He is certainly one of the great writers of our time. Truman (Simon & Schuster, 1992) is a terrific and comprehensive biography of America’s favorite autocratic president. The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris (Simon & Schuster, 2011) makes you want to book a flight and get in a time machine to travel backwards.
There have been plenty of books about the Wright Brothers, and their escapades with the flying machine. But, something tells me that in McCullough’s book, we will experience that familiar story in a way that no one else has provided it.
McCullough is a two-time Pulitzer prize winner. He also wrote books about John Adams and Albert Einstein. He weaves details in a storybook fashion that few writers can copy. I found this positive quote about him on the web site for the National Endowment for the Humanities, of which he was a 2003 Jefferson lecturer: “David McCullough throws himself into the research of his subjects, tracing the roads they traveled, reading the books they read, and seeing the homes they lived in. His diligence pays off in detailed and engaging narratives.”
We are just under two months away from its release, and his new book is already # 1 on the Amazon.com best-selling list in scientists, aerospace, and history. Overall, it is # 303 in book sales – two months away!
And, just for credibility, my order for the book is in the queue.
We may see this book at the First Friday Book Synopsis. That all depends upon how “businessy” the book turns out to be.
In the meantime, May 15 cannot come soon enough.
I am thrilled to read that David McCullough will be the featured speaker for the JFK Memorial Anniversary ceremony on November 22, 2013. This event will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the fatal shooting in downtown Dallas.
McCullough has positioned himself as the premier biographer in contemporary literature. You are aware of his prolific work on John Adams and Harry Truman, but I thought that 1776 and The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris were simply over the top.
To read more about his selection as the keynote speaker, go to this link:
I have studied the JFK assassination for many years. I was 9 years old when he came to Dallas. My mother let me stay home to watch his speech on television, which, of course, he never gave. The conspiracy theories are interesting, but when you look at what we know, not what we can speculate about, there was only one killer in Dealey Plaza on November 22. The best resource for this is the amazing and comprehensive work by Vincent Bugliosi entitled Reclaiming America.
The 50th anniversary of this event will bring about many more books. Right now, at the top of the non-fiction list is Bill O’Reilly’s book Killing Kennedy. How many more will we see? How many more do we need?
I don’t know the answer to those questions. But I do know this – the anniversary is not a VIP-event, but it does require a ticket. There will be only a few available. You can bet your bottom dollar that I will have one. I will be there – it will be a memory of a lifetime.
What do you think? Let’s talk about it really soon!
You may have been mildly surprised to read the story on Sunday distributed by the Associated Press, revealing that Clifton Truman Daniel, the grandson of former President Harry S. Truman, visited Hiroshima, where he attended a memorial service for the victims killed by the August 6, 1945 bombing, and laid a wreath at the Peace Memorial Park.
You can read the entire text of that article by Eric Talmadge here.
The weight of making the decision on President Truman to drop the bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki were never better chronicled than in the great biography, Truman, written by David McCullough (Simon and Schuster, 1993). His account actually makes you feel as if you were agonizing over that decision as well.
Note that Daniel’s visit was the first ever to the site by a member of the Truman family, some 67 years after the bombings. During the visit he said, “I think this centopath says it all – to honor the dead, to not forget, and to make sure that we never let this happen again….There are other opinions, there are other points of view, and I don’t think we evr finish talking about that.”
The article notes that Daniel chose to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki because he needed to understand the consequences of his grandfather’s action, and that he is committed to help achieve a nuclear-free world.
I don’t know about you, but the tone seems to indicate that, under the same circumstances, he would not acted as his grandfather, and would not have dropped the bombs. Does his presence and activity there signal regret, or go even further, as an apology?
I find that still today discussions about the two bombings are acrimonious, with people taking sharp polar positions about the legitimacy and need for the atomic attacks. I also find that very few people understand the agony that President Truman experienced while making the decision. A re-read of McCullough’s biography will help fill that gap. Young people in history classes are taught to consider the ethics of the action.
I find myself unsure what good this visit by Truman’s grandson really produced. It was not an official visit by an American elected official, nor sanctioned by the United States government. From all appearances, he did this for himself, by himself, and perhaps that is all it was, to provide personal fulfillment.
But, the visit was also symbolic. Ignoring it for 67 years as the family had done speaks for itself; calling it to attention in the limelight such as this event raises new questions. Regardless, it doesn’t bring back the 210,000 people who were killed, and it simply gets us to speculate about familial solidarity. More importantly, it doesn’t help us understand the two bombings any better, and it doesn’t prevent it from happening again.
And what do you think about it? Let’s talk about this really soon!
Here you go – this is my list of the Best of 2011 in a number of categories.
Best Business Book: The 3rd Alternative by Stephen Covey (New York: Free Press) – this book explains and promotes a tired “win-win” philosophy in a fresh way, opening up applications in multiple contexts for many people who give lip service to the concept likely have never thought of before. It didn’t stay on the best-seller lists long enough.
Best Non-Fiction Book: The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough (New York: Simon & Schuster) – I didn’t think he could ever top the biography he wrote called Truman, but this is a highly readable, novel-like approach of an important segment of American history, as played out overseas.
A close second: Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero by Chris Matthews (New York: Simon & Schuster) – I’ve read a lot of books about JFK, and many a lot longer than this one, but I have never learned so much as I did with this account. Lots of inside information from an outside perspective by this MSNBC giant.
Best Fiction Book: 11-22-63 by Stephen King (New York: Scribner) – A fantasy about a high school teacher who travels back in time, attempting to change history, with the first stop in 1958. Quite a story! The picture of the author on the inside cover makes him look so intense!
Best Movie: Shame starring Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan. directed by Steve McQueen (Fox Searchlight films) – this is not entertaining, and a very difficult movie to watch, but it demonstrates the challenges that 3-5 million Americans with sex addictions face better than any documentary ever has or could.
Best Sporting News: Paterno and Penn State Fall – this is not a happy story, but time unravels strange tales, and a giant in a successful program faces the music, and we cannot ignore it; at the Ticket City Bowl on Monday, I saw two t-shirts: one said, “Joe Knows Football,” and another, “What Does Joe Know?” Unfortunately, with his diminishing physical condition, we may never find out.
Best Entertainer: Taylor Swift – a 22-year old captivates audiences and the music world with original songs from the heart, and she bonds with her listeners of all ages at concerts in ways that we have not seen since the Beatles; the song Story of Us will resonate with many people who have had heartbreaking relationships
Best Television Program: Friday Night Lights – when its final episode aired this spring, I realized how good it was, and how much I will miss it; if you never saw it, purchase the series on DVD’s.
Best News Story: Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami in May – riveting images of horror and sorrow followed by amazing stories of international and personal help and relief show the greatest contrast in bad and good that you could ask to see, and there still remains a lot of work to do.
What do you think? Let’s talk about it.
Obviously, I read a lot of business books, but I also enjoy other types as well. I read novels from Stuart Woods, Catherine Coulter, Harlen Cohen, John Sanford, and I really miss Robert B. Parker, who passed away last year.
I like non-fiction also. A great best-seller that is now available is by David McCullough, The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris (Simon and Schuster, 2011). McCullough is the authorized biographer for Harry Truman, and that book was cryptically called Truman. He also wrote 1776, featuring great stories of our country’s founders. His books have obviously focused on events in the Western Hemisphere, so this one is a departure from what we are familiar with from his writing.
The Greater Journey is about Americans who traveled to Paris between 1830 and the early 1900’s. Obviously, they went by sea, and the book chronicles the fascination that several Americans had with the Parisian arts, dining, and other aspects of its culture. Among the characters in the book are famous names such as Samuel Morse, Charles Sumner, George Healy, and Nathaniel Hawthorne.
One thing to keep in perspective as you read this book is that comparing America to Paris in this time period is like comparing apples and oranges. As a nation, America was only 54-125 years old. We were an infant compared to the much longer heritage and history that Paris offered these people. Of course, almost every aspect of culture and civilization that these Americans experienced was better in Paris. That is only because Paris had much more time to develop them.
I particularly enjoyed these Americans’ fascination with Parisian food, art, and culture. Of course, most of these people that McCullough chronicles in the book had the money and resources to go first-class.
And, you could still do that today if you went to Paris. If you don’t want to do that, this book is a great way to experience the culture from a previous era. Remember that many of the items that McCullough includes are still open and active in Paris today – the most famous being the Louvre museum.
What do you think? Let’s talk about it!