We the People: The Modern-Day Figures Who Have Reshaped and Affirmed the Founding Father’ Vision of American

We the People: The Modern-Day Figures Who Have Reshaped and Affirmed the Founding Fathers' Vision of AmericaWe the People: The Modern-Day Figures Who Have Reshaped and Affirmed the Founding Fathers’ Vision of America by Juan Williams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received this book via LibraryThing Early Reviewers in exchange for an honest review.

What would the Founding Fathers think about America today? Is the question that Juan Williams looks at in his new book, We the People. Yet in trying to find the answer, Williams realized that the Founding Fathers would not recognize the United States of 2016 given what has occurred over the past 240 years, so he shifted his focus to those individuals who have shaped the nation since World War II by how they interpreted the words of the Founding Fathers.

Through 18 chapters, Williams examined numerous individuals and how they affected issues and movements that affect the United States today. These new members of the Found Father “family” as Williams calls them range from the notable such as Kennedy brothers, Martin Luther King Jr., Ronald Reagan, and Earl Warren to the lesser known such as Harry Hay, Robert Ball, and Robert Morris. The issues these individuals range from immigration to gun rights to environmentalism to the debate between the living constitution and originalism.

In each chapter, Williams gives an unbiased history of the issue under discussion as well as a biography of the individual or individuals that contributed to how the issue became important for us today. Although this might sound like it could be a plodding read, Williams writes in a crisp and engaging manner that results in the nearly 400 pages of text to pass swiftly for the reader while so informing them of the issue and individuals that made them important for 21st century Americans.

If there is one thing I wish Williams had done was a concluding chapter that would have addressed how some of the issues he presented interacted with one another. This would have also afforded Williams the opportunity while showing the interaction between issues to parallel how the interaction of 21st century issues to show parallels about 21st century issues interacted with one another just as issues the 18th century during the Founding Father era interacted with one another. I personally believe this reinforcing of his argument as well as the synthesis of the previous chapters would have created a stronger conclusion to the text than just the normal chapter ending that the reader got.

We the People could be seen as one of those “popular history” genre books glosses over things, but Williams’ prose and material goes deeper to give the reader a better understanding as to how 21st century America came to be as it is. The nearly 400 page of text is very reasonable for the average reader and the information provided within them really packs a punch. I would wholeheartedly recommend this book for those interested in history and/or politics.

View all my reviews

Cities of Empire: The British Colonies and the Creation of the Urban World

Cities of Empire: The British Colonies and the Creation of the Urban WorldCities of Empire: The British Colonies and the Creation of the Urban World by Tristram Hunt
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

I received an Advanced Reader’s Edition of this book via LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

The legacy of the economic and political practices of the growth of the British Empire and the implemented of those practices in colonial cities are at the root of Tristram Hunt’s “Cites of Empire”.  Instead of looking at the British Empire as either a good or bad “thing”, Hunt examines how it grew and the impact it has on our world today while not forgetting the motivations of those who implemented the policies in the first place.

Hunt examines 10 cities connected to the spread of Britain’s empire around the world, giving each city its own exclusive chapter.  While each city is given its own history, Hunt shows how the British experiences in one city affected their decisions in others he was writing about.  The history of a particular city is not the only thing covered with the individuals who impacted it; Hunt gives the reader a wonderful portrait of the cultural, social, and architectural developments along with those who promoted them.

While Hunt’s descriptive writing of the architectural are wonderful, the text would have been enhanced with illustrations of some kind of the building he was describing (thought as I was reading an advanced reader’s edition of the book there might be some in for sale edition).  The maps at the opening of each chapter helped to place the buildings and other geographical issues into context if one got confused for any reason.  Although Hunt’s insights into the society of the cities he writes about, at times the information he writes feels like a redux of previous cities’ and so slowed my reading as thought back on previous chapters.

Upon finishing “Cities of Empire” I had a better sense of the imperial history of British colonization, a topic in history that I have personally wanting to know more about.  Although not perfect, Tristram Hunt’s book gives the reader a history of the British Empire and its legacy in the 21st Century without judging or defending as good or evil.  I whole recommend this book to those interested in the spread of British culture around the world.

View all my reviews

Renegade: The Making of a President

Renegade: The Making of a PresidentRenegade: The Making of a President by Richard Wolffe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reading Richard Wolffe’s Renegade in the context of the last four years, instead of less than a year after Barack Obama’s 2008 victory, helps one realize how pragmatic the then junior of Illinois really was in his political thinking even as he challenged the establishment.  Throughout the book, Wolffe threads the narrative of the nearly two-year campaign with Obama’s biography and life experiences to help give an informed view of Barack Obama and how he used those experiences to shape his campaign and political policies he used.  But this book wasn’t a glorification nor idealization of Obama himself nor was to a glowing account about how perfect his entire campaign was, as Wolffe shows Obama angry and frustrated like anyone who was campaigning for President of the United States and highlighted the small and large mistakes members of the campaign made.

There were a few problems I had with the book, though both were how Wolffe decided to structure the material he presented and both played into one another.  The transitions between Obama’s personal experiences that helped shape him with the campaign issue that brought about said experience were not always ideal, which occasional resulted in some rough reading.  Combined with this was that Wolffe would jump back and forth along the two-year timeline in which the campaign took place, though it was partly understandable as Wolffe wanted to give the whole narrative of the issue he was covering but then returning to earlier in the timeline with the next issue was a little jarring.

Given both the positives and negatives this is a book I would recommend for anyone who seriously wants to understand how Barack Obama came to his policy views and how he changed from the junior senator from Illinois to major party nominee to President of the United States.

View all my reviews

The Monster of Florence

The Monster of FlorenceThe Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

The Monster of Florence is the first true crime book I’ve ever read and while I knew it was about a serial killer and the investigation in catching the perpetrator that went off the rails, then I read the book and couldn’t believe it. The first portion of the book detailed the killings themselves following Spezi’s steps as he reported the happens in and around Florence with the crimes then the various investigations that led to interesting trials. The second portion of the book saw Preston enter the story and how his life was turned around by the Monster case especially from the hands of Giuliano Mignini. The Afterward of Preston’s view of the then-developing Amanda Knox case in light of his own knowledge of Italian journalism and justice was very poignant when looking years back.

Although I have read about how many people didn’t like the details Preston gave about his own experience with the Italian justice system, but I thought it helped highlight one of the problems plaguing the Monster case which seemed to be the point of the book. While Preston and Spezi have come up with a likely candidate for the Monster himself, the fact that they must battle decades old conspiracy theories seems the longest shadow that has cast itself over this case.

View all my reviews