The Spectacle Blog

Books I Read in November & December 2013

By on 12.25.13 | 5:02PM

Recently, Ben Brophy began showcasing the reading selections of various staff members of The American Spectator. I am glad he has embarked upon this monthly feature. In November 2010, I began compiling a list of the books I have read. This was inspired by singer/actor Art Garfunkel who has kept a list of every book he has read since November 1968.

With that, here is what I have read in November and December 2013.

David Mendell Obama: From Promise to Power (2007)

Mendell, a former reporter for The Chicago Tribune, began covering Obama while he was running for the U.S. Senate in 2004. This is primarily an account of that race, his speech at the ’04 Democratic National Convention and the earliest stages of his 2008 White House bid. While Mendell is sympathetic to Obama, he is not slobbering and does not hesitate to point out his shortcomings. If only more people had taken note of this book perhaps we would not be in our present state of affairs.

Neil Young Waging Heavy Peace (2012)

This rock autobiography is not chronological or linear. Rather it alternates between the past and present. What interested me most about Young’s book was his time in Fort William, Ontario in the early 1960’s as a member of The Squires. It was there he would meet Stephen Stills with whom he would collaborate in Buffalo Springfield and later with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. In 1970, Fort William and Port Arthur would amalgamate to become Thunder Bay, my hometown.

Charles Peters Five Days in Philadelphia (2005)

This is an account of the 1940 Republican Convention which would nominate Wendell Willkie over Robert Taft and Tom Dewey. Peters argues how Willkie’s nomination gave Franklin Delano Roosevelt the political space necessary to mobilize public support for providing aid to a beleaguered Great Britain in the early days of WWII and eventually result in the passage of the Lend-Lease Agreement the following year.

William S. White The Taft Story (1954)

This book was published the year after the sudden death of Senator Robert Taft, who in the 1940s and early 1950s was known as Mr. Republican. White, who was the Washington correspondent for The New York Times and covered Taft for nearly a decade, provides a comprehensive overview of Taft’s life and career. The book highlights Taft’s passion for the Constitution, his skepticism towards The New Deal and internationalism, the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act, his failed bids for the GOP nomination in 1940, 1948 and 1952 as well as his cordial but complicated relationship with Dwight Eisenhower.

Tom Dunkel Color Blind: The Forgotten Team That Broke Baseball’s Color Line (2013)

More than a decade before Jackie Robinson stepped out on Ebbets Field, integrated baseball was being played in Bismarck, North Dakota. Neil Churchill, a car dealer, became an unlikely baseball pioneer and fielded some of the finest semi-pro teams in the United States in the 1930s. These teams played throughout the Midwest and in Canada. They included legendary Negro League players such as Satchel Paige, “Double Duty” Ted Radcliffe and Quincy Trouppe.

Eugene McCarthy The Year of the People (1969)

Published the year after his quixotic bid for the Democratic Party presidential nomination, the first hand account provides a fascinating portrait of American politics at the height of the Vietnam War. In a recent article, I used excerpts from this book to contrast McCarthy’s vision of the presidency to that of Barack Obama.

Ben Bradlee, Jr. The Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted Williams (2013)

It took more than a decade for Bradlee to write this book. The result is the most exhaustive account of the last man to hit .400. In 800 pages, Bradlee reports on Williams’ colorful life – good, bad and ugly. I plan to write about The Kid in greater detail in the coming days.

Scott Walker with Marc Thiessen, Unintimidated: A Governor’s Story and a Nation’s Challenge (2013)

Currently, I am reading Scott Walker’s account of how he took on the public sector unions in Wisconsin and won. Walker and Thiessen have collaborated on an engaging memoir. This won’t be the last we hear from the Governor of Wisconsin.

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