Saturday, August 24, 2013

Book review - The Wide World of Aaron Burr.

Published in 1975, Helen Orlob's The Wide World of Aaron Burr is a simple overview of Burr's life. In just 116 pages Orlob follows Burr from birth to death. Of course, with such limited space, the work never enters in depth into any area of Burr's life.

After having read several books about Aaron Burr or concerning areas of his life, I must say I wish I read this book first. It's a quick read and gives the basic facts of the life of Aaron Burr. If you are looking for an introduction to Burr, or an outline to fill in with other reading, then The Wide World of Aaron Burr is a book you need to take a day or two and read.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Book review - Tales of Old-Time Texas.

J. Frank Dobie's 310 page book, Tales of Old-Time Texas was published in 1955. The book is a collection of stories on various topics occurring in Texas up through the late 1880's.

The book starts off with several tales that are likely true but soon moves into tall tales and wild yarns. My favorite account was the telling of the Wild Woman of the Navidad - likely based on true accounts.

Usually Mr. Dobie introduces a new topic by explaining the type of story to be told and giving a little background of how he collected the account he relates. If he has the story in original writing he reproduces it in the body of his work.

Tales of Old-Time Texas is a quick and enjoyable read but not necessarily an informative one at all times. A few of the accounts probably took place, at least in some form. Most are likely just whoppers created by Texans in an attempt to top other similar stories. If the you keep that in mind while reading Dobie's work, you will find it entertaining and humorous.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Book review - Polk and the Presidency.

President James K. Polk is perhaps best known for putting the philosophy of Manifest Destiny into action by adding Texas, California, New Mexico, and Oregon to the United States. That's about all I knew of President Polk before I read Charles A. McCoy's Polk and the Presidency.

This 225 page work was published in 1961. It is not the typical biography of an American president. In fact, Mr. McCoy does not include any personal information about James Polk the man and only a smattering of background information about James Polk the politician prior to his election to the presidency of the United States.

What the book does do is give an in-depth analysis of the one-term administration of James K. Polk. McCoy covers Polk's effectiveness in foreign affairs, advancing his domestic agenda, dealing with congress, and attempting to shape public opinion among other areas of action. Also included is how Polk impacted how we view the office of President of the United Sates today. Following in President Jackson's footsteps, Polk continued to enlarge the scope of the presidency and make it a popular office rather than the republican office the founders envisioned it to be.

After reading Polk and the Presidency I felt as if I gained a much better understanding of just who Polk was as president and how he impacted the political lineage of the nation. If you're looking for who James K. Polk was and why he did what he did, this book is not for you. If you are wanting to better understand what impact he had on the nation, besides adding to it geographically, you should not pass up the chance to read Mr. McCoy's work.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Book review - October 1964.

My Dad, Spiff Jr, and I are replaying the 1964 National League season through the magic of Strat-O-Matic. That meant when I saw David Halberstam's October 1964 I immediately wanted to read it.

The name of the book is not an accurate reflection of the contents, there is so much more included than just October. Mr. Halberstam uses most of the book to set the stage for the October showdown between the New York Yankees and the St Louis Cardinals. That means he goes back to the Spring of 1964 and traces each team's journey to the World Series as they traveled through the season. Also included are player backgrounds to help explain the make-up of each team.

Once the foundation is laid, Halberstam uses the last quarter of his book to cover the climatic encounter pitting the aging Yankees against the young and upstart Cardinals. All seven games of the Series are walked through along with updates on how the teams were handling the results. After the World Series ends there is a short section on what happened to the key figures after October of 1964.

Written thirty years after the fact, October 1964 is largely drawn from personal interviews the author had with some of the participants in the drama and from accounts written at the time or shortly thereafter. The result is predictably interesting. Halberstam does an excellent job of crafting the tale and drawing the reader into the story. It almost feels as if the 1964 season and World Series is unfolding as he writes.

Whether you are a baseball fan in general or a fan of one of the two teams involved you owe it to yourself to read this book. I had high expectations when I picked it up and none of them were disappointed.