Big (Christmas) Box of Books
My Grandfather's Son: A Memoir by Clarence Thomas (Harper) Justice Clarence Thomas gets to present his own unfiltered account of where he came from, what he believes and who did or didn't help him get onto the Supreme Court. By all accounts a brutally honest memoir, National Review editor Rich Lowry says it is a "great American story" that if it were not written by a black conservative would be "hailed as a kind of classic, a powerful, moving tale of a black man's ascent from bone-crushing poverty to the pinnacle of the American system of government. An excerpt:
I was nine years old when I met my father. His name was M. C. Thomas, and my birth certificate describes him as a "laborer." My mother divorced him in 1950 and he moved north to Philadelphia, leaving his family behind in Pinpoint, the tiny Georgia community where I was born. I saw him only twice when I was young. The first time was when my mother called her parents, with whom my brother Myers and I then lived, and told them that someone at her place wanted to see us. They called a cab and sent us to her housing-project apartment, where my father was waiting. "I am your daddy," he told us in a firm, shameless voice that carried no hint of remorse for his inexplicable absence from our lives. He said nothing about loving or missing us, and we didn't say much in return--it was as though we were meeting a total stranger--but he treated us politely enough, and even promised to send us a pair of Elgin watches with flexible bands, which were popular at the time. Though we watched the mail every day, the watches never came, and when a year or so had gone by, my grandparents bought them for us instead. My father had broken the only promise he ever made to us. After that we heard nothing more from him, not even a Christmas or birthday card. For years my brother and I would ask ourselves how a man could show no interest in his own children. I still wonder.
American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic by Joseph J. Ellis (Knopf) Focusing on the formative years between 1776 and 1803, the author of "Founding Brothers" posits that the American Revolution was actually a slowly occurring evolution that provided the time it needed for its social changes to take root and last. Writing in The New York Times, Jon Meachem praises Ellis for going beyond the knee-jerk critique that the Founders were flawed and imperfect because they put off settling the issue of slavery. He says Ellis "shares the founders' tragic sensibility, finding redemption in seeking the good rather than in achieving the perfect. The wisdom of the American founding lies in the recognition that the former is possible, and the latter is not. An excerpt:"
"In short, the decision to secede from the British Empire was accompanied by a truly revolutionary agenda for the infant American republic. But the most prominent leaders, John Adams chief among them, insisted on the deferral of the revolutionary agenda and, in some instances, its postponement into the distant future. Instead of regarding this gradualist approach as a moral and political failure, a conclusion that historians on the left regard as, shall we say, self-evident, the argument offered here is just the opposite. In my judgment the calculated decision to make the American Revolution happen in slow motion was a creative act of statesmanship that allowed the United States to avoid the bloody and chaotic fate of subsequent revolutionary movements in France, Russia, and China."
The Terrorist Watch: Inside the Desperate Race to Stop the Next Attack by Ronald Kessler (Crown Forum) Best-selling author Kessler says it's no accident and it's not dumb luck that has prevented a serious terrorist threat on American soil. Using his famed access to FBI and CIA counterterrorism insiders, he shows that terrorists are still out there trying to do us harm but they are being found and captured. His book includes an account of the FBI agent who spent eight months interrogating/befriending Saddam Hussein after his capture.
Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher: A Political Marriage by Nicholas Wapshott (Sentinel HC) Everyone knows Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher were strong allies who shared the same political goals -- lower taxes, deregulation, free trade and the demise of the Soviet Union. But New York Sun editor Wapshott uses hundreds of recently declassified private letters and telephone calls to show that backstage they had a far more complex, personal and sometimes testy relationship.
Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States by Trita Parsi (Yale University Press) Parsi gets high praise from the likes of geopolitical all-stars Francis Fukuyama, Zbigniew Brzezinski and Israeli former foreign minister Shlomo Ben-Ami. Ben-Ami calls the book "a sober and original analysis" of the complex, collusive ways Iran, Israel and the United States interact with each other -- and, as Brzezinski says, how Iran and Israel manipulate U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.
The Fall of the House of Bush: The Untold Story of How a Band of True Believers Seized the Executive Branch, Started the Iraq War, and Still Imperils America's Future by Craig Unger (Scribner) An investigative reporter and author of the best-selling "House of Bush, House of Saud," Unger says it was not an intelligence failure that allowed George Bush to lead us into war in Iraq after 9/11. It was "an intelligence success" that deliberately sabotaged the CIA, created a false reality and allowed a tag-team of neoconservatives and right-wing Christians to hijack the executive branch, direct Middle East foreign policy and get President Bush to do what wiser heads -- including his father -- were passionately warning him not to do.
The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World by Alan Greenspan (Penguin Press HC) A combination of autobiography and insider's guide to the global economy from a central banker whose tone of voice could make it flutter up or down, ex-Fed Chairman Greenspan reveals more about others -- including presidents Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton and Bush 43 -- than about himself. Despite the subject matter, The New York Times reviewer said "large parts of the book are downright entertaining."
The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War by David Halberstam (Hyperion) Arguably one of the greatest journalists of his era, Halberstam's last work lets the GIs and the generals describe many events in a bloody, mistake-prone war that ended in a truce in 1953. Thugs as Stalin, Mao and North Korea's Kim Il Sung are players and puppeteers in the war. But Halberstam makes Douglas MacArthur his top villain for believing he could make a dash to the Yalu River without bringing the Red Chinese into the war.