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 20, 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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Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.


A master storyteller’s character-driven account of a storied year in the American Revolution.

Against world systems, economic determinist and other external-cause schools of historical thought, McCullough (John Adams, 2001, etc.) has an old-fashioned fondness for the great- (and not-so-great) man tradition, which may not have much explanatory power but almost always yields better-written books. McCullough opens with a courteous nod to the customary villain in the story of American independence, George III, who turns out to be a pleasant and artistically inclined fellow who relied on poor advice; his Westmoreland, for instance, was a British general named Grant who boasted that with 5,000 soldiers he “could march from one end of the American continent to the other.” Other British officers agitated for peace, even as George wondered why Americans would not understand that to be a British subject was to be free by definition. Against these men stood arrayed a rebel army that was, at the least, unimpressive; McCullough observes that New Englanders, for instance, considered washing clothes to be women’s work and so wore filthy clothes until they rotted, with the result that Burgoyne and company had a point in thinking the Continentals a bunch of ragamuffins. The Americans’ military fortunes were none too good for much of 1776, the year of the Declaration; at the slowly unfolding battle for control over New York, George Washington was moved to despair at the sight of sometimes drunk soldiers running from the enemy and of their officers “who, instead of attending to their duty, had stood gazing like bumpkins” at the spectacle. For a man such as Washington, to be a laughingstock was the supreme insult, but the British were driven by other motives than to irritate the general—not least of them reluctance to give up a rich, fertile and beautiful land that, McCullough notes, was providing the world’s highest standard of living in 1776.

Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-2671-2

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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