A brisk, lighthearted travelogue with an exuberant guide.

What dead American presidents reveal “about ourselves, our history, and how we imagine our past and future.”

In his spirited debut book, Carlson, host of NPR’s Weekend Edition for New Hampshire Public Radio, looks at the curious ways that presidents have been commemorated—by buildings and tombs, statues and libraries, and even bars and gift shops. Some presidents (George Washington and Calvin Coolidge, for example) resisted being celebrated. “It is a great advantage to a President,” Coolidge wrote in his autobiography, “and a major source of safety to the country, for him to know he is not a great man.” Not all were so modest. John Tyler was “the first presidential pariah…and the first president the House considered impeaching”; yet he longed to be remembered as a great man, appointing a literary executor to review and eventually publish his papers. Franklin Roosevelt was the first president to establish his own library, setting a model for every successor. Besides millions of documents, letters, and government papers, the library contains his stamp collection and a papier-mâché Sphinx made to lampoon him when he refused to reveal if he would run for a third term. In the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library and Museum, a life-size robotic version of Johnson “stands behind a podium…and cracks jokes.” Along his exuberant journey, Carlson found whole cities devoted to presidential celebration: in Buffalo, which claims connections to Grover Cleveland, William McKinley, and Teddy Roosevelt, a downtown pub is called Founding Fathers, where patrons can order a “Hail to the Chef!” sandwich. Rapid City, South Dakota, near Mount Rushmore, calling itself “the most patriotic city in America,” features a complete set of life-size presidential statues. Mount Rushmore itself, the enthusiastic author learned, “was designed not to be an icon of American identity but…a tourist trap” meant to draw visitors to the Black Hills.

A brisk, lighthearted travelogue with an exuberant guide.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-393-24393-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2015


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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