Tags: genre: non-fiction

inverarity

Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing, by Robert Caro

The author of The Power Broker and The Years of Lyndon Johnson on his life and his writing.


Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing

Penguin Random House, 2019, 231 pages



From the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Power Broker and The Years of Lyndon Johnson: an unprecedented gathering of vivid, candid, deeply revealing recollections about his experiences researching and writing his acclaimed books.

For the first time in his long career, Robert Caro gives us a glimpse into his own life and work in these evocatively written, personal pieces. He describes what it was like to interview the mighty Robert Moses; what it felt like to begin discovering the extent of the political power Moses wielded; the combination of discouragement and exhilaration he felt confronting the vast holdings of the Lyndon B. Johnson Library and Museum in Austin, Texas; his encounters with witnesses, including longtime residents wrenchingly displaced by the construction of Moses’ Cross-Bronx Expressway and Lady Bird Johnson acknowledging the beauty and influence of one of LBJ’s mistresses. He gratefully remembers how, after years of loneliness, he found a writers’ community at the New York Public Library’s Frederick Lewis Allen Room and details the ways he goes about planning and composing his books.

Caro recalls the moments at which he came to understand that he wanted to write not just about the men who wielded power but about the people and the politics that were shaped by that power. And he talks about the importance to him of the writing itself, of how he tries to infuse it with a sense of place and mood to bring characters and situations to life on the page. Taken together, these reminiscences–some previously published, some written expressly for this book–bring into focus the passion, the wry self-deprecation, and the integrity with which this brilliant historian has always approached his work.


Obsessive, dedicated, focused, an epic non-fiction writer who will keep you waiting longer than George R.R. Martin.

Also by Robert Caro: My review of The Years of Lyndon Johnson.




My complete list of book reviews.
inverarity

John Quincy Adams, by Harlow Giles Unger

The sixth president was a great man, and good at everything except being president.


John Quincy Adams

Da Capo Press, 2012, 364 pages



He fought for Washington, served with Lincoln, witnessed Bunker Hill, and sounded the clarion against slavery on the eve of the Civil War. He negotiated an end to the War of 1812, engineered the annexation of Florida, and won the Supreme Court decision that freed the African captives of La Amistad. He served his nation as minister to six countries, secretary of state, senator, congressman, and president.

John Quincy Adams was all of these things and more. In this masterful biography, award-winning author Harlow Giles Unger reveals Adams as a towering figure in the nation’s formative years and one of the most courageous figures in American history - which is why he ranked first in John F. Kennedy’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Profiles in Courage.

A magisterial biography and a sweeping panorama of American history from the Washington to Lincoln eras, Unger’s John Quincy Adams follows one of America’s most important yet least known figures.


John Quincy was more than a chip off the old block




My complete list of book reviews.
inverarity

John Wayne Gacy: Defending a Monster, by Sam L. Amirante and Danny Broderick

John Wayne Gacy's lawyer tells the story of his serial killer client.


John Wayne Gacy: Defending a Monster

Skyhorse Publishing, 2011, 352 pages



For the first time Gacy’s lawyer and confidant tells his chilling tale of how he defended an American serial killer.

“Sam, could you do me a favor?”

Thus begins a story that has now become part of America's true-crime hall of fame. It is a gory, grotesque tale befitting a Stephen King novel. It is also a David and Goliath saga - the story of a young lawyer fresh from the public defender's office whose first client in private practice turns out to be the worst serial killer in our nation's history. This is a gripping true crime narrative that reenacts the gruesome killings and the famous trial that shocked a nation.



The lawyer is more interesting than the clown.



My complete list of book reviews.
Golden Hair

The Domestic Revolution

The Domestic Revolution: How the Introduction of Coal into Victorian Homes Changed Everything by Ruth Goodman

In London, they were using coal for heating and cook during the Elizabethean era. It appears to have started then, too, and been very quick; a Star Chamber proceeding calmly states that "sea coal" (coal brought by sea) is the ordinary fuel of everyone. And it spread throughout the land. It had a lot of consequences.
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inverarity

The Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire, 1936-1945, by John Toland

A Pulitzer Prize-winning history of World War II from the Japanese perspective.


The Rising Sun

Random House, 1970, 954 pages



This Pulitzer Prize-winning history of World War II chronicles the dramatic rise and fall of the Japanese empire, from the invasion of Manchuria and China to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Told from the Japanese perspective, The Rising Sun is, in the author’s words, "a factual saga of people caught up in the flood of the most overwhelming war of mankind, told as it happened - muddled, ennobling, disgraceful, frustrating, full of paradox."

In weaving together the historical facts and human drama leading up to and culminating in the war in the Pacific, Toland crafts a riveting and unbiased narrative history.


This classic is one of the best Pacific War books.




My complete list of book reviews.
inverarity

The Rape of Nanking, by Iris Chang

In 1937, the Imperial Japanese Army committed possibly the greatest war crime in history.


The Rape of Nanking

Basic Books, 1997, 290 pages



In December 1937, in the capital of China, one of the most brutal massacres in the long annals of wartime barbarity occurred. The Japanese army swept into the ancient city of Nanking and within weeks not only looted and burned the defenseless city but systematically raped, tortured and murdered more than 300,000 Chinese civilians. Amazingly, the story of this atrocity- one of the worst in world history- continues to be denied by the Japanese government.

The Rape of Nanking tells the story from three perspectives: that of the Japanese soldiers who performed it; of the Chinese civilians who endured it; and finally of a group of Europeans and Americans who refused to abandon the city and were able to create a safety zone that saved almost 300,000 Chinese. It was Iris Chang who discovered the diaries of the German leader of this rescue effort, John Rabe, whom she calls the "Oskar Schindler of China." A loyal supporter of Adolf Hitler, but far from the terror planned in his Nazi-controlled homeland, he worked tirelessly to save the innocent from slaughter.


A book so dark it might have driven the author to suicide.




My complete list of book reviews.
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James Monroe: A Life, by Tim McGrath

In my presidential biography series, I come to the end of the Founding Fathers.


James Monroe: A Life

Dutton, 2020, 738 pages



Monroe lived a life defined by revolutions. From the battlefields of the War for Independence, to his ambassadorship in Paris in the days of the guillotine, to his own role in the creation of Congress's partisan divide, he was a man who embodied the restless spirit of the age. He was never one to back down from a fight, whether it be with Alexander Hamilton, with whom he nearly engaged in a duel (prevented, ironically, by Aaron Burr), or George Washington, his hero turned political opponent.

This magnificent new biography vividly recreates the epic sweep of Monroe's life: His near-death wounding at Trenton and a brutal winter at Valley Forge; his pivotal negotiations with France over the Louisiana Purchase; his deep, complex friendships with Thomas Jefferson and James Madison; his valiant leadership when the British ransacked the nation's capital and burned down the Executive Mansion; and Monroe's lifelong struggle to reckon with his own complicity in slavery. Elected the fifth president of the United States in 1816, this fiercest of partisans sought to bridge divisions and sow unity, calming turbulent political seas and inheriting Washington's mantle of placing country above party. Over his two terms, Monroe transformed the nation, strengthening American power both at home and abroad.

Critically-acclaimed author Tim McGrath has consulted an extensive array of primary sources, many rarely seen since Monroe's own time, to conjure up this fascinating portrait of an essential American statesman and president.


POTUS #5 gave us the Monroe Doctrine, Louisiana and Florida, and an "Era of Good Feelings" that lasted for about five minutes.




My complete list of book reviews.