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SteamPunk Anthology

steampunkBook caught my eye at the library. Thought it would be cool to learn about Steampunk. I was wrong.

 

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Sarah Vowell – Unfamilar Fishes

unfamilar_fishesLoved her book of essays, Partly Cloudy Patriot, but not so crazy about this one.

Unfamiliar Fishes is a short book about the history of Hawaii. One sentence summary: Ruled by a monarchy for many years, visited by many foreigner sailors, and then by Christian missionaries, whose ancestors gradually took over the government, which lead eventually to it being annexed by the United States. Like most history, a very sordid story.

In my opinion Vowell get’s a bit carried away with mundane details that most people, including me, won’t find all that interesting. On the other hand, it’s an unfamiliar story, I learned a lot.

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The Partly Cloudy Patriot – by Susan Vowell

partlycloudypatriotSometimes you read a book by an author and you make a real connection with his work. For example, I pretty much love everything Hunter Thompson wrote. I have nothing in common with him on a personal level. Love books but I don’t think I’d like to have spent time with  him.

Other times, you read a book and you really make a connection with the author. I felt that  way with this book. The contents – a series of short essays mostly on historical topics – is interesting, but from the stories I got the sense she’s a lot like me – a fellow weirdo.

 

 

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Alexander Hamilton: American – by Richard Brookhiser

alexander_hamilton_bioAlexander Hamilton in a few words: Amazing rags-to-riches story, from West Indies born orphan boy, to  aide George Washington, a lawyer, and perhaps the greatest Federalist of all. Weird ideas about the Constitution, a generally negative opinion of the abilities of the common man, but undoubtedly correct about the need for a strong federal government, banking system, standing army.

Like many great men, Hamilton also had great weaknesses. A crazy affair with a married  woman, an affair he continued even after  she blackmailed him. A tendency towards backstabbing to get his way. As Oliver Wolcott  said: “…on certain points, the most enlightened men are governed by the most unsound reasons.”

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American Sphinx – The Character of Thomas Jefferson by Joseph J. Ellis

Just finished this biography of Thomas Jefferson. It’s one of those biographies that focus less than I’d prefer on the facts of Jefferson’s life and more on what the author thinks about Jefferson, or what the author thinks Jefferson might have thought.

Jefferson was a real weirdo, my kind of guy. Walked around singing to himself all the time. So shy he couldn’t speak in front of large groups, so instead wrote all his ideas down, which was good for history but must have been frustrating for his contemporaries. Two terms as president and almost never spoke to Congress, and not often with his own cabinet.

Bummer to learn that the “small government” and “states rights” mumbo-jumbo GOP-speak started with Jefferson. At least Jefferson held these ideas because he was afraid of a return of a monarchy, not because he wanted shut down government assistance programs.

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Founding Rivals: Madison vs. Monroe by Chris DeRose

Continuing my study of the founding fathers. The book is basically two mini-biographies of Madison and Monroe, and is especially focused on how Madison shaped the Constitution, and how Monroe almost derailed him by running against him for a seat in the House of  Representatives. Madison won, barely, and went on to write the Bill of Rights and eventually got most of it passed through Congress.

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James Monroe: The American Presidents Series: The 5th President, 1817-1825 – by Gary Hart

Finished this book yesterday. After reading David McCullough’s eight hundred pager on John Adams, it was a relief to read Hart’s reasonably concise biography of James Monroe.

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John Adams – David McCullough

john_adamsI’ve read several of McCullough’s books – The Great  Bridge,  Truman, Johnstown Flood. Always enjoyed them. I’ve been struggling a bit with this one. I don’t think it’s the book, I think I’m just tired of the subject. I just finished a biography of George Mason and another of George Washington, so the information is getting repetitive.

Few tidbits about the book……