Light, entertaining and informative.




From reading Cicero to watching I Love Lucy, a history of American presidents’ interactions with popular culture.

Can a president show that he has the gravitas to govern the nation and still reveal that he knows who Snooki is? The question animates this fresh view of presidents from George Washington to Barack Obama and their efforts to find the right distance for the leader of a republic to keep between himself and the people. Against the rise of American popular culture over the past 200 years, Hudson Institute senior fellow Troy (Intellectuals and the American Presidency: Philosophers, Jesters, or Technicians?, 2002) shows how presidents’ cultural pursuits have shaped them and the nation. The pursuits are many: Jefferson read the classics and philosophical works (“From candlelight to early bedtime I read”), as did John Adams, in an era when Common Sense sold as briskly as Peyton Place; Andrew Jackson thrilled audiences on his visits to the theater; Franklin Roosevelt mastered the radio; and Reagan made expert use of TV, which he also enjoyed viewing for consolation. While Theodore Roosevelt and Lincoln worked hard to balance book smarts and popular appeal, presidents had other cultural distractions to deal with in ensuing years, which brought the Montgomery Ward catalog, the phonograph, radio, TV (Clinton was a “savvy manipulator,” George W. Bush rarely watched), and the Internet. Troy shows how these leaders used and projected their own images through emerging media, from Nixon sizing up the competition on TV to Obama’s preference for dark and edgy TV shows like The Wire. He wonders how the U.S. will continue to produce good leaders in a culture of the outrageous and the vulgar.

Light, entertaining and informative.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-62157-039-4

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Regnery History

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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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

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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