Winston Spencer Churchill: Visions of Glory, 1874-1932 (The Last Lion #1)

0316545031.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Visions of Glory, 1874-1932 by William Manchester
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Before he became the face of the dogged determination in World War II and the voice of inspiration for the British people, Winston Churchill was a scion of a noble family looking to make his mark and coming close on many occasions. The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Visions of Glory, 1874-1932 is the first volume of William Manchester’s biographical trilogy which deals with Churchill’s early life and his adventurous political career until he was shunned by power and entered the political wilderness.

A scion of the ducal Marlborough family, Winston Spencer-Churchill was the eldest son of a second son and his American wife. Before even getting to Winston’s birth and life, Manchester paints the social, cultural, and political landscape he would be born into, be indoctrinated to believe in, and defend his entire life. Throughout his life, Winston would use the connections of his parent’s friends and acquaintances to advance himself early in his career while a boon to his military and early political careers it hardly made up for the fact that both his parents were aloof to his existence even for the times of the British upper class. Manchester relates Winston’s school misadventures and horrible academic record for the classical education expected off one of his station, but while he failed to understand Greek or Latin his “remedial” studies of English year after year would serve him the rest of his life as a journalist, author, and speaking in Parliament. While he served in wars in the frontier of the Empire, first in India then in Sudan, and afterwards in South Africa he initially went there as a “journalist” but used his military rank to join battles or was recruited by the commander on the spot to lead men. Upon the completion of the Boer War, during which he was taken prisoner and escaped, Winston entered politics in his eyes to take up his late father’s torch. Once on the floor of the House, Winston’s speeches were events to be listened to and to be written about in the papers. His familial connections got him in touch with the high circles of the Conservative party, but the issue of Free Trade and his own “radical” views on issues made him become a Liberal and soon found him apart of the new government the party form and would be until after the events connected with Gallipoli during the First World War resulted in him taking to the trenches on the Western Front. After a return to a position in the Government, Winston soon found him edging away from the Liberal Party that was dying in the face for the rise of the Labour Party and soon returned the Conservatives to be among their new Government. Yet the same tensions that made Winston leave the Party in the first place were still there but with more animosity but it was the issue of India sent Winston still a Conservative into the political wilderness that many of his political adversaries believed him to be finished, especially at his age.

In nearly 900 pages of text, Manchester not only details the first 58 years of Winston’s life but also the times he lived in while slowly setting things up for the final volume for the events in which he is most well-known to the public today. There seems to be a bias by Manchester towards Winston that does make it through to the page instead of a little more balanced writing in places, however Manchester does not shy away that Winston’s views and words around the India issue essentially were racist even though at the time it was common thought by many in Britain. Manchester gives balanced view of Winston’s relations with the working class while at the same time revealing why Labour and the press said he was against them. The account of the Dardanelles and Gallipoli campaign that is always blamed on Winston is given fully fleshed out including what actions Winston were accountable for and those he was not and why it was he that the failure was attached to.

Visions of Glory, 1874-1932 reveals the times and environment in which Winston Churchill was brought up and how they shaped him as he entered politics and attempted to rise to power. William Manchester gives a full picture of a young then middle-aged politician whose life was a roller coaster that influenced the British Empire its domestic and foreign affairs, but never held ultimate power and seemed never to. If one wants to know Churchill this book is a great place to start.

S.N. Haskell: Adventist Pioneer, Evangelist, Missionary, and Editor

0816361746.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_S.N. Haskell: Adventist Pioneer, Evangelist, Missionary, and Editor by Gerald Wheeler
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

A scion of New England culture who join a new faith born from the same location, his influence upon the Seventh-day Adventist church has been profoundly positive though in his zeal to defend it has had some negative consequences. S.N. Haskell: Adventist Pioneer, Evangelist, Missionary, and Editor is Gerald Wheeler’s second book of the Adventist Pioneer series as he follows the life of Ellen White’s most ardent defender and the impact he had on the church as well as how the times he grew up and lived in influenced him.

Wheeler begins his biography of Haskell by how he married his first wife Mary who was over two decades older than he was before describing the upbringing in the small New England town that made Haskell agree to this marriage even though he was about to become a preacher. After beginning preaching, Haskell interacted with Seventh-day Adventists and investigated the Sabbath then began keeping it though it was a visit by Joseph Bates that truly converted he and his wife. Once an Adventist, Haskell through himself into everything he could within the denomination from preacher to eventually administration—serving as president of three conferences at the same time across the country at one point—as well as writing articles from various publications. Though at first opposed to the Whites, because of his own dictatorial attitude but once confronted by Ellen through of her testimonies to him that opposition changed to become Ellen’s greatest defender. Wheeler relates Haskell’s career and its impact his first marriage in which his wife stayed at home and how things changed during his second marriage to Hetty who traveled with him around the world. Wheeler also goes into Haskell’s writing, marketing, organizational, and missionary endeavors throughout the book in which like many Adventist pioneers they were jacks-of-all-trades for the denomination. Throughout the last third of the book, Wheeler relates Haskell’s defending of Ellen White’s ministry in various ways but most particularly with the “daily” controversy and W.W. Prescott whom he did not trust, but his arguments in defense of White’s ministry injected elements of Fundamentalism into the denomination that would causes issues within the denomination at the end of this life and long afterwards.

Throughout the book Wheeler emphasizes the cultural background of various regions of the United States as well as the historical events happening in the nation and other nations that Haskell did missionary service in that influenced his time there. In the chapter end notes Wheeler would list numerous books that would further inform the reader about the cultural and historical trends that not only influenced Haskell but the Seventh-day Adventist Church as a whole. While Wheeler does discuss Haskell’s distrust of W.W. Prescott and his role in the “daily” controversy as well as the implications of his arguments in opposing Prescott because he believed Prescott was undermining Ellen White, but Wheeler seemed to avoid Haskell’s character assassination of Prescott to Ellen White as written seen in Gilbert M. Valentine’s biography of Prescott.

S.N. Haskell: Adventist Pioneer, Evangelist, Missionary, and Editor not only follows a pioneer of the Adventist denomination but also the times he lived in and the social trends before and during his life that affected him and the denomination. Gerald Wheeler’s scholarship and writing style makes this another great biography in the Adventist Pioneer series that anyone interested in the history of the denomination would want to read.

Seventh-day Adventist

A.G. Daniells: Shaper of Twentieth Century Adventism

081635880x.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_A.G. Daniells: Organizational Innovator by Ben McArthur
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The man tasked with heading the implementation of a new administrative structure of a growing world-wide church and later to lead that church after the death of its prophet. A.G. Daniells: Shaper of Twentieth Century Adventism by Benjamin McArthur follows the life of the longest-serving General Conference President in the history of the Seventh-day Adventist church which simultaneously corresponded with a rapidly changing world and church in the first two decades of the 20th Century.

McArthur efficiently covers Daniells early life in Iowa and his humble beginning in service of the denomination as a minister in the Iowa Conference and a missionary in Texas before being called to be a missionary in New Zealand. Then beginning with Daniells time in New Zealand and then Australia, McArthur details not only how Daniells time in the Southern Hemisphere made him a strong supporter of world missions but also brought forth his administrative skill as this faraway branch of the growing worldwide church innovated in bureaucracy to compensate for the distance away from world headquarters in the United States. Daniells return to the United States was the precursor to his election at the 1901 General Conference session to be President and the much-needed administrative overhaul of the church using the model Daniells had helped shape while overseas. McArthur’s attention to detail examples how this overhaul not only shaped the overall church, but Daniells presidency which was early dominated with the controversy with John Harvey Kellogg and the medical establishment of the church then the resulting fallout and need to reestablish the medical wing of the denomination. Among the biggest struggles McArthur’s book brought out was the budgetary reform to get the denomination out of debt, which played into the controversy with Kellogg, when building new institutions. But one thing was always in the forefront of McArthur’s analysis of Daniells’ presidency—and before—his relationship to Ellen G. White, whose opinion mattered not only to church officials but regular church members. And it would be his relationship with White and her prophetic gift that would end his presidency due to the rise of fundamentalism that crept into denomination and Daniells perceived lack of belief in her gift. McArthur closes out Daniells life with how he became an advisor to his two successors as well as his authorship of two important Adventist books including defending White’s prophetic gift.

Given the significance of Daniells time as General Conference president, McArthur focused the bulk of his biography on the 21 years he served in that office with extensive scholarship as seen in the citations at the end of each chapter. Though covering many topics over Daniells life, McArthur’s prose was engaging and allowing the reader to understand the interconnectedness of numerous issues Daniells had to deal without overwhelming them. One of the interesting things McArthur did early in the book to give context to Daniells and his time was comparing him important non-denominational figures who had a similar impact in their professions as he did with the General Conference, one of which was Theodore Roosevelt. But the most important facet of the biography was Daniells’ relationship with Ellen White and the gift of prophecy which McArthur’s scholarship is shown at its best.

A.G. Daniells: Shaper of Twentieth Century Adventism is not only the biography of one man but shows how the Seventh-day Adventist church’s administrative structure was reset to accomplish its mission to the world. Benjamin McArthur’s excellent scholarship and engaging writing gives the reader an insight into how significant this time in the church’s history is important for today and how one individual was able to use his skills to help move the denomination forward.

Seventh-day Adventist

K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches

0385541015.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches by Tyler Kepner
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Baseball is a simple game; a pitcher throws a ball towards a batter who swings either missing or hitting the ball to put it into play. K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches by Tyler Kepner explores the how the importance of the pitcher and the tools he uses has grown over 150 years of the sport as strategy has evolved along with and against it.

As the title of the book says, Kepner divides the book into ten chapters focusing on the different types of pitches that have endured throughout baseball history and some that have risen in prominence but have nearly faded away by the time of publication of the book. Through interviews and anecdotes from current and past players—both pitchers and hitters—that Kepner conducted himself or researched from past articles written as far back as the first decade of the 20th Century, the story of each pitch’s evolution and the prominent players that used them is discussed through particular careers and game situations that defined baseball history.

Kepner is extensive in his research in showing the history and the importance to the game that each pitch, through the careers of Hall of Famers or players that had spectacular runs for year but not an entire career. Yet Kepner had an issue with distinguish pitches that are very close to one another in one way or another though he tried his best, it wasn’t that I was looking for a tutorial on how to pitch but definitive elements about why pitches that appear similar to the casual fan are completely different and to me he didn’t quiet accomplish that.

K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches is a very good look at one of the most important positions in American sports over the course of 150 years and how the players who played the position were able to gain an advantage over their competitors.

Western Civilization since 1500

0964fb29968767759764b486577444341587343Western Civilization Since 1500 by Walther Kirchner
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

Covering over 450 years of history in a little over 300 pages seems a daunting task, even more so when it begins in Europe and slowly spreads across the globe. Western Civilization since 1500 by Walther Kirchner is a survey of the rise of European global dominance from the beginnings of “modern times” to the generation after World War II when the periphery powers of the United States and Soviet Union rose to dominance.

Kirchner spends the first 20 pages doing a quick recap of Western Civilization from its Sumerian beginnings to 1500. Then over the course of the next 300 pages, Kirchner divides the approximately 450+ years of history into 20 chapters of specific “eras” whether political and/or cultural developments and happenings. Unlike Kirchner’s previous survey, there was no real “highlight” for the general reader though the significance of some cultural individuals—writers, painters, composers, etc.—that in my own Western Civ and World History classes in high school and college were never mentioned or those that were mentioned that Kirchner didn’t thus showing the difference 30-35 years makes in historical studies. Kirchner obvious adherence to the Marxist theory of history was on full display, but it did not necessarily mean a favorable view of Communist regimes or leaders. As study aid for college students in the mid-1960s there were some interesting miscues (the misdating of the Battle of Yorktown stands out), omissions (the genocidal famine caused by the First Five Year Plan), and downright lies (that the U.S. citizens were sympathetic to the British from the beginning of WWII). Given that this book is over 50 years old there is dated terminology that wouldn’t be used today, not all for politically correct reasons, that would make the reader do a double take if they didn’t know when this book was published.

Though this small volume is meant as a study aid to college students and a quick reference for general readers, to which is essentially succeeds, it is pretty old and should be used by astute history readers to learn how the study of history has changed over time.

Western Civilization to 1500

Uriah Smith: Apologist and Biblical Commentator

082802779x.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Uriah Smith: Apologist and Biblical Commentator by Gary Land
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The man who came to personify the Review and Herald over 50 years of working on it going from one of the young pioneers to elder statesmen of the Second Advent movement. Uriah Smith: Apologist and Biblical Commentator by Gary Land chronicles the life of this indispensable yet very opinionated man who was influential with Adventist readers around the United States.

Land quickly covers Smith’s early life in New Hampshire including the two biggest events of that time, the loss of his leg at age 12 and his conversion to Millerism. This latter event eventually led to Smith’s joining the then small Sabbath-keeping Adventists led by Joseph Bates and the Whites, the latter Smith would impress when he submitted a 3,000-line blank verse poem about the foundation, rise, and progress of the Adventist movement leading to James White offering Smith a position at the Review and Herald. Smith did everything for the magazine from typesetting to editorials during his early years before James White took a backseat, letting the younger Smith take the lead. Throughout his tenure Smith would constantly cover Adventist doctrines and how present-day events had prophetic implications especially when it came to other Christians attempting to get through Sunday legislation on various levels of government. Yet Smith flirted with controversy throughout his time at the magazine and in denominational work from Battle Creek College to the 1888 Minneapolis meeting to confrontations with the General Conference leadership and getting admonished by Ellen White.

With a text of almost 250 pages, Land is quick and concise in his writing but not in his research as seen in his chapter endnotes. While the reader does get a very informative look at Smith’s life, there seems to be a rushed feeling with the biography. Unfortunately, this seems to be a consequence of Land working between cancer treatments to complete this and two other historical works that he finished just before his death.

Uriah Smith: Apologist and Biblical Commentator is the first biography of its kind in over 35 years through with a different perspective than previous books. Gary Land’s informative and concise wording gives the reader a better look at the man whose name is known in Adventist circles but his life is not.

The Curse of Oak Island: The Story of the World’s Longest Treasure Hunt

0802126936.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_The Curse of Oak Island: The Story of the World’s Longest Treasure Hunt by Randall Sullivan
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

The riddle wrapped in a mystery inside the enigma that is a small island just barely off the shore of Nova Scotia has tantalized and tortured people for over two centuries. The Curse of Oak Island by Randall Sullivan covers the history of the longest treasure hunt from the individuals involved in the hunt to the theories of what is or isn’t on the island including the History Channel reality series of the same name.

Building upon the Rolling Stone article he wrote 13 years before, Sullivan was invited back to the island by the producers of the reality show to write this book, appear on a few episodes of the show, and interview the Lagina brothers. Starting with the historical backdrop of the Oak Island area, Sullivan goes over the often-told discovery of the Money Pit but thorough research finds out that the named three discoverers is not agreed up as well as their biographies. Throughout his 220 year history, Sullivan goes into the numerous lead searchers as well numerous theories of who made the Money Pit and what they believed was buried in there from pirate/privateer treasure to French Royal Jewels to possessions of the Knights Templar to cultural treasures connected with Roger Bacon. The history of the last 60 years on the island which focuses on the now-deceased Fred Nolan and Dan Blankenship with their rivalry and how they joined the Laginas search as well as how the titular reality series came about is covered extensively compared to the earlier history as Sullivan had first-hand access to the participants.

Given the murky history of Oak Island, Sullivan did an excellent job and navigating everything connected with the long story of the Money Pit. However, the biggest grip I had was with the intertwining of the history and the various theories, I personally felt that it would have been better to break up the history of the search in two and have all the theories discusses in-between. Sullivan actually goes against the show’s narration of events several times in relating the history of the island and previous searchers, however he never discusses “the legend that seven must die” which is hinted at being the “curse” in the show’s open for the first four or five seasons.

The Curse of Oak Island is a fine look at the history surrounding the search of the Money Pit and the men who’ve dug on the Nova Scotia island. Randall Sullivan gave the reader an idea about the individuals who kept the search going and what they believed they were searching for while also showing the toll it took on them and the island itself. Overall it’s a fine book, but not laid out very well.

J. N. Loughborough: The Last of the Adventist Pioneers

0828026629.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_J. N. Loughborough: The Last of the Adventist Pioneers by Brian Eugene Strayer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An Advent preacher when he joined the embryonic Seventh-day Adventist movement in 1852, John Norton Loughborough would spend the next 72 years as a preacher and administrator before being the last of the pioneers to pass leaving lasting legacy to the denomination only behind Joseph Bates and the Whites. Brian E. Strayer’s J. N. Loughborough: The Last of the Adventist Pioneers is the first major biography of influential preacher, missionary, and Church historian that was a little man who cast a long shadow.

Strayer begins with an impressive family history that gives background not only to Loughborough but how he was raised, including the influence his grandfather had on his spiritual life, and how in his youth he was influenced by the Millerite message. Loughborough’s resulting spiritual wandering in the years after the Disappointment before deciding to become a “boy preacher” at age 17 among the Advent Christians then his introduction to Seventh-day movement and later conversion to Sabbath were give significant time as well. Yet 85% of the book took up Loughborough’s 72 years among the Seventh-day Adventist movement covering his time as a preacher, president of numerous conferences, missionary to fields both domestic and foreign, and finally Church historian who was the last link to the “early days” for 3rd- and 4th-generation Adventists in the late 1910s and 1920s. Throughout Loughborough’s relationships with other important and influential denominational leaders was examined including Ellen White whose admonishments were welcomed by Loughborough in contrast to other Adventist leaders some of whom would later leave and attack not only the denomination and White. Strayer covered in detail Loughborough’s fight against apostacy and his role as the first Church “historian” as well has the lasting influence he had in both areas among Adventists.

Given the place in denominational history that Loughborough, Strayer used a wide range of sources to give a thorough look at his subject including what surviving letters he could find (Loughborough burned his own) and Loughborough’s own diaries (that was saved by a nurse instead of destroyed upon his death). Unlike the only other biography of Loughborough that followed the subject’s own apologetic look at Adventist history, Strayer brought a critical eye to his subject including Loughborough’s Church history books that influenced Adventist historiography for half a century.

J. N. Loughborough is a well-written, well-researched look at the last pioneer of the Seventh-day Adventist movement. Brian Strayer showed the large footprint and long shadow this “little man” had had until this very day. This is a highly recommended biography for anyone interested in Adventist history.

Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush

1400067650.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush by Jon Meacham
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Coming to the Oval Office at a critical time in foreign and domestic affairs, the Presidency of George H.W. Bush was filled with successes and failures but guided by a steady hand. Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush by Jon Meacham brings together independent historical research and interviews from the former President and numerous family members as well as political colleagues and advisories to bring the life and career of the 41st President to readers.

Meacham begins the biography with a family history of G.H.W. Bush’s father and mother showing how their lives were shaped that would influence their second son and made him the competitive though ego suppressing individual he was. Though Meacham gave overall historical background for certain situations, this was a book focusing on the life of G.H.W. Bush and what he did throughout his life from his post-war decision to forgo an easy career on Wall Street to join the oil business to Texas and being his own man in politics and not agree with everything his father Prescott believed while serving in the Senate. A political career that had as many defeats as victories, G.H.W. Bush’s path to the White House was through public service, especially throughout the 1970s especially in the diplomat sphere that would later impact his handling of foreign affairs of his Presidency. Meacham covers the Vice Presidential and Presidential terms in detail which cover over half the book before ending with the former President’s unique retirement as elder statesman and father of a serving President of the United States and an analysis of his relationship with his son during those years.

Taking roughly a decade of research, interviews, and writing Meacham presents a thoroughly well-rounded view of the 41st President, Barbara Bush, and their relationships with their children within reason. The elder Bush and Barbara allowed Meacham a free hand in written and this is evident in their attitudes to individuals being put in print and Meacham analysis of various controversies particularly Iran-Contra scandal. If there is one drawback is that at the time of publication the 41st President was still alive with several years left to live and express his views on things, but also a biography after the subjects death allows time afterwards to fully analyze their lives and that difference was evident.

Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush is a very written and thorough biography of the 41st President of the United States. Like his other biographies, Jon Meacham’s research and analysis give a vivid description of his subject and his family. This is a highly recommended biography for anyone interested in the 41st President or the particular time in the 20th Century when he was in office.

A.T. Jones: Point Man on Adventism’s Charismatic Frontier

0828025622.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_A.T. Jones: Point Man on Adventism’s Charismatic Frontier by George R. Knight
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of the pivotal figures during the 1888 Minneapolis General Conference session on the debate about the Adventist view of righteousness by faith, he become one of the most influential leaders of the church for a decade before his extreme leanings lead him into apostasy. George R. Knight’s A.T. Jones: Point Man on Adventism’s Charismatic Frontier follows the life and career of one of Adventism’s most important figures for both good and ill as well as how he went from almost being General Conference President to be disfellowshipped in less than a decade.

Bringing decades worth of research and materials, Knight essentially begins his biography on Jones with his conversion to Seventh-day Adventism and the beginning of his ministerial career months later. He talent and ability got him noticed by the Whites and other denomination leaders allowing him to go to California to begin teaching at and editing denomination periodicals, including those focused on religious liberty. While in California, Jones met and studied with E.J. Waggoner forming a partnership that would last the rest of their lives during which they would oppose “the establishment” in the denomination beginning in the lead up to Minneapolis in 1888 and continuing even as they got General Conference leadership positions. After following the ramifications of the Minneapolis, Knight continued chronicling Jones’ life and career including his need to go to the extreme in his logic, arguments, and beliefs which would eventually lead to his battle against the denomination’s organizational structure that would force him against A.G. Daniells and joining the side of John Harvey Kellogg that would see both disfellowshipped from the church.

Given Jones controversial place in Adventist history, Knight was clear on which positions and theological developments that Jones championed are still with Adventists and which were too extreme officially but still have an influential strain even today. A part of this divide is how Ellen G. White reacted and corresponded with Jones on his thoughts and beliefs as well as the relationship between the two over the course of two decades. Unlike his colleague Waggoner, Jones’ family life was unfortunately not covered much but as Knight pointed out he late in his biography it was because he was never home to be a real father and husband or lived in the same state as his family during important periods in his life.

A.T. Jones gives a detailed view into the life, teachings, and career of one of the most important individuals in Adventism at the turn of the century. George R. Knight covers the ups and downs of Jones’ life as well as explaining his positions and how he developed them, but in a very readable and understandable way for lay readers without getting too technical. A highly recommended book for those interested in Adventist history.