Tag Archives: Destiny of a Republic

2016 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 2

The best books I read in 2016…take two! 

Orphan Justice: How to Care for Orphans Beyond Adopting by Johnny Carr and Laura Faidley

Orphan Justice is a blunt look at the intellectual and emotional problem of orphans and the way society handles, or rather doesn’t handle, them. While promoting adoption, this book also focuses on solutions that help orphans beyond adopting. It addresses many issues facing society from child trafficking and HIV/AIDS to racism and poverty. A very convicting, challenging read. 

Georgette Heyer by Jennifer Kloester

Georgette Heyer is one of my favorite authors and I really enjoyed reading about her life. This book has its problems, perhaps more than others on this list, but it was such a treat to read about an author I deeply adore, even after learning about her flaws. And Heyer definitely had her flaws. From her inability to manage her finances to her weird marriage to her extreme shyness, Heyer was a strange, snobbish woman who yet remains extremely recognizable. She really is “to be found in [her] work.” A definite must-read for all Heyer-lovers. 

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley 

Despite its bizarre premise, Frankenstein was a really good read. Though the details in the writing occasionally got on my nerves (this was the age of Romanticism), the overall plot was captivating and tumultuous. It is Gothic horror. The Gothic portion gives it historical importance; the horror gives it a timeless interest. The book is a great combination of literary merit with themes about morality, responsibility, etc. and is full of genuinely good storytelling. It is an English major’s book but also Bookworm’s book too. Win, win.

The Mysterious Affair At Styles by Agatha Christie 

Christie’s first mystery, The Mysterious Affair At Styles also introduces her starring detective, Hercule Poirot. Emily Inglethorp rules Styles, but when she is suddenly found dead, her new neighbor Poirot is called in to find out why! This book was marvelous. There were a host of interesting characters and a most naive but endearing narrator. I enjoyed the story thoroughly and was kept guessing the whole time.

Destiny of a Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard 

This is a biography about the assassination of President James A. Garfield. I knew very little about Garfield going into the book and was pleasantly surprised by how readable and informative it turned out to be. I have a greater understanding of him as a president and era he lived in. I especially appreciated reading this one during an election year.  It reminded me that as dreary and depressing as this political season has been, America has weathered worse. As a country, we’ve dealt with corruption, assassinations, and Civil War. We survive and move on. Well worth reading! 

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Shorter than I expected, but exceptionally good regardless. It wasn’t over the top but still dark and interesting. I was most fascinated by Dr. Jekyll’s initial reaction to Hyde. Unlike Dr. Frankenstein, who gets all pale and wussy because he created something ugly, Dr. Jekyll initially celebrates his alter-ego. He puts aside Hyde because of society’s condemnation, but it isn’t until he sees his friend’s abhorrence that he really understands what he did. Really fascinating. 

Operation Mincemeat: How a Dead Man and a Bizarre Plan Fooled the Nazis and Assured an Allied Victory by Ben Macintyre 

In 1943, the Allied forces wanted the Axis to think they were attacking Sardinia rather than their actual target, Sicily. To convince them, British intelligence concocted a crazy scheme involving a dead body, forged papers, fake German spies, and the Spanish government. In this bizarre but true account, Macintyre masterfully recounts the story of the men who influenced and enacted the deception. I highly, highly recommend this one. 


Destiny of the Republic

Today I finished reading Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard.  In it, Millard weaves together the brief presidency of James A. Garfield, the egotistic insanity of Garfield’s killer, and the ineptitude of the doctors who surrounded him. Alexander Graham Bell played a role in this drama, as did the ideas Joseph Lister, whose warnings about germs were unfortunately ignored.
I knew very little about President Garfield going in to this book and was pleasantly surprised by how readable and informative it turned out to be. I have a greater understanding of him as a president and era he lived in. Highly recommended. 

However, what stood out to me most from this read wasn’t Garfield’s assassination, but the political machinations that surrounded him during his presidency. The political world he lived in was remarkably like our own. I think it is easy to assume that mud-slinging and politicking are a recent phenomenon, maybe something introduced after WW2. However, humanity hasn’t changed that much over the past few hundred years. Political parties were divided and divisive. Ambitions reigned and many men fought tooth and nail for the prestige of becoming president. Corruption was rampant and positions were appointed based on political connections and favors rather than merit.  

It has often been noted that President Obama entered the White House with very little experience. However, Chester A. Arthur, who followed President Garfield, arguably wins that competition. Prior to becoming Vice President (and then President) of the United States, his only public position was Collector of the New York Customs House, a job he was later fired from! 

I really appreciate reading Destiny of the Republic. It reminded me that as dreary and depressing as this political season has been, America has weathered worse. As a country, we’ve dealt with corruption, assassinations, and Civil War. We’ve had great and lousy presidents. No matter how bad a single election might look, it isn’t the end of the story. It is only another chapter. 


Whatcha Reading…? 5/29/16 Book Update

Not only did I finish all the books I recorded in my May 27th post (except for Eligible, which I gave up on), I’ve started a whole new set! I am not very far into them, so this post might be a tad precipitous, but I have started so many good ones I have decided to share them early. They are:

Lincoln’s Sword by Douglas L. Wilson, Wayfarer by Lili St. Crow, The Mentor Leader by Tony Dungy, Destiny of a Republic by Candice Millard, The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradely, and on audio, Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift. I started reading Raising Dragons by Bryan Davis, but the ridiculous plot and goody-two-shoes hero quickly lost my interest. 

Lincoln’s Sword has been on my to-read list for a while, specifically, since March 8th, 2010. While there are plenty of Lincoln biographies out there already, this one provides the intriguing premise of focusing solely on Lincoln as a writer. The author looks at 9 different passages  (ranging from the famous Gettysburg Address to his less famous Message of July 4th, 1861) and analyzes how the words shaped the vocabulary of a nation. Highly readable and with a unique premise, this book promises to be an engaging read all the way through.

Wayfarer is the sequel/companion book to Nameless. Nameless was intriguing but didn’t live up to its potential. I don’t have high hopes for Wayfarer, a Cinderella retelling, but at the same time, I enjoy the originality of the dystopian setting and hoping the author improves in this story. 

The Mentor Leader is another long time to-read. The name says it all. I am excited to read something by Tony Dungy and I think this book will have good personal and professional application. I’m not far into the book, but it seems like Dungy’s philosophy fits right along with the Market Based Management culture adopted by AFP.

Destiny of a Republic came highly recommended from two people I know. It is a biography about President Arthur and the man who tried to assassinate him. I don’t know much about Arthur and I am looking forward to learning something new! He seems to have been a very remarkable man. 

The War That Saved My Life is another recommendation, this one from my friend Ginnie. When I first read the synopsis, I thought it would be a picture book. However, it is a full 316 pages! This is the story of Ada, a young girl with a twisted foot who has never been outside of her house. However, when her brother is evacuated to the country during WW2, Ada sneaks along with him. This is a chance for a new life…until her abusive Mom tries to get her back. So far a light, yet emotional, read that I am excited to get further into. 

Finally, Gulliver’s Travels. I’ve tried reading this one at least 3 times already. After finishing Robinson Crusoe, I’m inspired to just finish it!