed his policies. More personally, he and his wife Martha had a long and happy marriage, but he also admired and enjoyed the company of attractive women throughout his life.

    Throughout this long biography we see Washington's personality: calm, resolute, dignified without being humorless or priggish, and we realize again how lucky Americans were to have him during those eventful years. ... Read more

    18. Spoken from the Heart
    by Laura Bush
    Hardcover (2010-05-04)
    list price: $30.00 -- our price: $16.90
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Isbn: 1439155208
    Publisher: Scribner
    Sales Rank: 96
    Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars
    US | Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan

    Editorial Review

    In this brave, beautiful, and deeply personal memoir, Laura Bush, one of our most beloved and private first ladies, tells her own extraordinary story.

    Born in the boom-and-bust oil town of Midland, Texas, Laura Welch grew up as an only child in a family that lost three babies to miscarriage or infant death. She vividly evokes Midland's brash, rugged culture, her close relationship with her father, and the bonds of early friendships that sustain her to this day. For the first time, in heart-wrenching detail, she writes about the devastating high school car accident that left her friend Mike Douglas dead and about her decades of unspoken grief.

    When Laura Welch first left West Texas in 1964, she never imagined that her journey would lead her to the world stage and the White House. After graduating from Southern Methodist University in 1968, in the thick of student rebellions across the country and at the dawn of the women's movement, she became an elementary school teacher, working in inner-city schools, then trained to be a librarian. At age thirty, she met George W. Bush, whom she had last passed in the hallway in seventh grade. Three months later, "the old maid of Midland married Midland's most eligible bachelor." With rare intimacy and candor, Laura Bush writes about her early married life as she was thrust into one of America's most prominent political families, as well as her deep longing for children and her husband's decision to give up drinking. By 1993, she found herself in the full glare of the political spotlight. But just as her husband won the Texas governorship in a stunning upset victory, her father, Harold Welch, was dying in Midland.

    In 2001, after one of the closest elections in American history, Laura Bush moved into the White House. Here she captures presidential life in the harrowing days and weeks after 9/11, when fighter-jet cover echoed through the walls and security scares sent the family to an underground shelter. She writes openly about the White House during wartime, the withering and relentless media spotlight, and the transformation of her role as she began to understand the power of the first lady. One of the first U.S. officials to visit war-torn Afghanistan, she also reached out to disease-stricken African nations and tirelessly advocated for women in the Middle East and dissidents in Burma. She championed programs to get kids out of gangs and to stop urban violence. And she was a major force in rebuilding Gulf Coast schools and libraries post-Katrina. Movingly, she writes of her visits with U.S. troops and their loved ones, and of her empathy for and immense gratitude to military families.

    With deft humor and a sharp eye, Laura Bush lifts the curtain on what really happens inside the White House, from presidential finances to the 175-year-old tradition of separate bedrooms for presidents and their wives to the antics of some White House guests and even a few members of Congress. She writes with honesty and eloquence about her family, her public triumphs, and her personal tribulations. Laura Bush's compassion, her sense of humor, her grace, and her uncommon willingness to bare her heart make this story revelatory, beautifully rendered, and unlike any other first lady's memoir ever written. ... Read more


    5-0 out of 5 stars Two different books.....
    This book starts out with what a number of professional reviewers called, rightly, "lyrical descriptions" of Mrs. Bush's small-town childhood. I enjoyed that portion and found her recall of specific childhood incidents to be impressive and meaningful. She also did a beautiful job of telling the reader in a very straightforward way of the events of the night when, as an inexperienced driver, she accidentally killed a friend.

    Where the book changed tone was in the many descriptions of White House events and the people who attended various state dinners. While these lists were complete, Mrs. Bush almost never provides any personal comments about the famous people she has met, whether celebrities or heads of state. Having gotten to know her in the preceding sections of the book as a thoughtful, loyal and gracious person, it would have been nice to get her "take" on people; instead, she maintains a gracious, somewhat distant tone. Perhaps this is consistent with the sensitive and graceful aspects of her personality but it does make for dry reading.

    Overall, a well-written book with many details of a fascinating life but certainly no Kitty Kelly-like tell-all. Recommended for those who want to know both the story behind the news and to appreciate the complexity of the role of First Lady.

    By the way, since so many reviewers here took pains to say they are Democrats or Independents, I am proud to say that I am a Republican, like almost half the country. We, too, read books and have opinions.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Bravo
    I have long respected and admired Laura Bush. After reading Spoken From The Heart my respect and admiration for her greatly increased. To read about the scheduled events and obligations; the meetings, dinners, and trips as First Lady, is to realize how little personal time she had left for family and friends and introspection. During her years as First Lady, she worked tirelessly to highlight and to make aware of the many basic unmet human needs in health in Africa and Haiti and elsewhere, literacy and women's rights in Afghanistan, and the many freedoms that are so lacking in many countries around the world. Through her efforts avenues were opened to begin to bring solutions to some of these serious problems. Through the many shattering events of the Bush Presidency she helped illuminate and honor the resiliency of the human spirit of people everywhere. This book was an eye opener for me into the lives of President Bush and Mrs. Bush, and all the people who served with them and the utter complexity of solving world problems. She met many people; the rich and the poor, the powerful and famous and the unknown, the well and the sick, the kind and the rude, and treated them all with the civility and grace that are her hallmarks. She is truly a remarkable person.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Grace Is Hard To Come By These Days
    I am an independent who read this book not for the politics, but to learn more about the former First Lady. Mrs. Bush has had an interesting and surreal life. I enjoyed reading about her childhood and her roots. Her rise from small town girl to the First Lady of the United States is fascinating. She endured an unbelievable amount of unfair attacks and criticism. But, she showed grace and grit by rising above it all. Mrs. Bush brought dignity to her position...a trait that is sorely lacking in recent years. This book gives an intimate glimpse into the life of an extraordinary woman. Bravo Mrs. Bush.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Literary, Reading, Women's Rights --- A Lasting Legacy
    Laura Bush, married to the first U.S. president with an earned M.B.A., found herself stereotyped by large portions of the media. Her high intelligence and useful contributions to social welfare --- especially literacy and women's rights --- were often largely ignored and seriously (perhaps intentionally?) under-reported.

    Meanwhile, her husband's useful and wise policies were ignored also as opposing politicians called him "a liar" and "stupid" among other epithets. Disagree with George W. Bush if you choose --- but the man is definitely not stupid and certainly not a liar. Why does political disagreement have to take us to such desperate places? Where is the congeniality one finds in the Texas legislature and why is the U.S. Congress so devoid of grace and courtesy?

    Now in her own words, given an opportunity to "strike back" against frequent injustices --- Mrs. Bush graciously declines. She does manage to call out a few transgressors, notably Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, but she does so without calling them any names. She simply quotes them and asks "Why did these people speak in this way?" It's a question voters should ask, especially in Nevada and California.

    This is an honest, soul-searching book by a public figure whose personal life tends more toward the introvert. Anyone hoping for deeper glimpses into Mrs. Bush's persona will be rewarded here: The real Laura Bush can, and does, stand up.

    Well-written and definitely a good read ---- the kind of volume you'd expect from someone with an interest in books and literature.

    Five stars for being informative, refreshing, insightful and --- despite the temptations to get even --- quite civilized.

    Dr. David Frisbie
    The Center for Marriage & Family Studies
    Author of "The Soul Mate Marriage" and 9 other books

    5-0 out of 5 stars Very well written and fascinating
    I am a Ph.D. in literature and I say that because I feel qualified to evaluate the literary quality of the writing. Excellent, graceful, intelligent, moving.
    The class of this lady comes through all the writing. The best part is the first half, her growing up in Midland and her early years with George. The latter part is more of a travelogue and descriptions of her projects. However , all of it is interesting. The book is honest, restrained (in her criticsm of Bush enemies),
    and full of her loving actions after 9-11. I think history will record that George Bush was one of our presidents with the most integrity, and the softest heart,and part of that comes from the elegant lady he chose when they were both 30 years old. What an enviable marriage! I highly recommend this book.

    5-0 out of 5 stars A classy and intelligent woman in her own right...
    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The book is engaging and flows well. The recollections of her childhood were whimsical and carefree, which starkly ended with the terrible accident resulting in the death of her friend. After the accident, which she describes in heartbreaking detail, it's very clear - even from the writing style - that her whole world changed.

    The recollections of her years at President Bush's side, as the First Lady of Texas, and later as the First Lady of the US were a bit more mechanical, but she relayed with great emotion those events and causes that were near and dear to her. She recalled adversities that she and her family faced, including the time one of her daughters was threatened by a university teaching assistant (something along the lines of, "You won't get an A in this class unless you ask your father not to go to war,"). Despite this, she handled these issues with great restraint and class.

    Overall, some may approach this book (or not approach it at all) with the attitude that Mrs. Bush is some "Stand By Your Man" Stepford Wife with no real contributions of her own. They could not be more wrong.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Laura Bush: One Classy Lady

    Laura Bush has always conducted herself with dignity. She is an example of a real
    lady who is respectful even to those who do not deserve respect.

    When reading this book, at least the reader knows what is contained within its pages
    is true. Not so, with others who have been caught in lies and exaggerations that
    are laughable. I will continue to select things to read that teach me something.
    Laura has a lot to teach me.....even with 4 "earned" diplomas on my wall.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Amazing Book!
    As a Democrat, I did not vote for George Bush twice. I bought this book because I admires Laura Bush. She is a wonderful author. She deserves a bestselling award because I like her writing style, due to history, events at the White House, her marriage to George Bush, her daughters, etc. I am giving her A plus. ... Read more

    19. Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia
    by Elizabeth Gilbert
    Paperback (2010-06-29)
    list price: $16.00 -- our price: $7.01
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Isbn: 0143118420
    Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics)
    Sales Rank: 101
    Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
    US | Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan

    Editorial Review

    This beautifully written, heartfelt memoir touched a nerve among both readers and reviewers. Elizabeth Gilbert tells how she made the difficult choice to leave behind all the trappings of modern American success (marriage, house in the country, career) and find, instead, what she truly wanted from life. Setting out for a year to study three different aspects of her nature amid three different cultures, Gilbert explored the art of pleasure in Italy and the art of devotion in India, and then a balance between the two on the Indonesian island of Bali. By turns rapturous and rueful, this wise and funny author (whom Booklist calls "Anne Lamott’s hip, yoga-practicing, footloose younger sister") is poised to garner yet more adoring fans. ... Read more


    4-0 out of 5 stars Great, for what it is., March 31, 2008
    I find it so surprising--reading the angry, negative reviews--that the people who hated the book hated it for exactly the reasons why some steer clear away from the the spiritual-journey-memoir genre. Yes, the author is self-absorbed, yes, she seems to think of only trite stuff, yes, she seems self-indulgent with her problems. And yes, she's allowed. It is after all a book that is positioned to address these things in the author's self; who otherwise would not be searching for something more: more meaning and more appreciation in/of her life.
    Here is a woman who shows all the possibly-perceived-as-lacking-substance thoughts of hers and we are throwing tomatoes at her. One thing, she obviously wasn't afraid of that. She wasn't aiming to be coming off as some deeply wise woman but a fumbling girl-woman trying to break out of what she felt was imminent disaster (had she had the baby and delayed her need to find out what she truly wants from her life she might have left not only her husband, but their child, or most probably ending up not leaving out of guilt and becoming crazy instead: exposing her family to that for years; not an uncommon reality). She is not one for anti-depressants, remember.
    This memoir falls in the same category as the TV show Sex and the City (of which it was compared to in a review here). Both get trampled for being supposedly superficial, covering the silly plights of city girls who don't know what they want and yet have everything. But this book--as the TV show--actually are part of a wider story that is illiciting reactions from the public because it reflects the transition in which women in the modern world are experiencing: now that we have equality with men professionally, now that we are liberated from all the limitations being a woman dictated two generations ago, how does that affect us? From a distance, in a glance, it seems that women have all the cards to play with now. But this book and many other works by women and/or about women of this generation show that having all those cards does not mean Happiness.
    There are still things in society--in regards to a woman's role--that grates. And then there are things within our Modernised, Westernized, Individualized, Ambitious selves, that are lacking.
    This is what Miss Gilbert's search is about, and what she represents.
    On a collective level, much of the modern world is in search of God, Spirituality (one just needs to walk through bookstores in the US and see the plethora of soul searching self help books on the shelves). This is what needs to be observed and understood as a phenomena in the West; the small voices, small cries, here and there by those who come up with the balls to share their journeys and thoughts with us--no matter how trite-sounding, how shallow-seeming--are part of a collective howl for the meaning of life.
    Elizabeth Gilbert's voice is just one of many that calls for recognition as part of a chorus for something that firstly, many women are hollering about, and secondly, humanity in general--humanity in the first world--are crying for: some kind of guidance, indication, that the collective paths we fought for and chose (the best education, career ambitions realised, a certain amount of money needed to live that certain kind of magazine-lifestyle life--which is what Liz Gilbert's life is a reflection of, remember--love in the form of marriage and what society dictates) are truly the things that give us peace and happiness in the infinite sense.
    Eat, Pray, Love might not be that deep, wise voice representing the deep, wise journey into the deep, wise self. But this book's packaging and tone, hell, its WORDS, never did say it was. It is a fumbling--almost child-like in its guilelessness--show of the ego's awareness and needs, and its attempt at searching for what many people from all walks of life only wish they could go out and find: THEMSELVES. SELF, being the keyword here. And in this memoir, ultimately, God, being in each of our selves.
    To the people who were disappointed that the author didn't seem to give a hoot about India's poverty, they must have not read the book through: Miss Gilbert never ventured out of her ashram and the little village it is located in, after making a decision to further develop her meditation skills and thus skipping the rest of India. She also ignored Italy's corruption with her indulging in good food and focus on learning and enjoying the Italian language. Again, the critics missed the point of this memoir. It's a book about a writer, a New Yorker, a recently-divorced-woman-in-her-early-thirties' journey to heal and find spiritual strength through various means: pleasure first to recover (Italy), spiritual examination and purging (India), combining the two for balance (Bali), which would result hopefully in the kind of substance and depth and balance that so many critics mentioned she lacks.
    One doesn't pick this book up to: 1. Be exposed to India's poverty and expect the author to discuss that in depth. 2. Be exposed to Italy's corruption and expect the author to discuss that in depth. 3. Be exposed to Balinese wiles and expect the author to discuss that in depth. (which she actually did in the account of the Balinese woman she raised money for to buy the land the woman needed to build a home).

    Next time you pick a book up at the bookstore, call up your powers of perception before purchasing it. A book IS pretty much its cover. Did everyone really expect a book titled "Eat, Pray, Love" A Woman's Search for Everything, to be an experience of religious fervor, one that would reveal the secrets of the universe? It's a story about a girl who thought everything she thought she wanted, would bring her happiness. It didn't. It didn't for her, and possibly not for many other women. If it took this one woman to go to Italy, India, and Indonesia, to get away after a difficult and painful divorce to heal and get perspective--instead of festering and turning into a pile of flesh in depression--then by all means. Yes, she financed her travels through her book advance--after giving away the suburban home and NYC apartment to her ex-husband. And if she wrote this book for us, it's really for us to appreciate and enjoy the ride with her. Anybody else who got so upset needed only to put the book down and pick another one to their taste. If anything, that's this book's lesson: Do what makes you smile and thankful for life.

    1-0 out of 5 stars A ME-moir, not a memoir, April 25, 2009
    I'm a big fan of Gilbert's earlier work (specifically 2003's The Last American Man) and I was deeply disappointed by this book. In fact, I sent it sailing across the room twice within the first hour. Gilbert's a fine writer, let there be no doubt. Her structure is great. She writes scrumptious sentences. She's an eminently likable narrator. But my complaint is more psychological rather than literary. As we learn over the course of the book, Ms. Gilbert is an enormously privileged woman, lives the glamorous writing life in NYC, owns two homes and yet is so sad and depressed about life. Get over yourself, lady! This book is the literary equivalent of like How Stella Got Her Grove Back. Only with yoga and white people.

    Gilbert claims to be quite the globe-trotter but seems to have never learned the basic tenet of travel: learning about the larger world. Confronted with the rich, confounding, complicated world, she turns away and gets lost in her own navel.

    What I hate even more about this book is what its incredible popularity says about us as Americans: just like Gilbert, we are giant narcissists and we never, ever stop thinking about ourselves and our own needs and cannot, even for a second, think about the lives of the less fortunate around the world. Gilbert thus becomes the American Every-Woman: 9-11 happens in her own backyard and she's so distraught over her failed marriage that it barely registers. If you think I'm being too hard on us Americans, think of it this way: her previous book The Last American Man was much, much better than Eat, Pray, Love but since it evinced none of the yoga-loving-upper-middle-class-woman-who-spouts-cheap-wisdom-like-Oprah-on-a-global-quest-for-self-actualization story elements, it barely sold 1% of what Eat, Pray, Love did. This is a sadly-revealing book about the state of our culture. And it's not just about Elizabeth Gilbert. It's all about us.

    And, of course, don't miss the upcoming film adaptation, starring-you guessed it- Julia Roberts. If I have one other person recommend this book to me I'm going to to kill them.

    1-0 out of 5 stars Eat Pray Shove (It), February 16, 2008
    Here is a book that either changed people's lives or irritated the bejesus out of them. Count me among the latter.

    Eat Pray Love - One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert was supposed to enlighten me. It didn't.

    OK -- First the positive: Overall, it is a well-written book. The author takes many complicated metaphysical concepts and makes them readable. The book is divided into sections: Eat, which is the author's journey to Italy; Pray, her pilgrimage to India and Love, where she takes a lover in Bali.

    This is about a thirty-something woman looking for spirituality and happiness. She is married, but desperately unhappy for no single reason that she cannot or will not divulge. So, she leaves her husband (and, by the way, gives him all marital property out of supposed "guilt" for leaving him, making me wonder what exactly she did to warrant this)and falls right into another relationship (a-ha! adultery, perhaps?). When the rebound relationship that broke up her marriage falls apart, she now wants to find God. Of course. She claims God spoke to her on the bathroom floor, thus beginning her journey.

    But not before she goes to her publisher and secures a $200,000 advance for this book. Makes you wonder, as one reviewer on Amazon pointed out, was the journey retrofitted to the book proposal?

    What better way to go find God than in Italy. For four months she eats gelato, practices her Italian with a young man named Luca Spaghetti (If you are going to make up names of allegedly real people, could you find a more sterotypical name? Why not Carmine OrganGrinder?) and gains 23 pounds -- quick to point out to the readers that she was way underweight to beign with.

    She learns to enjoy life and be selfish from the Italians - who by the way still find her immensely attractive, although they don't hoot and holler at her like they did 10 years previously. But she is still so damned cute. Just ask her.

    On to India. At the Ashram, she learns to meditate and still broods over her lost marriage and subsequent realtionship. Probably the most boring part of the book, except for her conversations with "Richard from Texas" -- a down home, larger than life character who speaks in folksy platitudes that would make Andy Griffith proud. He also bestows our author with her nickname "Groceries" because she was emaciated from grief from crying for the millionth time over her beloved David. As one reviewer from Amazon said, "What kind of nickname is Groceries?"

    I honestly believe she made these people up. Reminds me of "Go Ask Alice" -- supposedly the real story of the drug-addicted Anonymous -- until it was revealed that the protagonist was a fictitious composite of the author's psychiatric patients. Boo.

    Then Bali. She ends her self-imposed celibacy with an older Brazilian man. High on orgasmic ecstasy, out of the supposed goodness of her heart, she asks her friends to send $18K in donations to help a single mother, an alleged friend of Ms. Gilbert's, who is portrayed as a con artist because she didn't buy a house in the timeframe coinciding with the termination of Ms. Gilbert's visa. I always thought that a gift should be a gift without strings attached -- especially coming from someone who supposedly found God. I wanted to ask Ms. Gilbert "What Would Jesus Do?"

    My biggest problem with this tome is that this 30-something woman basically is looking for applause for running off for a year, obstensibly supported by a $200K book advance, to "find God." I'm sure millions of women would love to leave their everyday lives and travel the world to do nothing but self analyze. If she had done volunteer work, I may have felt differently. If she went through some real hardship, I could sympathize. But she was in an incompatible marriage, then dumped by the guy she left her husband for. She should perhaps speak to those battling life-threatening diseases, or raising children alone, or taking care of an elderly parent, or worried about where their next meal is coming from.

    And for all of her self-realization and navel-gazing to end her dependence on men, Ms Gilbert has, as pointed out by anotherAmazon reviewer, married her Brazilian and moved to new Jersey. She could have saved Penguin Books a whole lot of money by getting in her car and going through the Lincoln Tunnel. I wonder how long before she ends up back on the bathroom floor.

    1-0 out of 5 stars Blah, blah, blah, blah...., October 24, 2007
    I could not finish this book. When the author burst into sobs yet again in the middle of prayer, or a conversation, or walking down the street, or (more likely) on the floor of yet another bathroom, I gave up. This is the type of person you meet at a cocktail party and RUN in the other direction after a few minutes when she starts spewing out all her problems at you with no end in sight. Note to the author: I am your reader, not your psychotherapist. I really tried to enjoy the book and even like the author, but after slogging through a couple hundred pages of endlessly self-absorbed chatter, I was worn out and put the book in the Goodwill pile. When she writes, "I discovered my mind was not a very interesting place to be," I have to say, "Amen, sister!"

    1-0 out of 5 stars dishonest and poorly written, April 14, 2007
    I've read several of the reviews posted here and though I couldn't finish this book, it seems to me that what's wrong with it is not so much the author's hollow-souled narcissism but her lack of intellectual seriousness. Someone gave me this book as a birthday present. That it has received a lot of attention is no surprise. Look at the drivel America reads. Light, shallow laughs, sex, food, not much real thought. That's the sum of this book. Feel-good rubbish that inspires not one iota of serious thought. Gilbert's slapphappy universe is one in which everything can be solved with pizza and fresh mozarella. Every paragraph contains at least one stock one-liner. This isn't literature. It's stand-up comedy of the worst kind. We've read it all before. She claims she can make friends with anyone. It's precisely that lack of discernment and depth that makes this story forgettable. The prose is laced with one cliche, one trite and cutesy obvservation after another. Some reviewer here said this book is not a book but a magazine article. Exactly right. I finally closed the book when I read that while in India she wanted to "valet park" a destitue family into a new life. It isn't just that the phrase is a silly toss-off modernism but that there's no true emotion in it. You'll never know how this woman really feels. Don't waste your money on it.

    1-0 out of 5 stars Expected more. MUCH more., March 19, 2007
    This book reminded me of a quote that's served me well in life: "It's a sign of maturity when you begin to fall out of love with your own drama." The author clearly hasn't reached this stage on her path to "enlightenment"!

    1-0 out of 5 stars don't waste your time on this one, July 12, 2007
    Not one interesting character. Not even the author. A horrible divorce... big deal. A love of food ... not really worth 116 pages. I had to get to page 156 to finally understand. She is in an Ashram in India having trouble silencing her mind and meditating.

    "What I am alarmed to find in meditation is that my mind is actually not that interesting a place after all."

    That sentence sums up the book

    1-0 out of 5 stars Glib, narcissistic and lightweight, May 14, 2007
    I picked up this book on the strength of good reviews and found myself wanting to throw it at the wall. The author is a fine writer with a good sense of humor who seemed to want to write about her journey to self fullfilment, spiritual awakening and happiness. Instead she came off as a priviledged, slightly spoiled writer who needed an excuse for a writers advance so she could travel for free. She reveals herself to be a spiritual narcissist who obsessively navel gazes. While many passages are light hearted and funny and she is oh, so very clever and witty!! there was no real depth, no real meaningful questions asked or answered except for how she could get more breaks and be FULFILLED. It seemed like an extended article for SELF magazine. Instead order books by Kathleen Norris or even Anne LaMott for God's sake!

    1-0 out of 5 stars Symptomatic Of The Downfall Of Western Civilization..., October 28, 2009
    Elizabeth Gilbert was a self-absorbed, married, thirty-something living the privileged existence of an affluent writer in the most powerful nation on Earth, when, suddenly - shock-horror - she realized that she wasn't happy. As a consequence, she cast aside her husband, took up with another man - with whom she still wasn't happy - and, after this relationship fell into inevitable dissolution, decided to run off around the world in order to "find herself" (one must assume that she'd already looked down the back of the sofa) after receiving a handsome advance from a publishing company to chronicle her subsequent exploits.

    "Eat, Pray, Love" is pseudo-intellectual, altruistic, mother-my-dog pap of the worst kind masquerading as spiritual insight. Read between the lines and it expounds selfishness as a virtue and mindless hedonism as both philosophy and legitimate path to spiritual insight. Unsurprisingly, that great doyen of the gullible, Oprah Winfrey, loved it and made it one of her book club choices, thus unleashing it to a wider audience than Gilbert's talents as a writer would normally have ever allowed. Apparently, God help us, a big-screen version with Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts is currently in the offing.

    As a literary construct, Gilbert herself seems to be the contemporary living embodiment of Tom and Daisy Buchanan from "The Great Gatsby", of whom F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, "They were careless people...they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness...and let other people clean up the mess they had made."

    "Self-absorbed" does not begin to cover it; "self-centred" is not nearly an adequate description. One hopes that she can't really have been so completely inured to the poverty of India and Indonesia by her solipsism. If so, then she seems to be genuinely emblematic of a subset of the "sex and the city" generation of women who put their own self-gratification above all other things. Worryingly, this attitude seems to be becoming increasingly more prevalent in western society.

    I will be honest, I first happened upon this book after briefly seeing some of Winfrey's interview with Gilbert on television and consequently read three quarters of the book in my local library - and was so completely incensed that I felt it my civic duty to warn you off of this book.

    If you want a genuinely enjoyable book to provoke introspection, this isn't it, but may I politely suggest Tom Hodgkinson's How to Be Idle: A Loafer's Manifesto and The Freedom Manifesto: How to Free Yourself from Anxiety, Fear, Mortgages, Money, Guilt, Debt, Government, Boredom, Supermarkets, Bills, Melancholy, Pain, Depression, Work, and Waste or Lin Yutang's The Importance Of Living in it's stead; If you want a decent travelogue, may I politely suggest any Bruce Chatwin's books, and if you really want to read a writer with talent give the exponents of the Gilbertian philosophy of self-aggrandisement both barrels, then I strongly recommend Michael Bywater's Big Babies: or: Why Can't We Just Grow Up?

    1-0 out of 5 stars She teaches you how to discipline yourself not to judge someone, November 20, 2007
    I hated this book but I forced myself to finish it. Putting the authors irritating voice aside, it epitomizes everything wrong with American culture today: worship of the mediocre, travel without seeing anything, polarizing of the Other and fake spirituality. That said, I learned something important about spirituality as well but I'll get to that in a minute. It has to do with learning not to judge (see above, I've become quite judgmental).

    When I was dragging myself through this book, I experienced strong waves of hatred for this woman. She missed all of the poverty in those places and all complexities of the cultures she "learned about". She acted like hers was the only travel experience any of her readers have ever had with her "Let me explain what being Balinese means..." demeanor. She couldn't even accurately transcribe the Italian words in the passage of curses ("Molto migliore"???). She spoke about Italy like an annoying travel companion who has been there for five minutes, has read two things about the place and knows five words and acts like the expert and when you visit her there and after 2 days there yourself you can see that she still hasn't seen or learned a thing. She takes what she wants to see from the world and tells readers what she thinks they want to hear about it. She doesn't even give an original spin to these common travel destinations, or even any insight into the expats she does meet. Did she ever mention not liking someone? Did she ever mention any negative emotions about anyone other than "David" or her ex-husband? Did she ever mention any locals being any less than thrilled that she graced them with her presence? Did any other readers feel her jealousy seething when the sexy Brazilian Armenia walked in Wayan's shop? Of course we all did but the author, miss Spiritually Enlightened at Greeting Her Emotions must still not be able to face that one. Or maybe she can't dare mention it because that might make her readers not like her and this woman spends all her energy spinning a version of herself that everyone can like. I guess her spiritual enlightenment only works for exploring and sharing insights about her weight. Or making money off the bored, privileged American public.

    Now, how about how offensive she is? Besides her condescending assumption that we are all married 35 year olds stuck in our houses who have never traveled and are relying on her to tell us how it is, she made two references where she tried to make the suffering of her love life out to be comparable that of a refugee ("we had the eyes of refugees" and counseling with the boat people revealed that their suffering too "was all" love story sagas (personally offensive to anyone touched by the world's refugee story).

    Okay, I said that I learned something. Yes, I learned something. Important. I looked deeply into my hatred I felt towards this woman throughout the book. I learned that the reason I hated her so much was because I was expecting her to have something insightful to say and I was expecting to learn about the people from an anthropological, non-biased, realistic perspective. Each faux pas she made infuriated me. I wasn't seeing her for her. I was trying to project what I thought was her view of herself onto her. Basically, I was expecting her to live up to how great she tells us she is and when she didn't deliver, time after time, sentence after sentence, I felt some justified sense of triumph and anger at "catching" her, and then feeling immense frustration at not being able to expose her to the world so everyone else would see through her too. Instead, I should learn to accept the book for what it is (horrible) and accept the author as she is (whoever that is) and accept that to her it was suffering, to her it was enlightenment and it does no good to judge her for it (even though I am not spiritually enlightened enough to stop myself). Instead of hating her, I should have shut the book, written this review, and laughed about it. ... Read more

    20. Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time
    by Greg Mortenson, David Oliver Relin
    Paperback (2007-01-30)
    list price: $16.00 -- our price: $6.98
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Isbn: 0143038257
    Publisher: Penguin Books
    Sales Rank: 84
    Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars
    US | Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan

    Editorial Review

    The astonishing, uplifting story of a real-life Indiana Jones and his humanitarian campaign to use education to combat terrorism in the Taliban’s backyard

    Anyone who despairs of the individual’s power to change lives has to read the story ofGreg Mortenson, a homeless mountaineer who, following a 1993 climb of Pakistan’s treacherous K2, was inspired by a chance encounter with impoverished mountain villagers and promised to build them a school. Over the next decade he built fifty-five schools—especially for girls—that offer a balanced education in one of the most isolated and dangerous regions on earth. As it chronicles Mortenson’s quest, which has brought him into conflict with both enraged Islamists and uncomprehending Americans, Three Cups of Tea combines adventure with a celebration of the humanitarian spirit. ... Read more


    5-0 out of 5 stars A blueprint for making a difference
    After four trips over the past three years to Pakistan and Azad Kashmir, and after founding Kashmir Family Aid ( to aid victims of the Oct 8, 2005 earthquake, I whole-heartedly endorse Greg Mortenson and his work. This book adds new life to the over-wraught dictum that "one CAN make a difference." Beyond that, if one wants to truly get inside the rural Pakistani's heart and soul, this is mandatory reading.

    My personal experience has been that once I met these people (and yes, had tea with them in their tiny homes, or in the quake region, in their tents), it was difficult to want to leave to return to the West. It's a hard thing to explain but Mortenson's book will absolutely do the job. A powerful thread within his story: It would be impossible not to love these people after getting to know them one-on one.

    These remote village people are simple, strong and proud. Their lives are spent nurturing their families and working hard in a politically and environmentally tortured region. BUY THE BOOK, get inside the people of this place and then send Greg Mortenson your donation.

    5-0 out of 5 stars One man's remarkable vision
    "Three Cups of Tea" is a compelling account of the difference one fiercely determined person can make in the world. I won't use this space to repeat the descriptions already covered in the editorial reviews, but Greg Mortenson's passion for educating children, especially girls, in the rugged mountain regions of northern Pakistan is truly remarkable. The relationships he has patiently built with local people and moderate Muslim leaders in the area over many years are key to his success.

    In addition to education, Mortenson's Central Asia Institute funds projects that provide health care and clean water. He is also building schools in northern Afghanistan, again with the support of local people.

    One alarming chapter of the book includes a discussion of the spread of fundamentalist madrassas in the mountain regions of Pakistan, which should deeply concern Americans, including the government. It is essential for Americans to support Mortenson's Central Asia Institute initiatives to provide children with educational alternatives.

    "Three Cups of Tea" is very well written, with heartfelt portraits of courageous people. It is a superb and moving story of an exceptional man.

    5-0 out of 5 stars So Much More Than Just a Book
    It's a book but then so are the latest bestsellers yet they offer nothing beyond a mindless distraction. To say Three Cups of Tea is about peace is to say that Mortensen goes hiking in the mountains. To say it's about building schools in the most desolate, remote, obscure part of the planet is to say an idealistic young man had a wild idea.

    Mortenson and co-author David Oliver Relin bring the reader to the foot of K2, into a village so isolated from everything that there doesn't even exist a bridge to connect them to the world beyond the raging river that flows from the glacier fields. There Mortenson introduces us to children so eager to learn they work multiplication tables in the dirt without benefit of a teacher or books.

    How does this man, so grateful to the people who saved his life, repay them? One school at a time. It's a truely inspirational story of what any of us, including a kid born in Minnesota, can do to change the world. The fact that the book is also a true page-turner and is so "can't put it down, don't interrupt me, I gotta know what happens next" good makes this must reading for every high school senior, every empty-nester, every one of us wondering what to do with the rest of our lives. Although I likely won't venture to the high mountains of Pakistan or Tibet, Mortenson has inspired me to find a way to make a difference. Go read it and find your inspiration!!!

    5-0 out of 5 stars STOP what you are doing...
    you.. yes YOU behind the terminal, surfing the web, maybe finding that cheap chotcky to buy or something. Stop what you are doing if you have come across this book and this review. You need to read this more than you think!

    Within the confines of 350 pages you can be transported to a world that for most Westerner's and specifically Americans, is probably very unknown, and more than likely, highly misunderstood. In this world you will be introduced to a man named Greg Mortenson, or as you soon to know him, as Greg Sahib..

    The story that is told by David Oliver Revin, will not just be inspiring, will not be just teeth clenching, it will make you re-evaluate what you do in your life. While most of us may talk about the incapacity of the administration, or some (unfortunatly) the hatred of the middle East, or maybe some of you are even lying down in the streets, but there is ONE person who is TRULY doing something about the problems of foreign policy by litteraly getting his hands dirty touching the earth to build a school foundation, and risking his life ten times over.

    When you have read this journey, you will be saying to yourself, did he really do that? That guy is CRAZY! Did that really happen?, the Taliban? , How is that possible? In the journey that is fortold of a change of fate through a failed mountain expedition, you can see what the spirit of the individual can do and how it can be transformed. As the events of 9/11 soon come to fruition, Greg couldn't be in a better place at the right time, and with David's narration, you are litteraly put in the drivers seat.

    After reading Mortensen's journey, you will want to litteraly book a plane ticket to somewhere you have never been before. In reading the accomplishments of a somewhat flawed (hey what person is perfect) individual, you will feel small and insignifigant. David Relin will not just explain what Greg did, he will make you live it, with some enjoyable side narrations that will make you grin.

    In Three Cups of Tea, David has managed more than anything to explain the heart of a problem (Islamic hatred of the West) of a very complicated nature (through numerous foreign policy debacles and politics spanning decades), and how one man knows of an easy solution (Go to poor regions of the Middle East and give education and extend the olive branch. Build schools for the poorest of the poor, ecspecially for girls. And more importantly, let them know that it was done.. by an American).

    As if it was so difficult to understand.

    I encourage you to take this journey and figure out that sometimes the biggest problems in life require some of the most common sense solutions. I also echo the other comments on here that you should buy this book from the actually CAI institute and consider a donation as well.

    Greg Mortensen is doing what he is doing best, and his passion comes through the pages. For myself my passion is to write. Like Gregg I feel it is what I can do best (when I put my effort my passion, and my soul into it).

    now if you'll excuse me...

    I have to go write a check.

    5-0 out of 5 stars What an incredible story...
    My goodness. I just finished the book, and I am in tears. I am a world traveller (32 countries in just about every region on the globe), and consider myself compassionate to a fault; but even I, after September 11th, possessed a fair degree of anger at Muslims. I had spent some time in the Middle East and North Africa, and although I tried to respect the traditions as much as possible (covering my arms, wore long skirts, not looking at men in the eye), I was still assaulted in broad daylight in a street bazaar in Cairo, Egypt, surrounded by at least a dozen of my classmates (an old man came up and grabbed my [...]). The anger that started then had totally blown up after September 11th and consumed me, the point where I had actually said that I will never believe Islam is a religion of peace, especially after the reaction to the Mohammed cartoons.


    I was wrong.

    This book has reminded me why I loved the regions in the Himalayas and beyond; the simplicity of life, the fierceness and protectiveness towards family and friends; and their incredible desire to do the best for themselves with whatever they have on hand, even if it means going to school on a bare field covered with morning frost. Greg and David describe these people in Baltistan and beyond so well that you cannot help admiring or even falling in love with these proud, strong people.

    I've always told people if you encourage positive change for just one person, you'll change the whole world for them. Greg and his CAI cohorts have done that for literally hundreds of thousands of children. It was so gratifying for me to read, despite the selfishness of our people today, that there are still some who passionately believe in changing the world for others.

    For me, it was the speech by Syed Abbas (on page 257, hardcover) that broke the last of my hard-core attitude towards Muslims and Islam.

    I am off to make my contribution - meager but still a contribution - to CAI so they can continue their incredible work.

    5-0 out of 5 stars A MUST read
    Greg Mortenson's three cups of tea is an account of his unsuccessful attempt on mighty K2, world's second highest peak in Himalayas. Though unsuccessful, his failure embarked him on a mission to educate people of an area inhabitants of breath taking hills and valleys and virgin plains. Whats mind boggling about his adventure is his spirit of self sacrifice for a people of a land much misunderstood by the west. His story proves that with love, compassion and sincerity, you can melt the hearts, even those of mountains. Rightly regarded a hero in Northern Pakistan, his book would go a long way in bridging the divide between the inhabitants of East and West. If you haven't read the book, you are Missing on something. Highly recommended.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Promote peace on Earth. Read this book.
    This is the most amazing and inspiring book I have read in a very long time. I am a high school teacher and the mother of a U.S. Army Seargent who has completed a tour in Afghanistan and is currently serving in Iraq. I bought the book to send to him, but thought I would read it first. I'm very glad I did. The book is as exciting as an adventure novel, but it's true. Anyone who cares about the education and welfare of children and who desires to understand the problems faced in fighting terrorism should read this book. There is hope for peace in this world and Greg Mortenson is doing wonderful things to make it happen. He is a true American hero. Everyone needs to read this book and everyone who does will want to share it with others.

    5-0 out of 5 stars A lesson in altruism
    This book is absolutely wonderful. Mortenson shows us how one dedicated person can make a difference. He also poignantly shows the world that education and non-violent assistance does a profoundly better job of winning support and "attacking" terrorism than warfare! (Duh!) I think there are very few Americans who would be willing to make the kind of sacrifice Greg Mortenson has but he has certainly inspired me to support his and similar efforts in the best way I can. In my opinion, he deserves a Nobel Peace prize. I would like to see this book in every high school library in America. ... Read more

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