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    1. Decision Points
    2. Unbroken: A World War II Story
    3. Cleopatra: A Life
    4. Stupid American History: Tales
    5. Broke: The Plan to Restore Our
    6. The Immortal Life of Henrietta
    7. Aesop's Fables; a new translation
    8. The Prince
    9. The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday
    10. The Emperor of All Maladies: A
    11. Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet,
    12. Stupid History: Tales of Stupidity,
    13. The Warmth of Other Suns: The
    14. Understanding the Americans: A
    15. As Always, Julia: The Letters
    16. Washington: A Life
    17. Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission
    18. Life on the Mississippi
    19. India: An Illustrated History
    20. The Christmas Angel

    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. 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
    US | Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan

    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

    4. Stupid American History: Tales of Stupidity, Strangeness, and Mythconceptions
    by Leland Gregory
    Kindle Edition
    list price: $9.99
    Asin: B002HWSXI0
    Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
    Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
    US | Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan

    Editorial Review

    America is the home of the brave and, apparently, the stupid and gullible. Satirist Leland Gregory teaches us a lesson in historical hilarity with Stupid American History.

    From Columbus to George W. Bush (that's a lot of material, people), Leland leads us through American history's mythconceptions, exposing idiocy and inanity along the time line. He reeducates by informing us about myths. For example, Samuel Prescott actually was the guy to alert us that the British were coming and not that Paul Revere dude.

    Move over Colbert and Stewart; satire has finally found its rightful place in American history.

    Excerpt from the book:

    "John Tyler was on his knees playing marbles when he was informed that Benjamin Harrison had died and he was now president of the United States. At that time marbles was a very popular game for both children and grown-ups."

    For reasons still unknown, Texas congressman Thomas Lindsay Blanton, a Presbyterian Sunday school teacher and prohibitionist, inserted dirty words into the Congressional Record in 1921. His colleagues overwhelmingly censured him on October 24, 1921, by a vote of 293-0." ... Read more


    5-0 out of 5 stars Stupid American History
    As a history major, the main reason I requested this book during the ER month was to see what dumb little incidents in history the author could highlight, starting in a chronological order from the very beginning of our history.

    What I got was a mish-mash of historical anecdotes that are in no perceivable order, nor are there any citations given, which any person who has even been to a high school history course knows are a necessity to prove the veracity of what you are claiming. With no discernable way to find out the truth behind all these little vignettes, one must doubt the truth in them.

    Stupid American History? No, I say Irresponsible American Author.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Smartly funny
    Leland Gregory has done it again. Gregory, the author of such hilarious bestsellers as "America's Dumbest Criminals," "What's the Number for 911?" and "Great Government Goofs," follows up 2007's "Stupid History" with this ode to homegrown idiocy.

    Did you know, for example, that the brilliant Thomas Jefferson had a dimwitted brother named Randolph? Or that the first motto that appeared on U.S. coins was not "In God We Trust," but "Mind Your Business"? Or that Confederate General Stonewall Jackson, who gave his troops strict orders to shoot any unknown or unidentified soldier who approached their lines and ask questions later, was -- you guessed it -- shot and killed by his own troops?

    Only in America. But the really funny thing about "Stupid American History" is that it's also a great educational tool. Seriously. The book debunks many myths (or, as they are called in the subtitle, "mythconceptions") that for decades have been embedded in the national consciousness. Read the true stories of Paul Revere, Abner Doubleday, Henry Ford and the Liberty Bell and you'll both laugh and learn.

    "Stupid" is as smart does. The rest, as they say, is history.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Stupidity
    I've been a fan of Leland Gregory's for years, since his "Dumbest Criminals" books and general chronicling of idiots in all walks of American Life. This latest version of Stupid History doesn't disappoint. I love reading one surprising tidbit after another- it's like historical popcorn. Looking forward to his next--

    5-0 out of 5 stars I Loved it and I'm not stupid!
    I really liked this book. I bought a few extra to give as gifts. Cool. It's like a book version of something you would see on cable. ... Read more

    5. Broke: The Plan to Restore Our Trust, Truth and Treasure
    by Glenn Beck, Kevin Balfe
    list price: $29.99 -- our price: $14.98
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Isbn: 1439187193
    Publisher: Threshold Editions
    Sales Rank: 16
    Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars
    US | Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan

    Editorial Review





    In the words of Harvard historian Niall Ferguson, the United States is “an empire on the edge of chaos.” Why? Glenn Beck thinks the answer is pretty simple: Because we’ve turned our backs on the Constitution.

    Yes, our country is financially broke, but that’s just a side effect of our broken spirit, our broken faith in government, the broken promises by our leaders, and a broken political system that has centralized power at the expense of individual rights.

    There is a lot of work ahead, but we can’t move forward until we first understand how we got here. Starting with the American Revolution, Glenn takes readers on an express train through 234 years of history, culminating with the Great Recession and the bipartisan recklessness of Presidents Bush and Obama. It’s the history lesson we all wished we’d had in school. (Did you know, for example, that FDR once made a key New Deal policy decision based on his lucky number?)

    Along the way, you’ll see how everything you thought you knew about the political parties is a lie, how Democrats and Republicans alike used to fight for minimum government and maximum freedom, and how both parties have been taken over by a cancer called “progressivism.” By the end, you’ll understand why no president, no congress and no court can fix this problem alone. Looking toward them for answers is like looking toward the ocean for drinking water— it looks promising, but the end result is catastrophic.

    After revealing the trail of lies that brought us here, Broke exposes the truth about what we’re really facing. Most people have seen pieces of the puzzle, but very few have ever seen the whole picture—and for very good reason: Our leaders have done everything in their power to hide it. If Americans understood how dire things really are, they would be demanding radical reform right now. Despite the rhetoric, that’s not the kind of change our politicians really believe in.

    Finally, Broke provides the hope that comes with knowing the truth. Once you see what we’re really up against, it’s much easier to develop a realistic plan. To fix ourselves financially, Glenn argues, we have to fix ourselves first. That means some serious introspection and, ultimately, a series of actions that will unite all Americans around the concept of shared sacrifice. After all, this generation may not be asked to storm beaches, but we are being asked to do something just as critical to preserving freedom.

    Packed with great stories from history, chalkboard-style teachable moments, custom illustrations, and Glenn Beck’s trademark combination of entertainment and enlightenment, Broke makes the case that when you’re traveling in the wrong direction, slight course corrections won’t cut it—you need to take drastic action. Through a return to individual rights, an uncompromising adherence to the Constitution, and a complete rethinking about the role of government in a free society, Glenn exposes the idea of “transformation” for the progressive smokescreen that it is, and instead builds a compelling case that restoration is the only way forward. ... Read more


    5-0 out of 5 stars A Review of the Book - Not My Position Statement
    Broke, the latest release by Beck, is a surprisingly entertaining text to
    be sure. It's engaging, easy to read and designed as an unapologetic
    agenda...Beck style. It's also packed full of information that is sure to
    create a "teachable moment" among even the most vocal opponent. As a college instructor and business writer, Beck is one of the personalities that tends to draw a lot of attention and followers/critics; for that reason I attempt to stay somewhat up to date with what he/others are doing however, I'm not a "fan" of Beck per se. Although I consider him in the realm of "entertainer" rather than serious economic or political leadership, Beck has done a very real service with the publication of this book if for no other reason than the historical and educational value of the first 2/3 of the book. Also, despite the fact that this is an early review of the book (versus my own personal opinion and/or agenda), please note that this is a verified purchase unlike others. If you want to debate the pro's and con's of the "agenda", the tea party, republicans vs democrats, liberals versus conservatives etc...this is NOT that review.

    Basics About the Book

    First of all, this is a 400 pages of facts, figures, charts, explanations,
    history, examples and action-steps. It contains plenty of resources, ample
    visual impact and a clear concise style that encourages the reader to
    continue reading. This is the hardcover version with dust-jacket and I'm
    happy to say that it was well designed for maximum readability and
    audience appeal. Whether you are the type that sits down and reads 400
    pages at once or just likes to browse a bit here and there, this book will
    work equally well. Plenty of conversation with oodles of tidbits and

    Who Should Read

    Beck Critics - Those that dislike Glenn Beck will not be disappointed - he
    provides plenty of fuel to fire-up even the most reserved of his critics.
    In fact, even hard core Beck advocates are likely to take issue with a few
    items here and there due to "spin" so commonly used by Beck when
    interpreting information and data. Like the old adage, there are lies,
    d-mnded lies and statistics...the cited data is often used for/against
    both sides of a debate, definitions are distorted to the benefit of both
    sides and the usual chicanery is alive and well throughout the book. Yes,
    I cringed at times but let's face it, that is a daily event for most
    Americans that haven't already tuned out entirely. Critics of Beck will
    find ample opportunity to criticize the details, the proposed plan of
    action and even the man himself. However, there is a good chance that even
    the most critical opponent of Beck will actually learn something from this
    book! It is interesting and packed full of relevant historical detail as
    well as food for thought.

    Beck Fans - If you enjoy Beck, this may be his best book to date. It's
    packed with information and is unapologetic in the proposed agenda set
    forth. It's funny. It's informative. It's entertaining. It's educational.
    Without a doubt you will want to buy a copy for yourself, a couple to loan
    out to friends and at least one to keep on hand for naysayers and critics.
    Unless they are so closed to anything other than their very own agenda,
    every thinking person is likely to find something of interest in this
    book. Yes, there is slant or angle but that is true of every "side". What
    does come through (quite clearly) is the position taken by Beck and his
    supporters as well as the reasons and rationale. Agree or disagree, it's
    worth reading.

    Teens & Those New to Politics, Economics, Tax Issues etc. - Anyone with an
    open mind is likely to enjoy this book even if you don't agree...or
    actually disagree...with Beck and his conclusions. This would be a great
    tool for teens, home schooler and others that would like to initiate an
    open conversation about what it taking place (or not) in this nation. The
    historical perspective alone is well written, filled with facts and open
    enough to spur endless debate.

    What is Covered

    With over 400 pages packed to the brim, this book provides a big bang for
    the buck! It's roughly divided into three parts:

    Part I - Part I begins with ancient history, the foundation of this
    nation, monetary policy of Hoover, FDR, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush II and
    now Obama.

    Part II - Covers the crime of the century, the cover up and "the murder

    Part III - The Plan. This is Becks' call for action, response to critics
    and his understanding of the role religion, government, family etc plays
    in shaping our nation.

    Citations, Resources etc...

    5-0 out of 5 stars The Great National Turning Point
    As a financial planner, I am always advising my clients on sound financial investments and it kills me to see our government (suposedly for the people, of the people, and by the people) got absolutely berserk with spending. Most of the facts and figures in this hefty but easy to comprehend book follow common sense and the news that you've heard recently about our country's debt problems (the $202T is new--I've always heard our unfunded obligations at $50T). It is a great resource though.

    What this non-fiction wake-up call means is that what you've read in the great political fiction (Gods of Ruin is right: we have a government full of power-hugry elites that could give a hoot about "the people".

    The timing of this book is impeccable- out just before midterm elections. It provides a clarion call to readers to put restraints on our government or risk some horrendous fiscal consequences (this section in Broke is excellent). Kudos to Beck for doing this at a major turning point for our nation!

    5-0 out of 5 stars Sounds Like A Good Plan
    After reading the free book sample on Kindle, I decided to move on and get the audio book download on Audible. Why? Because, just by reading the sample, I realized that "Broke" reasoning and arguments are not directed to blame anybody or anything in particular. It blames us: the people. The approach of explaining today's struggles from a historical perspective on political systems that once thrived and then failed when people, by some reason and sometimes not willingly, renounced their own freedom is absolutely convincing and agreeable.

    The tale of the working ant and the lazy grasshopper presented in the beginning - and that is of knowledge to the most of us - is a very comprehensible example on how to turn a stimulating and constantly growing environment into something abysmal, allowing government to take part on things that we could manage ourselves. When there's no personal savings, there's no liberty. The whole book develops around this concept which is so simple in theory, yet so difficult to put in practice. We need somebody to remind us about it from time to time.

    To make a case, the book contains in several passages an "interruption" with quick facts comparing past to present data on social and economic indicators which is very hard to disagree if we look around. I believe these fast, non intrusive breaks are quite welcomed and provides to all readers/listeners not only with reasons to keep moving on until the end of the book and let everyone draw their own conclusions, but also the very reason to why this book was written.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Another Eye Opener
    Glenn Beck's newest book is another eye-opener and perhaps his best. Beck continues to educate America, even though it seems to be politically incorrect with some. This book is easy to read and provides clear facts and figures to prove his point that the USA is financially broke. Not only is our economy broke; we are spiritually broke; our faith in our government is at an all-time low...we are a train wreck! The author doesn't leave us without hope, but provides the facts, so that Americans can start to heal their country and themselves. This is a must read for all voters and those who really care about turning our country around before it is too late.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Glenn's best so far!
    Broke is Glenn Beck's third "text book" styled book. The same high gloss, colored pages are back with all your favorite wit and humor used to tackle serious issues. This book, unlike Beck's others, is much more focused in it's scope. It deals with the past, present, and possible future of the financial state of the Nation.

    A great feature in this book are citations that take up over 50 pages! You may not agree with his conclusions, you may say they are reaching a bit, or paranoid, but you definitely can't say that he is simply pulling all this stuff out of thin air!

    I'd recommend this book to any Glenn Beck fan, and to anyone who has never actually watched his show. If your entire view point on Beck's character is made up entirely by Stewart and Colbert, you owe it to yourself to find out exactly what it is this guy is saying.

    5-0 out of 5 stars How we got here, our current status, and how we can fix it.
    One of the things that I think speaks well of Glenn Beck is the kind of crazed hatred he inspires in the Progressive / Collectivist / Socialist class. I am sure this book will be wildly criticized, with few to zero citations, and the non-arguments against it will be personal attacks against Beck.

    But I have read this book and while no one will mistake it for Milton Friedman, David Ricardo, and Adam Smith, it's head and shoulders better than most anything we are being told by Beck's peers on radio and TV. And given the importance and timeliness of what Beck is saying, I recommend that everyone read and think about what Beck is saying. We need to wake up, people. We are broke. While we might have some cash in our wallets, our long term obligations are frightening. Changes are coming. The only choice we have is to plan and manage them on our own or wait until the train leaves the tracks and disaster forces us to change.

    Part I takes us through the history and how thrift, savings, and productivity were transformed by the Progressives into bad things and what the revaluation of those values has been a big contributor to our current crisis. My only question of the material is whether or not Andrew Carnegie really did make a major contribution to the University of Chicago since it is so closely associated with John D. Rockefeller. Maybe he did. But either way, it is no big deal. Chances are, you will learn a lot by reading this section.

    Part II discusses how honest government accounting went out the window during the Reagan administration and has gotten steadily worse. Beck demonstrates why we have to look at the off book spending to realize that there really was no surplus under Clinton and the deficits were always works than the Feds ever admitted. He also shows how the huge Federal Government spontaneously calls into being lobbyists to work on funneling Federal Spending to their clients in return for helping those in power stay in power. Frankly folks, the number one way to get the Feds out of our lives is to quit asking them to give you stuff. Shrink the demand, shrink the spending, and most of their power goes away.

    Part III is the most controversial because you may or may not share Beck's values and his 8 step plan for restoring the values, as he sees them, that made this country wealthy, powerful, and great. What are they? 1) Realize that we have individual rights and that collective rights are an excuse to grab power and chain people to the government. 2) Realize that we have equality of opportunity and that trying to make equal outcomes is just a government way of grabbing more power to try and do something that cannot be done. 3) Believe in America and her greatness. 4) Refashion government to be closer to the people. Decentralization takes away power from the elitists who want government as free of actual control by the people as they can get it. 5) Give the Progressives a taste of the activism they have been giving us for more than a century. 6) Cut spending everywhere. A little, some more, and a lot. 7) Stop printing money. Create policies that support a sound currency with real value. 8) Live your own life so you are "out of the system". Don't allow yourself to become dependent on the government and vote for those that support liberty and responsibility rather than dependence

    Can we do it? Yes! Will we do it? That remains to be seen. I hope we do.

    Reviewed by Craig Matteson, Saline, MI

    5-0 out of 5 stars The book is better than 2010 midterm election results
    This book is incredibly informative and I'm recommending anyone interested in the state of the country whether conservative or progressive to read it. There's alot in here that's good for discussion. It's the smash mouth call outs in the margins of the text that make this book punchy and lively. They back up alot of what he says.

    Of course opinion will vary depending on your interpretation so it's up to the reader to decide. But when you have the likes of Thomas Jefferson calling out from the grave in the pages of this's hard for people who disagree with Glenn Beck to counter his proposals and historical accounts of what's happened. Bottom line is I believe progressive thinking is in serious trouble if Glenn Beck is right in his new book.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Very Educational!
    I found that this book taught me a lot of things that I felt I should have already known and didn't. It is written in three sections: the first is our past, and how our Presidents and congresses have brought us to our current financial situation. The second section is all about our current situation, and the many "slight of hand" tricks that are used to make finances look better than they really are, and where that is going to lead us. The third section is how the author feels we need to change things to turn our country around financially.

    First, let me say that I am ashamed that I knew so little about our former Presidents and our own history. Second, I am a bookkeeper, and when I discovered how the accounting in Washington is done I was appalled! Any individual or business who kept books and budgets the way that the government does would be in prison right now. And I never knew! While it is chocked-full of facts and information, I also found the book very entertaining. I had thought it might be dry, but I didn't find that to be the case at all. In honesty, I couldn't put it down.

    Even if you disagree with Beck's positions, suppositions, or suggested actions; the book is a good read if you would like to understand better how the country's finances are figured, and how the figures for their reporting are kept. It certainly makes for a much more educated American voter, when we understand what a politician is saying (or not saying) about our financial futures, and those of our children. When we understand the rules of the game, we know the questions to ask. I HIGHLY recommend this book. ... Read more

    6. 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
    US | Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan

    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

    7. Aesop's Fables; a new translation
    by Aesop
    Kindle Edition
    list price: $0.00
    Asin: B000JML3K0
    Publisher: Public Domain Books
    Average Customer Review: 4.4 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. ... Read more


    5-0 out of 5 stars Outstanding!
    I've always loved Aesop's Fables and to have them all in one neat collection here on my Kindle for my PC is just great! There ARE capital letters where appropriate, so I'm not sure what the other reviewer here had going on with their version. Rest assured that the problem has now been fixed and it's easy reading. My only complaint is that the individual stories listed in the contents are not click-able and you do have to navigate page by page to get where you need to go. I still believe that this deserves a five star rating though in spite of that just because it is so nice to have all the fables in one place like this for free. You can't beat it!

    5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent collection of Aesop's fables
    This collection of Aesop's Fables is great because it is a Kindle freebie and allows me to store the fables in a convenient format (though I have several print versions of the Fables in my home library). There is a lengthy introduction by G.K. Chesterton which is insightful and informative, followed by the fables which appear to be a complete collection of Aesop's Fables. The only complaint I have is that the Table of Contents does not allow for the reader to click on a particular title to gain access to it. Instead, the reader has to manually scroll through all the titles in the order listed to get from one story to the next. Fortunately, the fables are relatively short and easy to get through. This is an excellent collection and being a freebie is definitely an added bonus!

    5-0 out of 5 stars spectacular
    i just love aesop's fables there fantastic. the first time i read the book i was so happy that i read it. it helps me a lot in school. it's a beautiful book. i deffently reccommend it to perants with young children. just to tell you i'm only in fifth class i'm 11 years old.bye.

    5-0 out of 5 stars "AESOP'S FABLES: A NEW TRANSLATION"


    5-0 out of 5 stars Very concise tales that illustrate moral values
    This is the 1912 translation made by Vernon Jones. It is still very understandable and there were only a few words that I needed to look up. Thanks to the Kindle's dictionary it is very simple.

    I'd forgotten how short each fable was. They average only 1 - 2 paragraphs. I can see the value of fables for teaching our children principles in a very succinct manner. There are roughly 284 fables in this translation.

    I once again appreciate the Kindle Freebies. The only drawback with this version is that its table of contents is not hyperlinked, which is not unusual for a freebie. I highly recommend this book to any interested in fables. I plan on reading them to my grandkids when the time comes. Though some of the fables are related to mythology, I think many of the lessons are still applicable.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Old Aesop looks new again

    This translation contains many fables that I have never seen in any other edition, and I have been reading for 62 years. I'm very pleased with it, and highly recommend it to anybody who enjoys folklore and fables. Children can enjoy it, but so can adults. ... Read more

    8. The Prince
    by Niccolo Machiavelli
    Kindle Edition (2006-02-11)
    list price: $0.00
    Asin: B000JML9AY
    Publisher: Public Domain Books
    Average Customer Review: 4.2 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. Also contains Valentino and Castracani ... Read more


    5-0 out of 5 stars One of the most influential books of all time
    The idea of "reviewing" this is more than a little silly -- it's arguably the most influential non-religious work of all time -- but I thought a few comments & historical notes might still be worthwhile.

    "The Prince" was essentially the first work of political realism in Western thought -- the first work of Western political philosophy that concerned itself not with the ideal government (as Plato had done in his _Republic_) but with the practical realities of getting and holding power. To describe the impact and influence of that willingness, that first notion that conventional morality might not be the best guide to success, would be as impossible a task as trying to summarize the influence of Galileo. Napoleon is rumored to have written extensive annotations to this book; Stalin allegedly kept a copy on his nightstand. Half of Shakespeare's villains (Iago, Richard III, etc.) derive their character in whole or part from this text.

    Most of this book is extraordinarily controversial, even today, yet still fundamentally difficult to argue against; there's a reason the Catholic Church kept it on the _Index Librorum Prohibitorum_ for centuries. If you're looking for food for thought, it's here.

    This particular kindle edition is fairly good; the text is cleanly presented with few typographical or scanning errors, and the translator has clearly made a significant effort to present the text as accurately as possible in a modern translation, with several footnotes detailing possible alternate translations of particular words, etc. In addition to the text of _The Prince_, this edition also includes two shorter historical works by Machiavelli, "Descriptions of the Methods Adopted by the Duke Valentino When Murdering Vitellozzo Vitelli, Oliverotto da Fermo, the Signor Pagolo, and the Duke di Gravina Orsini," and "The Life of Castruccio Castracani of Lucca." ("Duke Valentino" is an alternate name for Cesare Borgia). Both additional texts are, in essence, case studies of how contemporary historical figures achieved success by acting according to the precepts which Machiavelli outlines in the main body of the text, and as such are very useful and interesting companion reads.

    As a final note, if anyone has recommendations for histories of Italy in this time period, please link me to them in a comment -- after reading this, I want to read more about the era. Thanks!

    5-0 out of 5 stars prince + 9 formatting - 3
    most everyone is familiar with the prince and machiavelli. it is highly influential, although of arguable influence to catherine de medici. rather, it as snowballed in its importance. frankly, political leaders have always done the things that are being done today, only now they have machiavelli to point to. he makes brilliant, astute, cunning observations throughout. sometimes it is with greater discipline than 21st century americans are used to when we read translations of, say italian works from centuries ago. nevertheless, stick with it!!! you shall not be disappointed!!! this writing comes highly recommended and i give it a solid "A". enjoy this free kindle product!

    5-0 out of 5 stars A Must Read
    I think that everyone should read this book. Yes, the book is very dense in parts and yes, there are several long chunks of history that can seem boring and tedious at point, but there are several priceless nuggets of wisdom. I found the book motivating and it is amazing how the principles set forth in the book hold up almost 500 years later.
    ... Read more

    9. The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine
    by Michael Lewis
    Hardcover (2010-03-15)
    list price: $27.95 -- our price: $15.36
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Isbn: 0393072231
    Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
    Sales Rank: 30
    Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars
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    Editorial Review

    The #1 New York Times bestseller: a brilliant account—character-rich and darkly humorous—of how the U.S. economy was driven over the cliff.When the crash of the U. S. stock market became public knowledge in the fall of 2008, it was already old news. The real crash, the silent crash, had taken place over the previous year, in bizarre feeder markets where the sun doesn’t shine, and the SEC doesn’t dare, or bother, to tread: the bond and real estate derivative markets where geeks invent impenetrable securities to profit from the misery of lower- and middle-class Americans who can’t pay their debts. The smart people who understood what was or might be happening were paralyzed by hope and fear; in any case, they weren’t talking.

    The crucial question is this: Who understood the risk inherent in the assumption of ever-rising real estate prices, a risk compounded daily by the creation of those arcane, artificial securities loosely based on piles of doubtful mortgages?Michael Lewis turns the inquiry on its head to create a fresh, character-driven narrative brimming with indignation and dark humor, a fitting sequel to his #1 best-selling Liar’s Poker. Who got it right? he asks. Who saw the real estate market for the black hole it would become, and eventually made billions of dollars from that perception? And what qualities of character made those few persist when their peers and colleagues dismissed them as Chicken Littles? Out of this handful of unlikely—really unlikely—heroes, Lewis fashions a story as compelling and unusual as any of his earlier bestsellers, proving yet again that he is the finest and funniest chronicler of our times.
    ... Read more


    5-0 out of 5 stars Who knew?, March 15, 2010
    Based on reading Michael Lewis' Liar's Poker and Moneyball, I wondered whether The Big Short would prove to be entertaining and informative. If you've read some of Lewis' books, you might agree that the "entertaining" part would seem to be a reasonably safe bet. It turns out, it is. The Big Short is fast-paced, straightforward, conversational and salty--very much like his earlier works. Indeed, if you didn't know Michael Lewis had written this book, you could probably guess it. It is easy reading and very hard to put down. In short (no pun), The Big Short doesn't disappoint in being entertaining.

    In a sense, this book is similar to Moneyball in that Lewis tells his story by following a host of characters that most of us have never heard of--people like Steve Eisman (the closest thing to a main character in the book), Vincent Daniel, Michael Burry, Greg Lippmann, Gene Park, Howie Hubler and others.

    How informative is the book? Well, it may seem that Lewis has his work cut out for himself, since the events of the recent financial crisis are already well known. More than that, lots of people have their minds made up concerning who the perps of the last few years are--banks and their aggressive managers, "shadow banks" and their even more aggressive managers, hedge funds, credit default swaps, mortgage brokers, the ratings agencies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the Fed's monetary policy, various federal regulators, short sellers, politicians who over-pushed home ownership, a sensationalist media, the American public that overextending itself with excessive borrowing (or that lied in order to get home loans), housing speculators, etc. The list goes on--and on. Okay, so you already know this. The defining aspect of this book, however, is that it asks (and answers) "Who knew?" about the impending financial crisis beforehand. Who knew--before the financial crisis cracked open for everyone to see (and, perhaps, to panic) in the fall of 2008--that a silent crash in the bond market and real estate derivatives market was playing out? Indeed, the good majority of this book addresses events that occurred before Lehman's failure in September of 2008. In describing what led up to the darkest days of the crisis, Lewis does a good job helping the reader to see how the great financial storm developed. All in all, this is an informative book.

    Interestingly, in the book's prologue, Salomon Brothers alumnus Lewis explains how, after he wrote Liar's Poker over 20 years ago, he figured he had seen the height of financial folly. However, even he was surprised by the much larger losses suffered in the recent crisis compared to the 1980s, which seem almost like child's play now.

    For a taste of The Big Short, Steve Eisman was a blunt-spoken "specialty finance" research analyst at Oppenheimer and Co., originally in the 1990s, and he eventually helped train analyst Meredith Whitney, who most people associate with her string of negative reports on the banking industry, primarily from late 2007. Giving a flavor of his style, Eisman claims that one of the best lines he wrote back in the early 1990s was, "The [XYZ] Financial Corporation is a perfectly hedged financial institution--it loses money in every conceivable interest rate environment." His own wife described him as being "not tactically rude--he's sincerely rude." Vinny Daniel worked as a junior accountant in the 1990s (and eventually worked for Eisman), and he found out how complicated (and risky) Wall Street firms were when he tried to audit them. He was one of the early analysts to notice the high default rates on manufactured home loans, which led to Eisman writing a 1997 report critical of subprime originators. Michael Burry (later Dr. Michael Burry) was, among other things, a bond market researcher in 2004 who studied Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger, and who correctly assessed the impact of "teaser rates" and interest rate re-sets on subprime loans. In 2005, Burry wrote to his Scion Capital investors that, "Sometimes markets err big time." How right he would be.

    Greg Lippmann was a bond trader for Deutsche Bank, who discussed with Eisman ways to bet against the subprime mortgage market. Before home prices declined, he noted, for example, that people whose homes appreciated 1 - 5% in value were four times more likely to default than those whose homes appreciated over 10%. In other words, home prices didn't need to actually fall for problems to develop. (Of course, home prices fell a lot.) When Lippmann mentioned this to a Deutsche Bank colleague, he was called a Chicken Little. To which, Lippmann retorted, "I'm short your house!" He did this by buying credit default swaps on the BBB-rated tranches (slices) of subprime mortgage bonds. If that's not a mouthful, read further in the book for a description of Goldman Sachs and "synthetic subprime mortgage bond-backed CDOs." Then there's the AIG Financial Products story, told through the story of Gene Park, who worked at AIG, and his volatile boss, Joe Cassano.

    Did I say this book is informative? Here's a bit more: Did you know that a pool of mortgages, each with a 615 FICO score, performs very differently (and better) than a pool of mortgages with half of the loans with a 550 FICO score and half with a 680 FICO score (for a 615 average)? If you think about it, the 550/680 pool is apt to perform significantly worse, because more of the 550 FICO score loans develop problems. Think about how that got gamed.

    There's more, but hopefully you've gotten the point. This is a very interesting, entertaining and informative book that accomplishes what it sets out to do. Chances are you'll enjoy it.

    3-0 out of 5 stars The Big Short Falls a Bit Short, March 15, 2010
    Let me get the easy part of this out of the way first. Michael Lewis is a remarkably gifted writer, and I have often found his books impossible to put down. When I first read his debut at book authorship, Liar's Poker, I literally read it straight through. I was not alone in this, as Liar's Poker rightfully made Michael a very well-respected author and a very wealthy man. Moneyball, The Blind Side, and numerous other best-sellers built on that reputation. The long-awaited newest contribution from Michael Lewis, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, is 264 pages long, and I also read this in 24 hours. However, I doubt many others will feel the same. The book was compelling, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, and nothing in the book modified my view that Michael Lewis is one of the most interesting writers of this era. I simply doubt that this book evoke the same response from the masses of people who will buy it. Perhaps I am wrong. So before I begin to disect the important parts of the book (its underlying messages, etc.), I will say that it was another hard-to-put-down book from Michael Lewis. Thumbs up, and all that stuff.

    So what did I really think of the book? Well, Lewis should be commended for writing a book on the 2008 financial crisis from the most unique perspective thus far. Rather than focus on the major characters that a plethora of other books have focused on (Paulson, Bernanke, Geithner, etc.), Lewis tells his story using some extremely obscure characters as his lead actors: A handful of hedge fund managers who made massive bets against the subprime industry (and by hedge fund managers, I am not referring to high profile, well-known hedgies; I am talking about very, very minor players). Readers will feel connected to the characters when they are done with the book, and a less gifted writer could have never pulled this off. It was a difficult task for Lewis as well, but he skillfully made the points he wanted to make and simultaneously told a story, all through a narrative of four or five unconnected characters of whom the public has never heard.

    What are these points Lewis wanted to make? I suppose the major tension of the book is the teeter-tottering between the greed/evil genius of the major Wall Street firms (on one hand), and then the utter stupidity and incompetence of Wall Street (on the other). It is a difficult balance to strike, and one reason it is difficult is because, well, one can not have it both ways. Lewis can not claim, as he astonishingly and explicitly does, that Goldman Sachs made AIG write credit default swaps on the subprime mortgage industry, guaranteeing AIG's demise and Goldman Sachs flourishing, but then on the other hand claim that the firms had no idea what they were doing, and were completely shell-shocked by what happened to their CDO's (the collateralized debt obligation instruments which served as the toxic assets you hear so much about). This inconsistency permeates the book, and tonight on 60 Minutes I heard Lewis repeat what his major thesis is: Wall Street did not know what they were doing. This is the correct thesis. But it is wholly imcompatible with the obscene Goldman Sachs conspiracy movement that has taken over the Oliver Stone mainframe of our society. Even a Michael Lewis fan like myself was taken aback by the audacity of this oft-repeated contradiction.

    Perhaps the most disappointing message of the Lewis book is the conclusion he saved for the final chapter - the one I have heard him preaching for some time now on the media circuit. Lewis has been preaching since the days of Liar's Poker that the great sin of Wall Street was when all of the major firms went public (i.e. rather than function as closely-held partnerships, they sold shares to the public in the IPO market and now have no reason to ever check their evil inhibitions at the door). It is a rhetorically effective charge, but one that is not up for the most routine of examinations. The individuals most responsible for the massive money-losing operations of 2005-2007 were the largest shareholders in the firms. Jimmy Cayne of Bear Stearns saw his stock holdings decline from $1 billion of value to $50 million of value, directly under his watch. Richard Fuld was thrown to the lions as Lehman Brothers burned to the ground, but it burned up his $550 million of Lehman stock as well. The gentlemen running these firms were wealthy, and they were driven by a desire to get even wealthier, but it is absurd to postulate that the performance of these companies in the public stock markets were not important to them. It was all that was important to them. Are we really to believe that Wall Street would not have found more creative ways to raise capital in the capital markets if they were partnerships? Whether the firms were partnerships or public corporations, they lived off of balance sheet capital that they mostly raised in the debt markets. It was the bondholders who were on the verge of utter collapse in September of 2008. Why would that be different if they were partnerships? The most obvious refutation of Lewis's thesis is the question many are probably dying to point out to him after reading it: If being a public corporation corrupts the intentions of financial firms, why couldn't the same broad brush be used for all public corporations of all industries? If the removal of the partner capital from the company capital is a self-corrupting event, why should any corporation ever be allowed to go public? What exactly is the difference? Do not huge retail businesses, manufacturing firms, and technology outfits also use shareholder money to grow and operate? Does Lewis really want to advocate the abolition of public equity markets in America? It is absurd to even carry that argument through to its logical conclusion.

    I do not want readers to be confused. There are some stellar observations in Lewis's newest book. He gets inside some of the most confused and ridiculous financial transactions ever conducted in the history of civilization, and he does it with the precision of a surgeon. But Lewis does not use his 264-page book to even apply one word - not one single utterance - against the malignant government policies behind much of this malaise. He could easily counter that his book was not meant to be a comprehensive introspection of the financial crisis, and that would be a fair response. But readers hoping for a biog-picture analysis of this crisis will not get it here. They will see the worst of a very small number of Wall Street traders, and they will see a system that was clueless to keep this process from ballooning out of control (his section on the high seven-figure bond traders being regulated by the high five-figure ratings agency analysts is choice). The risk management processes of Wall Street broke down. The hubris of a select number of people grew to a point of perversity. Contrary to Lewis's assertion, the bulk of these CEO's and executives did lose their jobs (Citi, Merrill Lynch, UBS, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, etc.) all fired their Presidents and CEO's as their houses burned to the ground. But overall, the book has a ton of good to say about the crisis. Most notably, he demonstrates how "in an old-fashioned panic, perception creates its own reality" (a concept that I want to explore much further in the future). He summarizes in a single sentence the most important thing that can be said about Lehman Brothers ("the problem wasn't that Lehman had been allowed to fail; the problem was that Lehman had been allowed to succeed").

    I am truly glad that I read this book, and I do recommend it. However, as the pivotal work of evaluating the big picture of the crisis continues, the conclusion that Wall Street's transition to a shareholder-owned entity was at the heart of the matter is quite lacking. Unfortunately, both evil and incompetence exist in all kinds of business structures.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Liars Poker Squared, March 15, 2010
    Mike Lewis has the gift for watching America and picking stories that are interesting to the public: in the last ten years Moneyball (the effect of statistical analysis on baseball) and The Blind Side (Importance of Left Tackles in American Football and rescuing an impoverished athlete). But his undying fame was Liars Poker, the story of Solomon Brothers Investment firm where he worked when 24 and made bonuses of about $200,000 without really understanding what he was doing. Possibly the most interesting part of this book is the foreward where Lewis describes how he felt when writing Liars Poker Wall Street provided worthless value to the economy and it was just a matter of years before the market recognized this. Unfortunately he was about 24 years too late. Couple this with his closing lunch with John Gutfruend and you have a great bookend for closure.

    Now Lewis presents us with this bookend to Wall Street, how it universally missed the bad securities being issued backed by subprime securities destroying over $1 trillion in wealth. And his vehicle for this exploration is not a complete rehash but rather documenting the very few people (he estimates fewer than 20) that recognized that market crash coming and profiting immensely, people like Michael Burry, a Stanford Medical student who left to manage his own Hedge Fund. Actually there were many more than 20 people that knew this was coming. I began giving speeches in 2004 on "The Coming Crash in Home Prices". But these people he mentioned left conventional wisdom in believing that the subprime mortgages were worthless AND discovered the newly created tools to profit from them: credit default swaps and the ABX index. With the belief and knowledge these investors were rewarded handsomely whereas the rest of us suffered through a very downbeat market. But they deserved it and in Lewis' upbeat writing style he conveys eloquently but simply how the decisions were made and how they profited beyond belief.

    There is one problem with this book. The subject was just covered quite well in The Greatest Trade Ever by Gregory Zuckerman which was released in November 2009. I've now read both books and there is an overlap. Greatest Trade is a very fast read and tells the story well focusing on John Paulson. This book doesn't delve on Paulson but does cover Michael Burry who was featured in the other book also.

    Since so many reviews seem to be more interested in giving their political view of this tragic occurence, I'm compelled to weigh in on this issue even though I know this will upset some politcally closed minds. We must recognize if it was so easy to comprehend and solve we would have all profited in the manner these investors did rather than suffer through the last two years. We wouldn't have had the meltdown that we had. The smart people on Wall Street would not have overleveraged creating the steep downward ascent in destruction of wealth as we deleveraged. Specifically, I'm startled how many people want to blame politicians and FNMA/FHLMC. As a seller of $1 billion a year to these entities and some knowledge of their loss history as well as debating this issue with a former Vice Chairman of one of these entities who is a neighbor, it is shocking when you hear people talk of the subprime mortgages that FNMA/FHLMC owned. Did they do some such targeted loans? Yes. But half their losses came from their foray into Alt A loans. Coupled with the drop in property value and low equity position (they were leveraged at an unsafe 30 to 1 ratio) their insolvency was guaranteed if there was a downturn. Why were they not managing for this? It wasn't politically motivated. It was profit motivated. Quasi-guaranteed by the govt. they could issue callable agencies, their drug of choice, and arbitrage this money into a higher yielding security which they did. UNTIL the losses started. With 3% equity/custion, the 30 to 1 leverage immediately worked against them. Where were the regulators? Where was management managing risk? As the Vice Chairman said, the problem was property value drop. Well, with much advance notice and concern, WHY WEREN'T YOU MANAGING FOR THIS?????

    With that as a background, let's approach the question of should there be a FNMA/FHLMC? I believe there should be. Exactly what do they do? When they are not leveraging for earnings which BTW they started in the early 90s when loan volume dropped and they recognized they needed to do something else to "gin" earnings, they perform their intended function to make borrowing cheap for homeowners. If there were no FNMA/FHLMC for the past two years 30 year mortgage rates for the last two years would not have been 4.25% to 5.25% but rather approximately 5.75% to 7.50%. In addition there would have been a lot more balloon or adjustable rate loans. Now, does America want this higher rate when an effective "NON-Profit" or govt. entity could maintain this function? I think not and I think we need to recognize that the recovery would have been much slower if many people would not have had the availability of this lower cost money to buy homes and refinance to lower rates. Enough with policy and now back to a conclusion.

    But Lewis' writing style makes this book and his credibility from having written Liars Poker and the unique perspective of having worked in the industry and left it will make this a big hit. I strongly recommend this well written, important book.

    4-0 out of 5 stars "W/O Gov't Intervention Every Powerful Financier would Have Lost His Job, & Yet, The Financiers Used Gov't 2 Enrich Themselves", March 15, 2010
    Michael Lewis's "The Big Short" tells a rather disturbing tale of some of the biggest profiteers of one of America's worst financial crisis, which we are likely still in the midst of. The amazing thing cleverly illustrated by Lewis, is that while most of the brightest minds in America woke up to our shocking decline once it was too late, a small handful of speculators not only called it correctly, some became fantastically wealthy. The question that nagged me throughout the book was how should I feel about people who just made a killing while most of us watched our retirements suffer alarming declines, and witnessed friends & family lose their jobs and houses?

    Greg Lippmann is credited with being the first to expose the weakness in the market around 2006. He pitched the idea to hundreds of financial groups, but most seemed to invest in insurance policies to protect their exposure.


    "A smaller number of people -more than 10, fewer than 20- made a straightforward bet against the entire multi-trillion dollar subprime mortgage market and, by extension, the global financial system. The catastrophe was foreseeable, yet only a handful noticed. Among them: Whitebox hedge fund, The Baupost Group hedge fund, Passport Capital hedge fund, Elm Ridge hedge fund, a gaggle of NY hedge funds, Elliott Associates, Cedar Hill Capital Partners, QVT Financial, and Philip Falcone's Harbinger Capital Partners. What most of these investors had in common was that they had heard, directly or indirectly, Greg Lippmann's argument."

    Mr. Lewis is a fun and witty writer and his energy in The Big Short is very reminiscent of Liar's Poker, but I really found something morbid and unappealing about this subject. Reading about Paulson's $15 billion killing in 2007 had a different feel than say Soros in the `80's & `90's, but maybe now I know how the English & Indonesians felt? Our society is bred to believe that hard work and ingenuity are rewarded, but in this case there is a tangible human tragedy as a consequence of speculators earning a massive imbalance of wealth in relation to the rest of the population.

    All of the speculators Mr. Lewis uses as examples technically did the right thing and chose wisely. Some were more sophisticated than others, but they all have one thing in common: they all made an obscene amount of money betting America would be brought down to its knees. I am also even more disgusted now with the rating agencies that were super-slick in stamping AAA ratings on what was absolute garbage in hindsight.

    I found the book both fascinating and disturbing. I think it is now clear to me that financial speculation that doesn't promote sustainable growth needs to be addressed and properly dealt with, and that adequate steps have not been taken. Lewis definitely added a new layer to my awareness of the credit crisis, and covered some fresh ground beyond typical news. I recommend the book if you want to gain a deeper understanding of the sucker punch that just hit most of us.

    5-0 out of 5 stars BookForum review, March 23, 2010
    In the run-up to the housing collapse of 2007-2008, houses weren't merely expensive, they were insanely expensive. Yet just when it seemed that prices couldn't go higher, some fool would come along and pay an enormous sum for a glorified hovel. You didn't have to be a genius to realize that American real estate was overvalued. It did, however, take something special to figure out how to make money off the madness. A group of between ten and twenty people did just that, making the bet of a lifetime that author Michael Lewis calls "The Big Short"

    The cast of characters in Lewis's highly readable chronicle of the collapse (and what led to it) includes a misanthropic former medical resident, a money manager who saw himself as Spider-Man, and a pair of men in their thirties who started with $110,00 in a Schwab account they managed from a backyard shed in Berkeley, California. "Each filled a hole," Lewis writes. "Each supplied a missing insight, an attitude to risk which, if more prevalent, might have prevented the catastrophe."

    Ever since he left Salomon Brothers to write Liar's Poker, the classic 1989 account of his years as a bond salesman, Lewis has been waiting for a day of reckoning. Little did he realize that the Wall Street he once knew now seems quaint. By 2007, it had morphed into a financial Frankenstein, a "black box" filled with hidden risks on complicated bets that could destroy its creators, but only if the government allowed it to do so.

    The first to figure out how to use the system against itself was a man named Michael Burry, who once described himself in an online personal ad as "a medical student with only one eye, an awkward social manner, and $145,000 in student loans." Burry possesses an intellect so unusual that Lewis turns his journey of self-discovery into a fascinating subplot. While working the grueling schedule of a medical resident, Burry started writing about stocks in an online forum. (He also took apart his personal computer and put it back together between 16-hour shifts at Stanford Hospital, prompting his superiors to send him to see a shrink.) When he quit medicine to start the hedge fund Scion Capital, admiring investors tracked him down and gave him money.

    When Burry started buying insurance in 2005 on nearly two billion dollars' worth of bonds backed by lousy mortgages, his investors thought he had gone nuts and nearly mutinied. But in 2007, when the housing market began to crumble and Burry's bet paid off, everyone realized that his predictions weren't crazy so much as a sane interpretation of a market gone mad.

    Burry might have set the trade in motion, but he was no salesman. The one who took his idea and ran with it, the "Patient Zero" of this tale, was a bond salesman at Deutsche Bank named Greg Lippmann, who went around telling everyone he could that the end was near. Only a few took his advice, but most who did became extremely rich. (John Paulson, who made an astounding personal profit of four billion dollars, is the subject of another recent book on the same theme, Gregory Zuckerman's The Greatest Trade Ever.)

    The reader can't help but root for this gang of financial renegades as they take on a corrupt and rotten system. Still, The Big Short lacks the pure narrative drive of Lewis' best-selling sports books, Moneyball and The Blind Side. The new work draws its energy from a different source, a palpable undercurrent of anger at the excesses of Wall Street the author shares with his subjects. Lewis is justifiably outraged at the behavior of Wall Street and what its trillion-dollar subprime-mortgage business truly represented: a means of extracting money from the bottom of America's social pyramid and moving it to the top. The problem isn't that Lehman Brothers failed, he shrewdly observes, but that it was allowed to succeed in the first place.

    Lewis reserves special scorn for the biggest banks. Goldman Sachs was selling large volumes of bonds backed by subprime mortgages and, at the same time, betting against the junk it was peddling. The Big Short also tells the little-known tale of how Morgan Stanley allowed a single trader to lose more than $9 billion.

    It's appalling, but not much has changed. Most Wall Street CEOs who set a course for the iceberg remain in power today. The blind are still leading the blind. At any rate, as Lewis observes, they still can't see things any better than a one-eyed former medical resident.

    4-0 out of 5 stars Good book, but a little late to market, March 15, 2010
    First, I'm a big Lewis fan. Like many, my first exposure to Lewis was Liar's Poker; although, I've read several other Lewis books, his columns in the now defunct Portfolio, and occasional writings on Bloomberg. The Big Short isn't really a Liar's Poker experience.

    I enjoyed the book, and it's a quick read. It's just that a couple of Lewis's main characters--Burry of Scion and Lippman of Deutsche--were previously covered in another book, The Greatest Trade Ever. As a result of The Big Short being released comparatively late, some of Lewis's thunder has been stolen, so-to-speak.

    Regardless, the story is well written and if I had no experience with sub-prime, structured finance products, etc., I would have enjoyed it more. For the most part, I found myself grinding through the pages covering Burry. Ok, sits in his darkened office, listens to heavy metal, pouring over documents, investment from Gotham Partners, at odds with investors, Goldman not valuing CDS fairly, brink of collapse, etc. There's really little insight to add to this character if you've read The Greatest Trade Ever. In some ways, the same can be said for Lippman.

    I did enjoy reading about Eisman of Front Point and his crew.

    Bottom line, if you've read The Greatest Trade Ever and you're a huge Lewis fan, you'll likely enjoy the book, but you'll be familiar with the tale. Otherwise, there are probably other titles on your "To Read" list where your time may be better spent.

    Of course, if you haven't read The Greatest Trade Ever, The Big Short should be rewarding.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Informative and entertaining, March 15, 2010
    Hugely entertaining look at the genesis of our current economic mess. Lewis finds the very few investors who predicted and profited from the sub-prime mortgage meltdown and follows their journey from initial realization of the impending disaster to eventual payout. Following these eccentric characters and their interactions with the big Wall Street investment banks is at turns laugh out loud funny and head shaking incredulous. Lewis knows how to turn a phrase and does a good job teasing out the dark humor of the situations. He also does a very good job at explaining the essence of very complicated financial transactions and gives the reader a good understanding of the whys and hows of the financial meltdown. While this book is an important addition to our understanding of what happened, it isn't complete as it doesn't spend any time talking about US government policies that contributed to the crash (specifically, the special legal status given to the three rating agencies, and Fannie and Freddie's role in weakening underwriting standards). Nonetheless, this is still both an important and entertaining book.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Beware: One Star Reviews Based Only on Kindle Availability, March 16, 2010
    I just read through all the reviews. 35 of 41 one-star reviews were to punish Amazon for not making the book available on Kindle at the time of their review. They haven't read the book and don't intend to until it's on Kindle--but that's not going to stop them from punishing Michael Lewis to get back at Amazon. I suppose Amazon should have two rating systems--one for what the author actually wrote, and a second to tally the numbers of those expressing disapproval for the book not being available on Kindle.

    The Big Short is a wonderful read, well-written and informative. Lewis is a storyteller who roots his understanding of human activity in humans rather than in larger "processes". There's nothing wrong with observing the latter, but without humans there would be no economics, financial markets, etc. Nature doesn't provide for them, people do, and people have stories. They make decisions. They do intelligent things, selfish things and nutty things. These things are the threads woven into the larger tapestry. Lewis doesn't tell the WHOLE story of the financial meltdown, but he identifies many of the key players and how their decisions made a difference to the Big Short. He names Names. His prose, as always, is clear, witty and informative. The Big Short filled in many gaps in my understanding of how smart people can make a lot of money without really knowing (or caring) about how their industry actually works or what the consequences of their decisions might be. Makes you wonder.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Another Michael Lewis gem!, March 17, 2010
    Contrary to the whining horde of "munificent" 1-Star allocating-Kindle owners, I actually read the book. Yes, through that "antique" medium, a hardcover printed edition. A medium which allows me to lend it out, have it signed by the author, pick it up in 20 years once more (after Michael Lewis pens the sequel), and place it prominently alongside other Michael Lewis volumes on the book shelves of my homely reading room.

    I refrain from a comprehensive review, given that numerous detailed and persuasive reviews appear on these pages, regrettably buried amongst an alarming preponderance of peeved Kindle owners, who have instead opted to commandeer the reviews for purely self-centered reasons. Reasons completely unrelated to the narrative. (Instead of unfairly skewing the book reviews of The Big Short, Amazon provides Kindle owners with the appropriate forum to voice complaints (below the book image): Tell the Publisher! I'd like to read this book on Kindle!)

    The Big Short is an interesting read, written in the delightful, thoroughly investigated, and remarkably enlightened style to which Michael Lewis aficionados are accustomed. While the book certainly doesn't encompass the entire body of the financial crisis, The Big Short provides an interesting account on some unlikely luminaries engaged in the markets prior and during the heights of the recent financial crisis. The book merits a prominent place amongst a collection of texts recounting products and players that contributed to the rise and fall of financial institutions, markets, and concepts.

    3-0 out of 5 stars Another worthwhile read on those who saw the sub-prime crisis coming, March 28, 2010
    Very much along the lines of Zuckerman's "The Greatest Trade Ever," Lewis explores the cast of characters who correctly deduced that the sub-prime fall was inevitable. Lewis' book arguably had much of its thunder stolen by being beaten to market by Zuckerman. Deciding between the two books, Zuckerman is marginally ahead, but Lewis' treatise covers enough new material and his style is different enough to make The Big Short a worthwhile read. It is an easy, uncomplicated read and flows quite well. It is not technical in nature, but should be more viewed as a populist commentary of characters and events. Lewis' analysis can't be viewed as being too in-depth (especially by market professionals) but then this book is not aimed at a dry academic market, but rather the general public interested in finance and the sub-prime crises. I enjoyed the book, but I'm still searching for the definitive account of the sub-prime debacle. ... Read more

    10. 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
    US | Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan

    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

    11. 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

    12. Stupid History: Tales of Stupidity, Strangeness, and Mythconceptions Throughout the Ages
    by Leland Gregory
    Kindle Edition (2007-05-01)
    list price: $9.99
    Asin: B002TZ3D2G
    Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
    Sales Rank: 324
    Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
    US | Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan

    Editorial Review

    If it would shock you to learn that Benjamin Franklin didn't discover electricity, you'll appreciate this take on hundreds of historical legends and debacles. Historians and humorists alike may be surprised to learn that:

    Samuel Prescott made the famous horseback ride into Concord, not Paul Revere. As a member of Parliament, Isaac Newton spoke only once. He asked for an open window. On April 24, 1898, Spain declared war on the U.S., thus starting the Spanish-American War. The U.S. declared war the very next day, but not wanting to be outdone, had the date on the declaration changed from April 25 to April 21.With these and many other stories, leading humorist Leland Gregory once again highlights both the strange and the funny side of humankind. ... Read more


    5-0 out of 5 stars Light reading on a weighty topic!
    I really enjoy trivia and I really enjoy history so it was nice to see them combined in a really funny collection. This is a collection of entertaining short, historical tales flavored with pieces of trivia and stupid acts through the ages. Leland Gregory has also peppered these narratives with "punny" jokes that are sure to make you crack a smile.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Fun Read
    This is a fun book. The entries are one page little-known facts and anecdotes from history. I found the entries to be from slightly interesting to Wow! Plus, there are several laughs thrown in along the way. The one page entries made this perfect bedtime reading for me.

    5-0 out of 5 stars totally worth it impulse buy
    I purchased this at my local Borders Books. Unintentionally. They had it up at the register, and being a history fanatic, and a fan of all things trivialesque & stupid, I impulsively purchased the book. I'm so glad I did. As another reviewer said, the book is full of everything from, "Oh, really?" to "OH WOW!" and very 'punny' jokes.

    Totally worth the money. I'm glad it was on display, or otherwise I may have never known of it's existence. ... Read more

    13. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration
    by Isabel Wilkerson
    list price: $30.00 -- our price: $17.00
    (price subject to change: see help)
    Isbn: 0679444327
    Publisher: Random House
    Sales Rank: 43
    Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars
    US | Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan

    Editorial Review

    One of The New York Times Book Review’s 10 Best Books of the Year

    In this epic, beautifully written masterwork, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Isabel Wilkerson chronicles one of the great untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities, in search of a better life. From 1915 to 1970, this exodus of almost six million people changed the face of America. Wilkerson compares this epic migration to the migrations of other peoples in history. She interviewed more than a thousand people, and gained access to new data and official records, to write this definitive and vividly dramatic account of how these American journeys unfolded, altering our cities, our country, and ourselves.
    With stunning historical detail, Wilkerson tells this story through the lives of three unique individuals: Ida Mae Gladney, who in 1937 left sharecropping and prejudice in Mississippi for Chicago, where she achieved quiet blue-collar success and, in old age, voted for Barack Obama when he ran for an Illinois Senate seat; sharp and quick-tempered George Starling, who in 1945 fled Florida for Harlem, where he endangered his job fighting for civil rights, saw his family fall, and finally found peace in God; and Robert Foster, who left Louisiana in 1953 to pursue a medical career, the personal physician to Ray Charles as part of a glitteringly successful medical career, which allowed him to purchase a grand home where he often threw exuberant parties.

    Wilkerson brilliantly captures their first treacherous and exhausting cross-country trips by car and train and their new lives in colonies that grew into ghettos, as well as how they changed these cities with southern food, faith, and culture and improved them with discipline, drive, and hard work. Both a riveting microcosm and a major assessment, The Warmth of Other Suns is a bold, remarkable, and riveting work, a superb account of an “unrecognized immigration” within our own land. Through the breadth of its narrative, the beauty of the writing, the depth of its research, and the fullness of the people and lives portrayed herein, this book is destined to become a classic.
    ... Read more


    5-0 out of 5 stars Deep, richly rewarding, heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time., September 7, 2010
    Isabel Wilkerson, the Pulitzer Prize winning newspaper writer, has now come back to write a fascinating and sweeping book on what she calls ""the biggest underreported story of the twentieth century."

    This is the story... no- make that the stories... of the "Great Migration", the migration of sharecroppers and others from the Cotton Belt to the Big Cities: New York, Chicago, Detroit, LA and etc in the period between the World Wars. Over one million blacks left the South and went North (or West). Of course we all know the tale of the "Dust Bowl" and the "Okies", as captured by Steinbeck in words, by Dorothea Lange in photographs, and even in song by Woody Guthrie. But this was as big or even bigger (estimates vary), and to this day the story has not been covered anywhere near as well as the "Dust Bowl" migrations.

    Wilkerson's book has more than ten years of research in its making, and thus is a large and weighty volume at more than 600 pages. It is also personally researched, the author having interviewed over 1,200 people. She picked three dozen of those to interview in great depth, and choose but three of those stories to present to you here.

    The title of this book is taken from Richard Wright's "Black Boy: A Record of Childhood and Youth": "I was taking a part of the South to transplant in alien soil, to see if it could grow differently, if it could drink of new and cool rains, bend in strange winds, respond to the warmth of other suns, and, perhaps, to bloom."

    This book is a not an easy summer read, mind you. At times both heartwarming and heartbreaking, at times so riveting you won't be able to put it down- but at other times so moving that you'll need to put it down for a while.

    The author peppers her book with interesting side notes and anecdotes, such as when some of the migrants, being unfamiliar with a Northern accent, would mistakenly get off at the cry of "Penn Station, Newark," the stop just before Penn Station, New York. Many decided to stay there,according to Isabel , giving Newark "a good portion of its black population."

    A personal note: My Dad got his Masters on the GI Bill, then took us to Los Angeles to be a teacher. He was partnered with a more experienced teacher- a lady we called "Miz Edna" who had migrated to LA from the South. Our families became friends, as also "Miz Edna's" husband had served in New Guinea with my father (as a cook, however, remember the WWII Army was still segregated) . I remember many of her stories, and especially her rich melodic voice, with just enough of the South remaining. Thus, I "heard" many of the quotations and personal stories here in "Miz Edna's" voice.

    This is a deep and great book, I highly recommend it.

    Further reading:

    Arnesen, Eric. Black Protest and the Great Migration: A Brief History with Documents

    Grossman, James R. Land of Hope: Chicago, Black Southerners, and the Great Migration

    Lemann, Nicholas. The Promised Land: The Great Black Migration and How It Changed America

    5-0 out of 5 stars A Rich and Powerful Book, September 20, 2010
    Between World War I and the presidency of Richard Nixon, some six million black Americans fled the indignities and oppression they grew up with in the American south and headed north or west in search of freedom. Some found at least a modicum of it. Some did not. This mass migration --- unplanned, haphazard and often resented --- has affected our laws, our politics and our social relations in all kinds of ways. Some for the better, some not.

    Isabel Wilkerson did a mountain of research to tell this story. She conducted some 1,200 interviews and digested a huge volume of sociological data. Wisely, she concentrated her book on just three of those six million people --- a gutsy woman from the cotton plantations of Mississippi, an orange picker from central Florida and an aspiring doctor from Louisiana. Each of them left the south in a different decade and with different motivations. They met with varying degrees of success and disappointment. While they didn't achieve everything they had hoped for, none of them in their final assessment regretted their move.

    Wilkerson plays off these three protagonists against a vast chorus of others whose stories vary wildly but all come down to the determination to leave behind intolerable social oppression and at least try their luck in freer air. Wilkerson herself, a child of two black immigrants from Georgia, is a part of that chorus. Her book is valuable on several levels. It documents in gut-wrenching detail the brutal way these migrants were treated in the region of their birth. It is honest about their own personal failings and the not-always beneficial effect that northern life had on them. It challenges the popular assumption that they themselves caused the problems that have made their life up north so difficult. It documents a different idea --- that much of the problem stems from their children, born in the north and unmindful of what their parents had to suffer to give them a shot at a better life.

    The book is gracefully written. Its level of personal detail gives readers the impression that its subjects had total recall as they spoke into Wilkerson's tape recorder. She has also elected to preserve the unique syntax and tone of black speech, without cleaning things up to make her subjects all sound like upper-class college graduates, though some of them are.

    Some passages are riveting in their eloquence --- the automobile journey of Robert P. Foster from his native Louisiana to Los Angeles in the early 1950s, a hellish series of efforts to find unsegregated lodgings before he fell asleep at the wheel; the horrifying descriptions of lynch mobs on the rampage; the life of railroad porter George Starling serving white passengers while himself unable to escape discriminatory practices and threats against his person; the far-reaching Jim Crow laws in the south that prevented blacks from patronizing public libraries and decreed that, even after desegregation was the law of the land, they had to wait for service in stores until all the whites present had been taken care of. (In Birmingham, Alabama, for many years it was against the law for blacks and whites to play checkers together).

    Wilkerson devotes major attention to the racial history of Chicago, where immigrant Ida Mae Gladney of Mississippi ended up. This may be simply because the volume of statistical and sociological data on the racial divide there is so enormous, and also because that divide persists to this day in many ways. George Starling made a decent life for himself in Harlem, but watched helplessly as one of his children slid into drugs and criminal activity.

    But perhaps the most vivid story of all is that of Robert Foster, a medical school graduate and prominent Los Angeles surgeon. He achieved greater success than either of the other two major figures, but it only aroused in him a need to "prove himself" by buying an ostentatious home, spending lavishly in fine clothes and elaborate parties, and developing a gambling mania. Of Wilkerson's trio, he is the most arresting character --- a man who made it big but felt he always had to go higher up the success ladder. Wilkerson is candid about his character flaws. She seems to pity him rather than simply wax critical.

    THE WARMTH OF OTHER SUNS is a rich and powerful book. It tells a story that for many people still needs to be told.

    --- Reviewed by Robert Finn

    4-0 out of 5 stars An under reported epic, September 7, 2010

    Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?)
    100 years ago, the majority of "colored people" lived in the rural South. Outside of the South, most major cities had a small Black population but large areas had little to no Black population. Most of the West and much of the rural Mid-West were White. A Black person was an oddity and many small children had never seen a Black person.
    In 60 years, most major American cities had a large Black population. Black America is largely defined as an urban people, who spread over America. This change, from the slower pace of the rural South to the rapid pace of Northern and Western cities is one of the great stories of the 20th Century and one that few wish to tell.
    This book looks at that migration as both a personal experience and as history. The author emphasizes personal experience. This migration is documented through the experiences of three participants. If you are looking for a conventional history, you will not be happy with this book. If you are looking for a very well written book chronicling Black life from the 1920s to the 1970s, this is an excellent book.
    While not a fun read, it is an easy book to read and can be enjoyable. This is a story of people looking for a better life and the adjustments forced on them. Some of the adjustments are painful others are very satisfying to them. The author captures the times and the people, their joys and sorrows.

    5-0 out of 5 stars "Epic" is right, September 21, 2010
    There is a page in the book where Wilkerson recounts what a single day of picking cotton in the old South's a pretty remarkable mini essay in its own right, and you probably won't forget it. The whole book is like this, with one powerful anecdote after another, woven together with great skill. I've always been fascinated with the Jim Crow era in America, and eyewitness stories of those who lived through it...though this book only follows 3 people out of the millions who endured it, it captures America in the 2oth Century as well as just about social history I've ever read.

    As a gay man, I often look to these books to be inspired by how black Americans "soldiered on" and showed such unbreakable spirit during these years. No, I personally never experienced even 1/10th of their struggle, but it still empowers me to face prejudice and avoid a lazy victimhood mentality. I am incredibly grateful for books like this, as should anyone who faces prejudice or discrimination by a majority.

    Clearly a book of this scope took years to complete, and I'm rooting for this to win this year's National Book Award. I suggest you set aside a whole weekend like I did and savor every page of it.

    5-0 out of 5 stars America's Great Migration, September 25, 2010

    Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?)
    An estimated six million African Americans left the South between 1916 -- 1970 to seek a better life in the North. Historians have called this event the "Great Migration", and recognized it as a seminal movement in Twentieth Century American history. The Great Migration began during WW I as Northern industries needed a source of inexpensive labor to meet the growing economy as many workers were called into military service. It continued until the Civil Rights legislation of the 1960s took hold in the South and brought an end to Jim Crow. Although aspects of the Great Migration have been covered in academic histories and in African American novels and poetry, this new sweeping book, "The Warmth of Other Suns", brought the Great Migration to life for me in a way I will be unlikely to forget. It will do so as well for many others readers. Wilkerson is herself a daughter of the Great Migration. She received a Pulitzer Prize in journalism in 1994 as well as a Guggnheim Fellowship and many other honors. She is currently Professor of Journalism and Director of Narrative Nonfiction at Boston University. The title of the book is taken from Richard Wright in a quotation, one of many, that appears on the fronticepiece:

    "I was leaving the South
    To fling myself into the unknown...
    I was taking a part of the South
    To transplant in alien soil,
    To see if it could grow differently,
    If it could drink of new and cool rains,
    Bend in strange winds,
    Respond to the warmth of other suns
    And, perhaps, to bloom."

    Based on more that 1200 interviews with participant in the Great Migration, Wilkerson's book is much more an oral history and a work of literature than it is an academic study. Some earlier studies of the Great Migration have focused on the years of WWI and its immediate aftermath, but Wilkerson studies the 1930s,40s and 50s. She explores in detail the lives of three people who migrated during these decades. The first migrant, Ida Mae Brandon, was a sharecropper in eastern Missippi. At the age of 16 she married George Gladney who worked on a plantation owned by a man known as Mr. Edd. When men in the neighborhood beat and nearly killed a man based on the false accusation that he had stolen Mr. Edd's turkeys, the Gladneys knew they had to leave. They took a train to Milwaukee and soon thereafter moved to Chicago where Ida Mae lived from the 1930s to her death in the 1990s. Of her various subjects, Wilkerson seems fondest of Ida Mae and tells the story of her life in Mississippi followed by her life in Chicago against the changing backdrop of American history and African American life.

    Robert Joseph Pershing Foster grew up in the small town of Monroe, Louisiana where his parents taught at the segregated Jim Crow School. Ambitious, agressive, and intelligent, Foster studied at Atlanta University where he married Alice Clement, the daughter of the famous president of the University, Rufus Clement, who had fired W.E.B. DuBois. Foster became a physician and a surgeon and his ambitions were far broader than his opportunities in the Jim Crow South. After a period as a surgeon in the Army, Foster left the South on a long nightmarish drive to California in the 1950s and settled in Los Angeles. He worked himself up to a highly successful medical practice, centering upon other migrants. Foster became Ray Charles's doctor, and Charles wrote and recorded a song about him. Almost as fond of the casino and racetrack as of medicine, Foster lived lavishly and threw extraordinary parties to demonstrate how far he had come from life in the South. While admiring his drive, intellect, and success, Wilkerson is uncomfortable with the way in which Foster abandoned his roots and with his life-long insecurities not far below the surface of his material success.

    The third protagonist, George Swanston Starling, lived in central Florida near the town of Eustis. Intelligent and ambitious, Starling completed two years of college. When his father could not afford further education, Starling married a young woman, Inez, on the spur of the moment and probably out of spite. The marriage proved unhappy but it endured. Starling took a number of lowpaying and difficult jobs picking fruit. He was forced to flee for his life when he tried to organize the workers and learned that the bosses were likely plotting his death. He and Inez took a train to Harlem in the late 1940 where the unfortunate marriage endured until Inez' death after 44 years. Starling worked as a porter on the railroads where he witnessed and subtly assisted many other African Americans leaving the South in purusit of a better, freer life.

    Wilkerson juxtaposes the stories on these three people, who never met one another, throughout the book as they left the South and faced the America of the North, Midwest, and West. Their stories are told with flair and passion. I felt I knew Brandon, Foster, and Starling, and could share their hopes and sorrows. Much of the writing is stunning, including the long claustrophobic chapters recounting Foster's lonely drive from Louisiana to Texas and the endless instances of discrimination and rebuff he faced along the way.

    Wilkerson tells the stories of her protagonists while also giving the story of the era. She describes the lynchings, discrimination, and many indignities of black life in the South which prompted her characters to leave. She also describes the more subtle discrimination in the rest of the United States. While her protagonists were able to vote, earn money, and succeed to an extent that would have been unlikely in the Jim Crow South, their lives were not easy and the transitions were severe. Her chapters describing her protagonists are interspersed with broader chapters and passages describing American life in the South and in the places in the United States in which the migrants resettled.

    Wilkerson takes issue with some prior treatments of the Great Migration. She argues that in the main the migrants constituted the more intelligent and ambitious portion of the South's African American population. She maintains that their birthrates were lover and educational levels higher than African Americans who lived outside of the South, that their families tended to be more stable, and that they were less likely to be on welfare. She emphasizes individual initiative and drive, the dehumanization of Jim Crow, rather than economic factors, such as the development of mechanized cotton picking, as the primary reasons for African American migration from the South.

    Wilkerson's book of about 650 pages is written with lyricism and love more than with the dispassion of the historian. It captures a people and an era. This is a wonderfully human and insightful book about a part of American history that remains too little known.

    Robin Friedman

    4-0 out of 5 stars Where was I when this was happening?, September 17, 2010
    I found this book not only terrifically readable, but moving and exhilirating and frightening (out of concern for those who are profiled) as well. Isabel Wilkerson is a gifted writer (as well as a beautiful woman, if the head shot associated with the book is any guide at all); she well deserves the journalism Pulitzer she was awarded in 1994 even though the structure of this particular book is as defined and apparent as clothes drying on a line in the back yard.

    I kept asking myself, "Where was I when this was happening?", shocked that so much of the lives of the blacks who are profiled coincided with my life, yet at the time I had no awareness of what they faced, what they lived with, what they endured. I grew up in the southern San Joaquin County Valley of California. It was 'understood' that blacks lived in a separate part of town. I went to a high school with 5,000 students; fights between blacks and whites were rare, but it was also 'understood' that a current ran below the otherwise still waters of the local racial divide. A drive one night with the local police (this was a benefit of the police-high school liaison intended, I suppose, to help me - a white person - to understand the relationship that should prevail between whites and blacks) revealed more than the officers' excitement about their powerful patrol car, but also the 'proper' nature of the divide between both the white and black parts of town as well as between the members of those communities.

    As Wilkerson follows three particular black families out of the South and into the 'Promised Land' of the Northern (or Western) United States, I kept referencing my own life and interactions with the kind of people she was profiling. Unfortunately, I had few points of contact that I could point to. Wilkerson's book makes me regret that lack of interaction and chides me for my anxieties that were all too obviously inculcated by my parents and the white culture in which I grew up.

    I recommend this book highly for its revealing story about a segment of American society that has been hidden - at least hidden from me - as well as for its beautifully written style.

    5-0 out of 5 stars I don't want to put it down!, October 15, 2010
    Ah, come all you people who are tired of poor muddled writing, poor character development, aseptic dry tomes...

    Open this book and I dare you to read 3 pages and then put it away.

    Isabel Wilkerson can WRITE! She describes her characters so well they almost step out of the pages.
    The historical accuracy of this book is evident and it is obvious that she did a ton of research.

    I place this book high on my list of best ever, right along side "Wild Swans" and "David Copperfield"

    This is a story that needed to be told, thank you. Because like lots of Americans, I had no idea.

    5-0 out of 5 stars A history lesson..., October 9, 2010
    This book should be required reading for all American History students, high school and college, in this country and anyone abroad who studies American History. The story is beautifully told by Ms. Wilkerson who weaves statistics, and facts with beautiful quotes from noted authors and just regular folk. The author tells the moving story of 3 individuals during the mid 20th century and the difficult choices they made to uproot and start over within their own country. There are so many stories within the stories told, and anyone born and raised, particularly in the African American community, within the last 90 years, can relate. But it is by and large the American story. It is a major part of America, and it's amazing that many, at the time of the great migration did not recognize it for the huge impact that it was to our entire nation. And sadly the reason for that is because, the main participants were African Americans and many did not think this story worthy of reporting or telling.

    The author gave life to a quiet, historical movement that began way before the civil rights movement, but had just as much impact, if not more, on our country. I would love to see Oprah pick this book for her audience to read. Her broad audience appeal would surely garner many people who might not otherwise read this, to read it. I think all Americans should understand who our country was, where we've come from, and who we are today as a country of diverse people. This is indeed, one of the best books I've ever read about the history of our country.

    5-0 out of 5 stars The Unknown Powers of the Great Migration, October 6, 2010
    Excellent examination of the trials and tribulations African American ovecame and endured to create a better life for their families. Moving from the South to the North was like moving to a foreign country. To learn "how to be" in such a hostile environment; to greive for acceptance from other African Americans and others and to make a way out of noway. This is the legacy our ancestors left us to continue to survive and strive to inprove not only ourselves but our families. We oftetimes forgot the sacrifics our ancestors and the pain they endured.

    This is a wonderful book it made me realize how special and privileged I am that my grandfather, aunts & uncle and parents were apart of this great migration. To finally receive recognition for their accomplishments and how they changed the landscape of America step by step. Thrown into the unknown but unwilling to endure the darkness to reach some semblance of light.

    The only gift I'm giving for birthdays and Xmas this year is this book.

    To the author: THANK YOU!! THANK YOU!! THANK YOU!! THANK YOU!!

    5-0 out of 5 stars Beautiful book, September 29, 2010
    This book does what I think every really great book does - it draws you in so that you actually enter the world the book creates. It is even harder for a work of non fiction to do this than for a novel, but The Warmth of Other Suns grabs you by the hand on page 1 and pulls you in and doesn't let you go until you finish the last page. I am not an African American and the history that is set forth in these pages is honestly new for me and happened before I was born. It is not often that a book that is so engrossing that you literally cannot put it down is also able to teach you so much. I learned about a big part of American history that will stay with me for the rest of my life. Highly recommended, for the history, for the stories of the people and for the writing. Everything about this book is simply beautiful. ... Read more

    14. Understanding the Americans: A Handbook for Visitors to the United States
    by Yale Richmond
    Kindle Edition (2009-04-01)
    list price: $14.95
    Asin: B003XDT8WC
    Publisher: Hippocrene Books
    Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars
    US | Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan

    Editorial Review

    Full of practical advice as well as invaluable guidance on how to understand American society (covering topics like political parties, privacy, family, work, and money), this handy book is an ideal reference for anyone new to the United States. ... Read more


    5-0 out of 5 stars Funny and wise
    Understanding the Americans is a delightful book, and I recommend it not only to recent immigrants, but also to Americans who work with immigrants, because it may help them see America through foreigners' eyes. While at the first read the book may seem simplistic and trivial to an American absorbing the American culture from birth, a more focused reader will immediately see that Richmond very succinctly, and with great humor explains hundreds of unwritten rules governing life in America, such as "Americans [...] may tell you much about their personal lives without considering you as a friend or even wanting to be your friend," or that "drop by some time" doesn't really mean you can do that because "such an action would be seen as an invasion of a person's privacy and a failure to plan ahead." The book is also full of American expressions such as "keeping up with the Joneses" "beating around the bush," or "soccer mom," which every American knows, but which puzzling to foreigners who most likely have never heard them. I agree with the reviewer who recommends that this book should be handed out to visitors at every border crossing.

    My favorite quote:
    "When meeting someone in America, as in most countries, there is usually a ritual greeting. You ask the other person "how are you?" and the answer is usually "Fine" unless that person is mortally ill and about to be transported to a hospital."

    5-0 out of 5 stars Finding your way in another culture
    This is a different, and ultimately far more useful "travel guide" than we are used to. It is a day-to-day guide to our manners and mor�s, but is much more, providing background and insights to nearly all major features (and peculiarities) of American society. I can't think of a more useful and practical book. I--and I'm sure visitors--will appreciate the author's honesty about some of the less attractive aspects of our culture. The practice of highlighting common American terms (like doggie bag) makes the book even more user-friendly. By helping visitors to understand what to expect, and how to cope with the inevitable shocks and frustrations, this book should be handed out to visitors with every American visa. Every country should produce a book along the lines of this one.

    5-0 out of 5 stars So true, and so much fun
    This book was written as a guide, but it is also structured nicely and the style makes it so funny. I've been in the States for 4 years and realizing how true all those points in the handbook are is just hilarious. I think it is a good reading material not only for international people but also for US citizens who want to learn how non-US people perceive them. ... Read more

    15. 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
    US | Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan

    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

    16. 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
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    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

    17. 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
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    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

    18. Life on the Mississippi
    by Mark Twain
    Kindle Edition (2004-07-10)
    list price: $0.00
    Asin: B000SN6IK0
    Publisher: Public Domain Books
    Average Customer Review: 4.5 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. ... Read more


    5-0 out of 5 stars One of Twains Greatest!
    This book--at times disjointed, rambling, self-referential, and irreverent--is decades ahead of its time. It's an interdisciplinarian's dream as Twain takes on economics, geography, politics, ancient and contemporary history, and folklore with equal ease. Mostly though, one appreciates his knack for exaggeration, the tall tale, and the outright lie. It's a triumph of tone, as he lets you in on his wild wit, his keen observation, and his penchant for bending the truth without losing his credibility as a guide.

    The book's structure is also modern: He recounts his days as a paddlewheel steam boat "cub," piloting the hundreds of miles of the Mississippi before the Civil War, then, in Part 2, returns to retrace his paddleboat route. Although a few of his many digressions don't work (they sometimes sound formulaic or too detailed) most of the narrative is extremely entertaining. Twain seems caught between admiration and disdain for the "modern" age-but he also rejects over-sentimentality over the past. He writes with beauty and cynicism, verve and humor. Very highly recommended!

    5-0 out of 5 stars A compelling monologue of biography, geography and history
    Let me guess: your total exposure to Mark Twain came in high school, when you were forced to read about the antics of Huck Finn or Tom Sawyer, right? Well, now that you've reached adulthood, you should make time to read _Life on the Mississippi_. It's mandatory reading if you live in a state that borders the great river, anywhere from Minnesota down to Louisiana. It's mandatory reading if you have come to that point in life when you can suddenly appreciate American history and post-Civil War stories written by someone who lived through that time.

    Writing in the first half of the 1870s, Twain retraces the steps of his youth: the watery highway he knew when he trained to be a riverboat pilot nearly 20 years earlier. He speaks of how life _was_ along the river, and what life _became_. It's almost a "you can't go home again" experience for him, while the reader gets the benefit of discovering both time periods.

    I have two favorite parts that I share with others. Chapter IX includes a wonderful dissertation about how learning the navigational intricacies of the river caused Twain to lose the ability to see its natural beauty. And Chapter XLV includes an assessment of how the people of the North and the South reacted differently to the war experience. If I were a social studies teacher, I'd use that last passage in a unit on the reconstruction period. So put this title on your vacation reading list, and don't fret: the chapters are short and are many -- 60! -- but you can stop at any time, and the words go by fast. _Life on the Mississippi_ should make you forget all about any Twain trauma and report-writing you may have suffered as a teenager. [This reviewer was an Illinois resident when these comments were written.]

    5-0 out of 5 stars Twain on the Mississippi
    This is the book that Mark Twain himself thought to be his greatest. It is basically a memoir in two parts of his life spent on the river with historical sketches, statistics, and other matters thrown in.

    The first part of the book tells of Twain's early years as a riverboat pilot. He talks about being a cub pilot, about learning about the intricacies of the river and the difficulties of navigating it, and about his mentor Horace Bixby. Twain's love of the river and his pride in "mastering" it are made obvious in these chapters.

    The second part recounts Twain's return to the river in 1882, mainly to "see it again" in preparation of writing this book. Starting in St. Louis, he first goes south through Baton Rouge to New Orleans. He spends a bit of time there and describes life as he sees it in the city (there's a funny chapter regarding the above-ground cemeteries and an argument about cremation). Then he heads north on the steamboat City of Baton Rouge, piloted by his old mentor Horace Bixby. He stops off in Hannibal for three days, just enough time to see how much the town and some old acquaintances have changed, and then continues all the way to St. Paul, Minnesota.

    Twain's humor, as he recounts conversations with people, sights seen, reminiscences dredged up, and a myriad of other matters that fill the book, is always evident. It's one of the great books on the mighty river, and whether you are a lover of the works of Mark Twain or interested in the Mississippi River during the time period just before and after the Civil War, you will enjoy this book.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Twain's Mississippi River Recollections..........
    In Life on the Mississippi, Twain recounts his river experiences from boyhood to riverboat captain and beyond. Encompassing the years surrounding the Civil War, this book is an excellent source of 19th-century Americana as well as an anthology of the mighty river itself. Replete with rascally rivermen, riparian hazards, deluge, catastrophe, and charm, Life on the Mississippi is another of Twain's stellar literary achievements.

    Wit and wisdom are expected from Twain and this book does not disappoint. It is equally valuable for it's period descriptions of the larger river cities (New Orleans, St. Louis, St. Paul), as well as the small town people and places ranging the length of America's imposing central watershed.

    The advent of railroads signalled the end of the Mississipi's grand age of riverboat traffic, but, never fear, Life on the Mississippi brings it back for the reader as only Samuel Clemens can. Highly recommended.

    5-0 out of 5 stars The Book I Would Choose On A Deserted Island.
    Life on the Mississippi is by far one of the most wonderful books ever written about the post Civil War era in America. Mark Twain takes the reader on a melancholy look at this period of time in history as you journey into the Mississippi of his youth, adulthood, and the people and the communities he knew so well. He conveys a miraculous picture of this lively river giving it the grandeur and prominence it deserves. He defines the river very much like a living organism with a power and personality all its own. As the book unfolds, he begins in his days when he grew up along the river and became a steam boat pilot, ending that career with the advent of the Civil War. Later he returns to the river after some twenty years and takes a journey as a writer from around St. Louis to New Orleans and back up the river into what is present day Minnesota. You learn about the different cultures along the river, its tributaries, as well as the remarkable people who become part of the forgotten history of our nation. Twain's anecdotes are sheer brilliance, and he has an incredible way of choosing just the right story to illustrate a particular point transporting the reader back into time as if it was the present day and you are standing beside Twain observing what he is seeing. His reflections of his times along the river and his descriptions of the people and places make this a true masterpiece of literature and I highly recommend it. I found myself only able to read short portions at a time, as I personally found the sheer beauty of the entire book was a work to be savored and digested rather than rapidly consumed as you would with any other book. As I poured through the book, I felt often as if I was traveling with Mark Twain as a companion along his charming and magnificent journey during a wonderful period of history.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent
    The best work by Twain I've read to date. This combination history, memoir, travelogue, and collection of sketches is both humorous and entertaining. I have also learned a great deal about Twain, his time, and the history of steamboating and the Mississippi. Written later in his life, this work is mature in style as well as content in spite of its loose organization and focus. Highly recommended. ... Read more

    19. India: An Illustrated History
    by Prem Kishore, Anuradha Kishore Ganpati
    Kindle Edition
    list price: $14.95
    Asin: B002ZRQ6SQ
    Publisher: Hippocrene Books
    Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars
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    Editorial Review

    India is a land of contrasts and diversity, Echoes of vanished empires exist alongside its natural wonders and teeming modern cities. Today, India covers over two million square miles and has the world's second-largest population, which shares fifteen national languages and six major religions. This volume succinctly recounts 45,000 years of Indian history, from the earliest Indus valley settlements to the twentieth century struggle against British imperial rule to the challenges facing the country today. Sections on cultural traditions, regional cuisine, dress, and religion bring the varied facets of this nation to life. The book is ideal reference for travellers, students, and anyone intrigued by one of the world's oldest surviving civilisations. Where the past is ever-present. ... Read more


    5-0 out of 5 stars An undistorted summary of the whole gamut of Indian History, October 4, 2003
    Reading Prem Kishore and Anuradha Kishore Ganpati's book, India an Illustrated History, brought back to my mind the days when I started reading Indian History for a University degree many years ago. While carrying a burden of unusually heavy textbooks, I searched in vain for a simple and accurate introductory book like this, to serve as a first foundation for my studies.
    Indian culture is an intricate mosaic, blending millions of variegated political and socio-economic elements into a living mandala. In presenting this procession of dramatic events, extending over 5000 years, in only 235 pages, without disturbing its vibrant harmony, the authors have demonstrated a very high level of erudition and a unique genius. Congratulations.

    Dr. Lionel Maithri Perera
    Ex-United Nations Consultant in Human Resources

    5-0 out of 5 stars An exciting companion to travellers & culture enthusiasts, September 30, 2003
    Those who pick up the book 'India', an illustrated History, will be very satisfied as it gives an excellent overview of the significant historical facts and challenges that have shaped the current India. With an informative and scholarly text the book gives a wonderful glimpse into the beauty and sohistication of the rich cultural traditions and heritage of India. This concise book about India, a collaborative work of the mother-daughter team, Prem Kishore and Anuradha Kishore Ganpati is truly engaging. Their work focuses passionately on the theme of the imagination and the institutionalized structures that speak about the colonial and the independant India. It is quick and easy reading!!!. Pick it up!!!.

    1-0 out of 5 stars sixth grade book, May 15, 2009
    This book reads like a really bad middle-school history textbook.
    The writing style is completely uncritical, lacking any analysis.
    Facts and legend are intertwined that one doesn't know whether one is
    reading about historical fact or legend. Actually, the authors seem
    to accept legend as historical fact. For example, of the Rajputs, the
    authors wrote, "According to the Angikula [sic] legend, Parasurama, the
    sixth avatar of Vishnu, had destroyed all the Kshatriya warrior clans
    in an act of vengeance. However, the Brahmins needed the warrior
    caste to defend them. They offered prayers and burned an enormous
    fire (Agnikula, or fire pit) for forty days. Out of this fire pit emerged
    the four Rajput heroes who would each create a separate Rajput clan . . . ."
    And that's all the authors give for the origin of the Rajput clans.

    Based on a review of another book in the "Illustrated History" series
    published by Hippocrene Books, Inc., it may be the case that the whole
    series is aimed at middle-school students. The authors put in a disclaimer
    in the preface that "this is not a book for the specialist/researcher in
    Indian history." What they have produced doesn't even measure up to
    a "short-history for tourist" or "coffee-book" level. At best it can be called
    a bad high-school term report on Indian history and culture.

    2-0 out of 5 stars It's not interestingly written!, February 13, 2009
    I got it with another book about India: Traveller's history of India (fourth edition) by Sinharaja Tammita-Delgoda. Based on other reviews I thought that it will complement the Traveller's history of India with maps and pictures. But information is very limited and pictures are nothing special either. Waste of money! ... Read more

    20. The Christmas Angel
    by Abbie Farwell Brown
    Kindle Edition
    list price: $0.00
    Asin: B000JQTXP8
    Publisher: Public Domain Books
    Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars
    US | Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan

    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. ... Read more


    5-0 out of 5 stars Pink angel treetopper creates lush Christmas magic, October 15, 2009
    Miss Terry finds an old box of family toys and a pink angel while she sets out to ignore Christmas. Her attempt at isolation is instead met with memories and new joy. Lovely author.

    4-0 out of 5 stars Very much like A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, November 18, 2010
    I got this free for my Kindle and was very surprised that it was really a good story. Very much like the Charles Dickens story, "A Christmas Carol". You've got a bitter older woman who is going through an old box of toys. She throws some of them outside in the snow to see what people will do. She comes to this Christmas Angel ornament and it takes her to where the thrown away toys ended up. Her long lost brother comes by and they reunite. An abused, orphaned little girl becomes a part of their family. It was a pretty predictable story but a very good one! This could easily become a Christmas tradition in many households!

    5-0 out of 5 stars Put me in the right mood for Christmas!, November 20, 2010
    Could not put this book down. I have recommended to family and friends as a fast read but writer immersed you into this time period and didn't let you go until the end! Really enjoyed!

    3-0 out of 5 stars Simple, enjoyable story, November 30, 2010
    This nice, old-fashioned story was one I enjoyed reading. It was not, however, one that I will read every Christmas. It did pleasantly fill in the time between going to bed and going to sleep. ... Read more

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