Theme of the Week

E or F – history of the Americas – Roots

Reader: Cindy Parkhurst

Author: Jonathan Alter

Title: The Defining Moment

Call: E807 .A784 2006

Rating: 4

Summary: Since last summer, I have been roundly criticized for reading so many books about Theodore Roosevelt! So, in an effort to change it up a bit, I read a book about Franklin Roosevelt. This is a very timely book about FDR’s first hundred days in office during an incredibly difficult economic period. I first heard about this book when I read several articles about what President Obama has been reading. He apparently read this book and it was widely reported that he was quite impressed with what he read there. Given the current economic situation the country finds itself in, I thought it would not be a bad idea to take a look myself.

Roosevelt, much like Obama, came in at a time when the economy was already on the skids. The country was looking to FDR to handle the economic issues and there was a pervasive feeling that Hoover had not done much to address the steadily worsening unemployment problems or the wildly fluctuating markets. Alter does spend some time refuting that Hoover “did nothing” to ease the crisis. However, the focus of the book is on Roosevelt’s first hundred days and not as much on Hoover’s action or inaction. If you want to read about what Hoover did there is a new book called The Forgotten Man by Amity Shlaes that takes up that topic.

Alter’s main point in this book is that FDR was a master at creating perceptions and that the work he did during the economic woes of the ’30’s had as much to do with making people feel better about their circumstances as it did in remedying the problems. Another thing I thought was important about this book was that it provided some perspective on the situation the economy is in today. In the ’30’s unemployment was in the 20% range versus our single digit numbers today.

I thought Jonathan Alter did a fine job of focusing on the first hundred days of FDR’s presidency when it would have been easy to stray into other times in his administration. I must admit at times I would have liked him to stray just a little. This is a very chronological account of what happened during that brief three month period with only brief context sections to acquaint readers with important facts about FDR. Reading a more comprehensive biography of the man before this book would probably be wise to fill in some gaps.

Cindy Parkhurst

Reader: Kitty Simmons
Author: Charles Kuralt
Title: On the Road with Charles Kuralt
Rating: 4

Summary: “I have tried to go slow, stick to the back roads, take time to meet people, listen to yarns, notice the countryside go by, and feel the seasons change.”–– Foreword

Although neither mystery nor romance, this book would be a welcome addition to any summer beach bag for a leisurely read. The collection of short interviews, essays, and vignettes easily holds the readers attention, but is also suited for breaking away when a swim, a nap, an offer of ice cream, or other such warm–weather distraction comes along. Since I was a frequent viewer of Kuralt’s Sunday Morning television program, I was able to invoke the author’s voice as narrator providing an added dimension of realism to the reading experience.

These are human interest stories pure and simple, told in the context of the classic American “blue highways” road trip. This collection is the result of many destinations so the structure is topical rather than linear. Kuralt has a knack for running into interesting people in some otherwise uninteresting places. Although a few historical stories are included, the focus here is on the characters met along the way rather than on the journey’s geography. Still, my favorite part of the book is the chapter entitled “Seasons” where the author elaborates on his ideal destination for each month of the year. If I ever have an opportunity to travel extensively, I will definitely be referring back to this chapter for ideas.

Theme Archives

B’s – philosophy, psychology, theology, religions
C or D – history of Europe, Africa, Asia, archaeology History of the World part 1
E or F – history of the Americas – Roots
G or H – Economics, business, anthropology, sociology, crime – Wall Street
L – Education – Stand and Deliver
M or N – Music, Art – Amadeus
P – Language and Literature – The Diary of Bridget Jones
Q or R – Science, Math, Medicine – Beautiful Mind