Archive for the ‘Biography’ Category

Saucy Time with John Adams

February 9, 2013 Leave a comment

I’m reading David McCullough’s John Adams which I will review once I get through it all, but this was too good not to share immediately. From what I have read you can imagine Adams to have the same reputation and character as a Billy Graham, which makes this all the better. This is from his time in France negotiating the future of an alliance with the newly formed US:

“Mr. Adams,” she had said, “by your name I conclude you are descended from the first man and woman, and probably in your family may be preserved the tradition which may resolve a difficulty which I could never explain. I never could understand how the first couple found out the art of lying together?”

Assisted by an interpreter, Adams replied that his family resembled the first couple both in name and in their frailties and that no doubt “instinct” was the answer to her question. “For there was a physical quality in us resembling the power of electricity or of the magnet, by which when a pair approached within striking distance they flew together . . . like two objects in an electrical experiment.”

“Well,” she retorted. “I know not how it was, but this I know, it is a very happy shock.”

McCullough, David (2001-05-22). John Adams (p. 191). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Categories: Biography, Book Review

Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson

January 25, 2013 Leave a comment

I was familiar with Isaacson after reading the Jobs biography, so when looking for a book chronicling the life of Franklin I landed on his. The narrative style of the author and the new information I gained about Franklin made for an incredible read. BOOK HERE.


One: Franklin could pass for a modern day millennial. He was non-confrontational and could put someone down while smiling at them.

Two: They struggled then – as we do now – with the need to treat people as individuals to ensure justice. This was his response to a gang of Presbyterians that were murdering all Indians they were coming in contact with:

“Should any man with a freckled face and red hair kill a wife or child of mine, [by this reasoning] it would be right for me to revenge it by killing all the freckled red-haired men, women and children I could afterwards anywhere meet.” Isaacson, Walter (2003-07-01). Benjamin Franklin (p. 212). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Three: Finally, if you need a pick-me-up to get excited about changing the world, the following quote is worth remembering:

“Rebellion to Tyrants is obedience to God.” Isaacson, Walter (2003-07-01). Benjamin Franklin (p. 316). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Use of this quote applies to the following situations:

  1. When the cop pulls you over for speeding,
  2. When the Subway sandwich artist charges you for a foot-long that is only 11”,
  3. When your mom makes you clean your room, and
  4. When the boss asks you to stay late.
Categories: Biography, Book Review

How to Be Black by Baratunde Thurston

January 2, 2013 Leave a comment

Baratunde Thurston wrote a really good book. You should read it. He’s funny and smart.

When people began to herald the election of Barack Obama as proof that we were living in a post-racial society I finally put together that I was born only 16 years removed from the assassination of MLK and the civil rights movement. That’s not a lot of time.

My dad has this great game where he asks older people all sorts of things, and nothing is off-limits because he asks as if he were an anthropologist – wanting to understand and not judge. Taking my dad’s lead I was bold in my teen years asking people who were old enough to effect change in the 60s what their contribution towards the civil rights movement was. I quit asking that question because the response is often so disappointing.

My response to the disappointment has been to constantly review my actions and my motives so that when guys my age twenty years from now ask me what I was doing during X event I can be proud of the contribution I made to furthering justice.

Thurston’s book articulates that there are many ways to be black. The best takeaway from the book is that it is white people’s job to end racism:

“I’ve wanted to hold an actually meaningful ceremony making the destruction of racism the official responsibility of white people. It would be like passing off the Olympic torch.” Thurston, Baratunde (2012-01-31). How to Be Black (pp. 215-216). Harper Paperbacks. Kindle Edition.


The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt by T.J. Stiles

February 22, 2010 Leave a comment

Book: The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt by T.J. Stiles

Rating: Detailed

T. J. Stiles did some serious homework on this massive 600+ page book. Vanderbilt was quite a man and did some amazing things for his age fathering what we consider the modern corporation, but goodness this book explored every minutia of his life. If you want the cliff notes read the Wikipedia entry.

Categories: Biography, Book Review

What the Dog Saw and other adventures by Malcom Gladwell

January 15, 2010 Leave a comment

Book: What the Dog Saw and other adventures by Malcom Gladwell

Rating: Great

Lesson Learned: How to think differently

This is a collection of Gladwell’s articles from the New Yorker. Therefore, you get to read great nuggets of truth without having to read the entire snarly magazine. This is way worth the money and is a great book to read over a couple of weeks since it is broken up into easily digestible articles. This is a must read for people who live in New York and go to those parties with the expensive wine.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer

October 26, 2009 Leave a comment

Book: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer

Rating: Lesson Learned

Lesson Learned: Need brings Creativity

Someone younger than you brought electricity to his poverty stricken famined land and changed agriculture for their community…. It is an amazing story of ingenuity bread out of scarcity. It will move you to action.

Barefoot Heart: Stories of a Migrant Child by Elva Trevino Hart

July 30, 2009 Leave a comment

Book: Barefoot Heart: Stories of a Migrant Child by Elva Trevino Hart

Rating: Worth Reading

Lesson Learned: struggles of a migrant

Elva goes to work in the fields very young. Eventually, she is able to get out and make it big. After her success she visits her dying father. He asks how much she is making.  She tells him $20 an hour because he wouldn’t be able to comprehend the amount of money she earns. This story sticks out at me. It illustrates our inability to comprehend things foreign to us- whether too lofty or too unjust. The book is very descriptive about the lives children of migrant workers live. In all the books on immigration I have read I still haven’t gotten hold of one that would make me agree with a fence.