Baker’s Dozen: 13 Presidential Biographies to Read in 2016

I hope to work on my US presidents project this year as I read some of the biographies (and autobiographies) that I picked out a few years ago for this project. Thursdays seem like a good day to update my progress on the Presidents Project, so that’s the plan.

Books to read in 2016:

1. Finish reading Ronald Reagan by H.W. Brands. I’m on page 122, and I hope to pick this book back up and finish it in January.

2. Decision Points by George W. Bush.

3. American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House by Jon Meacham.

4. Truman by David McCullough. 1993 Pulitzer Prize winner.

5. Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too by Stanley Young. (Landmark history book for middle grade readers)

6. Lincoln and Douglas: The Years of Decision by Regina Z. Kelly. (Landmark)

7. Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr by Anna Erskine Crouse and Russel Crouse. Another Landmark history, not about a U.S. president, but it is about two men, either of whom could have become president had they not allowed their personal feud to consume them.

8.The Story of Ulysses S. Grant by Jeanette Covert Nolan. Another juvenile biography.

9. Abe Lincoln Grows Up by Carl Sandburg.

10. Thomas Jefferson Grows a Nation by Peggy Thomas. Picture book biography emphasizing Jefferson’s skills and interest as a naturalist and gentleman farmer.

11. The Many Faces of George Washington: Remaking a Presidential Icon (Exceptional Social Studies Titles for Intermediate Grades) by Carla Killough McClafferty.

12. The President and Mom’s Apple Pie by Michael Garland. In this fictional picture book, set in 1909, President William Howard Taft comes to town to dedicate the new flagpole, but he gets distracted by the aroma of mom’s apple pie.

13. The President’s Stuck in the Bathtub: Poems About the Presidents by Susan Katz.

This list seems readable to me. The huge tomes are balanced by light and easy picture books. Again, I can’t wait to get started.

FDR and the American Crisis by Albert Marrin

History professor Albert Marrin has been writing nonfiction narrative history for quite a while: his first book for young adults was Overlord: D Day and the Invasion of Europe, which was published in 1982. He has written more than thirty history narratives for children and young adults, including Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy, a National Book Award finalist.

In his latest book, Marrin returns to the World War II era and to the Great Depression and to the president who shepherded America through both of those crises, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. FDR was a complicated character, and Mr. Marrin presents him—warts, strengths, and all—in the context of the events and attitudes of his time. FDR and The American Crisis is, above all, a comprehensive and balanced vision of Roosevelt, what he did for the United States and what he did to change the country, for better and for worse.

In addition to my appreciation for its even-handedness, I was most impressed with the personal tone of Mr. Marrin’s very detailed, yet broad, narrative. Mr. Marrin is 79 years old. Born in 1936, he actually remembers some of the events of Roosevelt’s presidency and of the second World War. And he’s not afraid to gently insert himself into the narrative with an “I remember” or a “we all wonder if” statement. In addition, Marrin isn’t reluctant to share his own informed opinion when it’s appropriate:

“Critics branded Hoover a ‘do-nothing’ president who let Americans suffer due to his commitment to old-fashioned ideas. It is untrue.”

“The media developed a teenager’s crush on the Red Army.”

“Convinced of his own virtue and wisdom, he (FDR) thought too highly of his personal charm and powers of persuasion. He misjudged the murderous Stalin.”

“Those who praised him (FDR) as a saintly miracle worker are as wrong as those who bitterly cursed him as a monster.”

Bottom line, I learned a lot from reading FDR and the American Crisis—and I learned it in a throughly pleasant and absorbing read. Mr. Marrin once said in an interview, “Kids are very bright. I’m not going to write down. If anything, I’ll have them read up to me.” This book is not dumbed down, nor is it a breezy hagiography of a famous president. Any high school, or even college, student looking for both an in-depth and readable introduction to FDR and his presidency could not do better than to read Mr. Marrin’s book first.

George Washington and the Cherry Tree

I am taking a blog break for Lent, but I thought I’d share some of my old posts from years gone by. I’ve been blogging at Semicolon since October, 2003, more than eleven years. This post is copied and edited from February 21, 2005:

My mom used to read/quote this poem to us every February 22nd, Geroge Washington’s birthday. Nowadays we celebrate President’s Day, usually before the date of General Washington’s birth, but you can take time out to read a poem in honor of our first president today–even if the story itself is apocryphal. You have to do your best Eyetalian accent for the full effect.

Leetla Giorgio Washeenton
By Thomas Augustine Daly

You know w’at for ees school keep out
Dees holiday, my son?
Wal, den, I gona tal you ’bout
Dees Giorgio Washeenton.

Wal, Giorgio was leetla keed
Ees leeve long time ago,
An’ he gon’ school for learn to read
An’ write hees nam’, you know.
He moocha like for gona school
An’ learna hard all day,
Baycause he no gat time for fool
Weeth bada keeds an’ play.
Wal, wan cold day w’en Giorgio
Ees steell so vera small,
He start from home, but he ees no
Show up een school at all!
Oh, my! hees Pop ees gatta mad
An’ so he tal hees wife:
“Som’ leetla boy ees gon’ feel bad
Today, you bat my life!”
An’ den he grab a bigga steeck
An’ gon’ out een da snow
An’ lookin’ all aroun’ for seek
Da leetla Giorgio.

Ha! w’at you theenk? Firs’ theeng he see
Where leetla boy he stan’,
All tangla up een cherry tree,
Weeth hatchet een hees han’.
“Ha! w’at you do?” hees Pop he say,
“W’at for you busta rule
An’ stay away like dees for play
Eenstead for gon’ to school?”
Da boy ees say: “I no can lie,
An’ so I speaka true.
I stay away from school for try
An’ gat som’ wood for you.
I theenka deesa cherry tree
Ees goodda size for chop,
An’ so I cut heem down, you see,
For justa help my Pop.”
Hees Pop he no can gatta mad,
But looka please’ an’ say:
“My leetla boy, I am so glad
You taka holiday.”

Ees good for leetla boy, you see,
For be so bright an’ try
For help hees Pop; so den he be.
A granda man bimeby.
So now you gotta holiday
An’ eet ees good, you know,
For you gon’ do da sama way
Like leetla Giorgio.
Don’t play so mooch, but justa stop,
Eef you want be som’ good,
An’ try for help your poor old Pop
By carry home som’ wood;
An’ mebbe so like Giorgio
You grow for be so great
You gona be da Presidant
Of dese Unita State’!

“The President Has Been Shot!” by James L. Swanson

51Km7NeeU2L._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_On the evening of November 22, 2013, I was reading, not an unusual activity for me. But instead of reading C.S. Lewis or any of the many novels that I want to finish, I was reading one of the Cybils YA nonfiction books that was nominated this year. “The President Has Been Shot!” The Assassination of John F. Kennedy by James L. Swanson was the sad story of what happened in Dallas fifty years ago, and I was reminded of the fragility of human life and the sinfulness of mankind.

Yes, I remember where I was when I heard the news of Kennedy’s death. Unfortunately for my reputation for perfect recall, I remember incorrectly. I was in first grade in 1963, but for some reason I have a vivid memory of being in my second grade classroom with my second grade teacher, Mrs. Bouska, announcing to us that the president had been shot. I’m not sure why my first grade memory has transposed itself in time into second grade, but there it is. Memory is unreliable.

So we have books—to record the memories and the events and keep us honest. A lot of the information in this book I either never knew or I didn’t remember. I had no idea that Kennedy was shot through the back of the head and his head either fell or was pulled into Jackie Kennedy’s lap where she held pieces of his brain in her hands all the way to Parkland Hospital. Gruesome. Then, it was also rather grisly and horrific to read that Jackie refused to change her blood-stained clothes all that day, saying repeatedly, “I want them to see what they’ve done.” People certainly do grieve and react in different ways to shocking, appalling events.

“History is more than a narrative of what happened at a particular moment in time—it is also the story of how events were reported to, and experienced by, the people who lived through them.” (For Further Reading, p.240) Mr. Swanson does a particularly good job of giving readers a feel for the time period and the way newspapers, magazines, radio, and television reported on the death of the president. Black and white photographs interspersed throughout the book add to the verisimilitude of the story, transporting readers into the early 1960’s when color television was still not in widespread use and newspapers and many magazines were filled with black and white photographs.

Swanson’s 2009 nonfiction tale of an assassination, Chasing Lincoln’s Killer, was adapted from his adult book, Manhunt. “The President Has Been Shot!” was written specifically for the YA market, and it shines as an example of a nonfiction history narrative that doesn’t talk down to teen readers and yet keeps the detail to a level that suits young people who may be new to the subject of the Kennedy assassination. I highly recommend the book for students of history and politics who want a simple but thorough summary of the background of Kennedy’s presidency and the events surrounding and leading up to his assassination.

Lincoln’s Grave Robbers by Steve Sheinkin

Well, this episode in history was news to me. At the same time, actually on election night, that Republican Rutherford B. Hayes was in a neck-in-neck election race with Democrat Samuel Tilden, a group of counterfeiters became would-be grave robbers. Their plan was to steal the body of America’s favorite and perhaps most revered president, Abraham Lincoln, and hold it for ransom.

Although the grave robbers come across in the book as incompetent at best, criminally idiotic at worst, the plot was real, as were the guns the criminals carried to Lincoln’s tomb on that election night in 1876. They were serious, and the Secret Service agents who were determined to catch them red-handed were just as deadly serious. Not only does the reader get to read about a little known historical crime, but also we get a vocabulary lesson in criminal and counterfeiting jargon of the late nineteenth century. How many of the following words can you define? (There’s a glossary in the back of the book to help those of us who are unfamiliar with criminal underworld vocabulary.)

Boodle game or boodle carrier
Coney or coney man
Hanging bee
To pipe (someone)
Bone orchard

And what would you think of reading the following sentence in your local newspaper about a group of escaped criminals?

“If human ingenuity can track them it will be done. It is earnestly hoped that the double-distilled perpetrators of this attempted robbery of the remains of America’s most loved President will soon be brought to justice.” ~reporter John English in The Chicago Tribune

Double-distilled perpetrators? My, how writing styles have changed!

I enjoyed Lincoln’s Grave Robbers mostly as look into history and the almost comical antics of both criminals and police in the post-Civil War time period. The politicians and journalists were somewhat hapless and disorganized as well. On the other hand, I hope that counterfeiters nowadays are not as successful as they back in the late 1800’s. Sheinkin notes that “by 1864 an astounding 50 percent of the paper money in circulation was fake.” And “the one and only task of the Secret Service was to stop the counterfeiters.”

What does all this fake money have to do with stealing poor Mr. Lincoln’s bones? Well, there’s a connection, and it’s rather surprising–and ridiculous. I don’t know how the grave robbers thought they were going to get away with such a plot. But try they did, and you can read all about it in Lincoln’s Grave Robbers.

Lincoln’s Grave Robbers by Steve Sheinkin has been nominated for the Cybils Award in the category of Young Adult Nonfiction. The thoughts in this review are my own and do not reflect the thoughts or evaluations of the Cybils panel or of any other Cybils judge.

Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard

Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard.

One of my children used to be particularly interested in naming and researching the four U.S. presidents who were assassinated: Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, and Kennedy. This book about the life, presidency, and assassination of President James Garfield would have been above her reading level since she was only 10 or 11 years old when she had the fascination with assassinated presidents, but it definitely is full of information about Garfield and would be absorbing for anyone with a similar interest.

Like Lincoln, Garfield grew up in poverty. He became an educated man by dint of hard work and his widowed mother’s sacrifice. He married a woman with whom he shared at best friendship, and only many years later, after Garfield had an affair and then re-committed to his marriage, did the two of them become partners in love in the truest sense. This part of the story alone is fascinating, a good example for our age of love’em and leave’em. (This breach of trust and reconciliation is documented in letters that Lucretia, his wife, kept and later left to his presidential library.)

But there are several other fascinating stories in this book:
the story of Vice President Chester Arthur and his conversion from party hack to presidential promoter of honesty and civil service reform.

the saga of Alexander Graham Bell’s desperate attempt to invent a medical device that would locate the bullet lodged inside President Garfield’s body before Garfield died.

the history of medical sterilization techniques that had not yet been accepted as standard practice in the U.S., contributing to the infection that eventually killed the president.

the sad (and currently relevant in light of the attention that is being focused on random shootings after Sandy Hook) story of the assassin, Charles Guiteau, who was obviously as mad as March hare but nevertheless cunning enough to plan a successful presidential assassination all by himself.

Candice Millard also wrote the book I read a couple of years ago about Theodore Roosevelt’s trip into the Amazon rainforest, River of Doubt, and my plan is to read anything she writes in the future. Ms. Millard, by the way, got her master’s degree in literature from Baylor University. Destiny of the Republic won the Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime.

12 Projects for 2013

For several years now, I’ve been starting off the year with projects instead of resolutions. I don’t always complete my projects, but I enjoy starting them and working toward a goal. And I don’t feel guilty if I don’t finish. If I do finish, I feel a sense of accomplishment. Win-win. So, here are my twelve projects for 2013:

1. 100 Days in the Book of Isaiah. I’m really looking forward to this study along with my church family.

2. Reading Through West Africa. The countries of West Africa (according to my scheme) are Benin, Biafra (part of Nigeria), Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Ivory Coast, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo. That’s fourteen nations, if I include Biafra, and I would very much like to read at least one book from or about each country. If you have suggestions, please comment.

3. I’m working on a project with my church for a community/tutoring/library media center. This TED talk by author Dave Eggers was inspirational, although it’s not exactly what I have in mind. I am working more on a library and study center for homeschoolers and of course, it would be open to kids who are in public or private schools, too. A lot of my work will be in relation to the library, gathering excellent books and adding to the library and helping homeschool and other families to use the library to enrich their studies. I am also inspired by this library and others like it.

4. I want to concentrate on reading all the books on my TBR list this year –at least all of them that I can beg, borrow (from the library) or somehow purchase. I’ve already requested several of the books on my list from the library.

5. My Classics Club list is a sort of addendum to my TBR list, and I’d also like to read many of the books on that list. In 2012 I read Scoop by Evelyn Waugh, The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West, and Memento Mori by Muriel Spark, three out of fifty-three, not a good average if I’m to be done with all of them by 2017.

6. I have house-keeping project that I’m almost embarrassed to mention here. I’ve started small–cleaning and sorting piles in a corner of my bedroom. I’d really like to continue cleaning, purging, and organizing around the perimeter of my bedroom and then the living room until eventually I get around the entire house. A project so ridiculously mundane and yet so needed.

7. I continue to work through this list of new-to-me recipes and through several cookbooks and other recipe sources for dishes I want to try this year. I would like to make one new dish per week, and maybe I can manage to “review” the meals and food I make here at Semicolon. If you have any extra-special recipes you think I should try, please leave a comment.

8. Praying for Strangers (and Friends) Project. I was quite impressed by my reading of River Jordan’s prayer project book, Praying for Strangers. I still can’t walk up to strangers and tell them that I’m praying for them or ask them for prayer requests. But in 2013 I hope to ask God to give me one person each day to focus on and to pray for. Maybe I’ll be praying for you one day this year. I have been much more consistent in praying for specific people this past year, and I hope to continue the practice.

9. U.S. Presidents Reading Project. I got David McCullough’s biography of Truman for Christmas in 2011, and I plan to read that chunkster during my Lenten blog break since I didn’t read it last year. I don’t know if I’ll read any other presidential biographies this year, but if I finish Truman I’ll be doing well.

10. The 40-Trash Bag Challenge. Starting tomorrow. My life needs this project.

11. 100 Movies of Summer. When we’re not traveling, which will be most of the summer, we might watch a few old classic but new-to-us movies. I’ll need to make a new list, since we’ve watched many of the ones on the list I linked to, but I hope to find a few gems this summer.

12. I got this Bible for Christmas (mine is red), and I’ve already begun transferring my notes from my old Bible into this new one and taking new notes. I just jot down whatever the Holy Spirit brings to mind with the intention of giving the Bible to one of my children someday.

The Presidents Club by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy

The Presidents Club: Inside the World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy. Recommended by Al Mohler.

Fascinating. I learned a lot about the presidents of the latter half of the twentieth century and their post-presidential lives.

I learned that both Truman and Hoover were at first rather neglected and forgotten after their respective presidencies were over, but that later presidents came to rely on them for advice and encouragement and sometimes (Hoover) help in carrying out humanitarian initiatives. According to the book, Hoover was great at organizing and carrying out post-war recovery programs to help refugees and starving people in the war zone, something he did after World War I and before he became president and after World War II, after he was president.

Johnson was a pain and a blowhard who nevertheless agonized over his role in escalating the Vietnam War. I don’t think I would have liked LBJ very much.

Nixon came across as a very complicated, arrogant, insecure, devious, and intelligent man. He knew a lot about the Russians, and thought he knew even more than he did. He advised presidents on foreign policy, towards the Soviet Union/Russia in particular, and he very much wanted to be recognized and admired for his contributions.

The authors depict Gerald Ford as a courageous man who knew that his pardon for Richard Nixon would heal the country and strengthen the presidency but knew also that it would seriously undermine his chances to serve as an elected president.

Carter was apparently a loose cannon, talented in diplomacy, but prone to go off on his own and cut his own deals without consulting the sitting president or the State Department. He practically worked miracles when he was sent on diplomatic missions to North Korea and to Haiti, but everyone back in the U.S., the president and all his advisors, was on high alert, wondering what he would do or say next.

George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton became close friends after their time as president was over, working together to raise money for disaster relief after Hurricane Katrina and after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Then, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton became friends and cooperated to raise funds for Haiti relief.

That’s the kind of stuff ex-presidents do, and the thesis of the book is that they form a sort of “club” made up of the very few people in the world who know what it’s like to deal with the pressures and responsibilities of being the president of the United States of America. They become concerned with their own legacy to some extent, but also with the guarding of the office of the presidency. So they cooperate with each other and with the president who is in office to protect the prestige and honor of the presidency, even while possibly disagreeing in fundamental ways about policy and politics.

What did Teddy Read?

“And it’s likely that no president will ever match the Rough Rider himself, who charged through multiple books in a single day and wrote more than a dozen well-regarded works, on topics ranging from the War of 1812 to the American West.” ~For Obama and past presidents, the books they read shape policies and perceptions by Trevi Troy, April 18 2010, The Washington Post

I’ve read about U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt in at least three separate books, and these are just a few of the works I’ve seen on his reading list:

Aechylus’ Orestean trilogy.
Seven Against Thebes by Sophocles.
Hippolytus and Bacchae by Euripides.
Frogs by Aristophanes.
Shakespeare: Macbeth, Twelfth Night, Henry IV, Henry V, Richard II,

The Heir of Redclyffe by
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe.
The Boy Hunters by Captain Reid
The Hunters’ Feast by Captain Reid.
The Scalp Hunters by Captain Reid.
The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper.
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.
Sebastopol Sketches by Leo Tolstoy.
The Cossacks by Leo Tolstoy.
With Fire and Sword (Polish: Ogniem i mieczem) by Henryk Sienkiewicz. (I want to read this classic historical novel of 17th century Poland.)
In the Sargasso Sea by Thomas Janvier.
Guy Mannering by Sir Walter Scott.
The Antiquary by Sir Walter Scott.
Rob Roy by Sir Walter Scott.
Waverly by Sir Walter Scott.
Quentin Durward by Sir Walter Scott. (Does anyone read Scott, other than Ivanhoe, these days?)
Stories and poems by Bret Harte.
Tom Sawyerr by Mark Twain.
Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens.
Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens.
Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray.
Pendennis by William Makepeace Thackeray.
The Newcomes by William Makepeace Thackeray.
The Adventures of Philip by William Makepeace Thackeray.
The White Company by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Charles O’Malley by Charles Lever.
Tittlebat Titmouse by Samuel Warren.
Stories by Artemus Ward.
Stories and essays by Octave Thanet (Alice French).
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame.
The stories of Hans Christian Anderson. (TR read these aloud to his children.)
Grimm’s fairy tales. (And these.)
Howard Pyle’s King Arthur.
Joel Chandler Harris’s Uncle Remus stories.
Other authors: Tarkington (Penrod?), Churchill (Richard Carvel or The Crisis?), Remington, Wister (The Virginian?), Trevelyan, Conrad (Lord Jim?),

The Lady of the Lake by Sir Walter Scott.
Marmion by Sir Walter Scott.
Lay of the Last Minstrel by Sir Walter Scott.
The Flight of the Duchess by Robert Browning
The first two cantos of Milton’s Paradise Lost.
Poems by Michael Drayton. (“There are only two or three I care for,” wrote TR.)
Portions of the Nibelungenleid.
Church’s Beowulf.
Morris’ translation of the Heimskringla.
Miss Hill’s Cuchulain Saga, together with The Children of Lir, The Children of Turin, The Tale of Deirdre, etc.
Other poets: Keats, Browning, Poe,Tennyson, Longfellow, Kipling, Bliss Carman, Lowell, R.L. Stevenson, Allingham,

Parts of Herodotus.
The first and seventh books of Thucydides.
All of Polybius.
A little of Plutarch.
Parts of The Politics of Aristotle.
Froissart on French history.
The Memoirs of Baron de Marbot.
Charles XII and the collapse of the Swedish empire, 1682-1719 by R. Nisbet Bain.
Essays by Macaulay.
Types of Naval Officers by A.T. Mahan.
Over the Teacups (essays) by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (TR called Holmes, Jr., the son of the author, “one of the most interesting men I have ever met.”)
Abraham Lincoln: A History by John Hay and John G. Nicolay. (Hay was Roosevelt’s Secretary of State until Hay’s death in 1905. Hay was also, as a young man, Lincoln’s assistant and private secretary. Isn’t it odd to think that the same man knew both Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln?)
Two volumes of Speeches and Writings by Abraham Lincoln.
Shakespeare and Voltaire by Thomas Raynesford Lounsbury. (490 pages)
Six volumes of Mahaffey’s Studies of the Greek World.
Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa by David Livingstone.
On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin.
Catalogue of North American Birds by Spencer Fullerton Baird.
Review of American BIrds
North American Reptiles
Catalogue of North American Mammals
My reminiscences of the Anglo-Boer war By Benjamin Johannis Viljoen.
Birds and bees and other studies in nature by John Burroughs.
John James Audubon by John Burroughs.
Malay Sketches by Frank Swettenham.

THis list is just a sampling of TR’s reading. He is generally acknowledged, along with THomas Jefferson, to be best read of all the American presidents.

Gleaned from the Saturday Review and Other Places

Thanks to Carrie for pointing me to this review of Praying for Strangers by River Jordan. I’m intrigued by the idea of this book about an author who decides to choose one stranger to pray for each day. My first thought after reading about Ms. Jordan’s resolution was, “I could do that!” Then, I read at her blog that Ms. Jordan not only prays for a stranger each day, but she also often feels led to tell the person that she will be praying and asks for prayer requests. That’s a little more intimidating. See, I’m really rather shy and reserved. The idea of going up to a complete stranger and telling them that I’ll be praying for them is, well, actually terrifying. So I’ve been praying for a stranger each day for the past three days, but I haven’t told anyone about it, especially not the person I prayed for, until I wrote this post.

I also downloaded the book for my Kindle and started reading it today. I’m intrigued, and I can see the benefit to me and to others of actually talking, getting my stranger’s name, and telling the person that I’ll be praying for him or her. I’m just not sure I have enough courage to do it. Maybe in the pages of Ms. Jordan’s book, I’ll find the gumption and unselfishness to move me to talk to strangers. Maybe I’ll just continue to talk to God about the people He brings across my path. Either way I’m expecting God to work through this prayer thing, even though I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t really understand how or why prayer works.

On another note, I found a few other books at Borders and at Barnes and Noble that I’d like to read soon. I didn’t buy anything, but I’ll be looking for these books at the library soon:

Decision Points by George W. Bush. I’m a Bush fangirl, and I’ve been meaning to read his book. But I sort of forgot about it, so I was happy to be reminded whe I saw it in the bookstore.
Truman by David McCullough. Another president, another biography by the author of John Adams. I expect to enjoy learning more about Mr. Truman when I get around to this one.
The Last Greatest Magician in the World: Howard Thurston versus Houdini & the Battles of the American Wizards by Jim Steinmeyer. I heard the author of this book talking about Thurston and Houdini on NPR, and I thought then that I would like to read the book. However, it’s another one I had forgotten until I saw it displayed in the bookstore.
Fortunate Sons: The 120 Chinese Boys Who Came to America, Went to School, and Revolutionized an Ancient Civilization by Leil Leibovitz and Matthew Miller. “In 1872, under the auspices of the Chinese Educational Mission, 120 Chinese boys were sent to the U.S. to attend elite colleges, absorb the best this mysterious country could offer, and return to enrich China with their experiences and knowledge.” (Booklist) Why does this subject sound so fascinating to me?
The First Clash: The Miraculous Greek Victory at Marathon and Its Impact on Western Civilization by Jim Lacey. And this one, too?

Right now, in addition to the prayer book, I’m reading a book about Louisa and John Quincy Adams called Cannibals of the Heart: A Personal Biography of Louisa Catherine and John Quincy Adams. The book is annoying me in some ways because the author, Jim Shepherd, seems to have no sympathy for John Quincy Adams at all. In fact, his portrayal of JQA makes one wonder how in the world he ever would have managed to get a job as local dogcatcher much less world famous diplomat, senator, U.S. president, and legislator. Mr. Shepherd likes Louisa a lot more and tries to induce his readers to feel sorry for her and her lot as an early nineteenth century woman, enslaved and dominated by the men in her life, especially the irascible Mr. Adams. I’m sure she was in a pitiable state and one at which I would have chafed, but Mr. Shepherd’s obvious and heavy-handed partisanship makes me want to take JQA’s side just to be contrary. Still, I’m finding the life story of of this Washington power couple to be full of interest and excitement, not to mention historical significance. I’ll be writing more about the Adams family soon, I’m sure.

I will finish my posts on the 40 Inspirational Classics for Lent, too. I’ve been in the midst of a blogging block or dry spell or something the past few days, so my 40 Classics posts may go past Easter and into the time of feasting after Easter. But that’s OK with me.