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text 2020-06-01 16:18
Reading Wrap Up: Stay at Home Edition March, April, May 2020
The Final Days - Carl Bernstein,Bob Woodward
War on Peace - Ronan Farrow
Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth - Sarah Smarsh
Pox: An American History - Michael Willrich
Eisenhower 1956: The President's Year of Crisis--Suez and the Brink of War - David A. Nichols
Beauty Queens - Libba Bray
Golden in Death - J.D. Robb
The Girls of Mischief Bay - Susan Mallery

So here is my reading wrap up for March, April, and May. 



1. Golden in Death (In Death #50) by JD Robb - 4 stars

2. Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera - 3.5 stars

3. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot - 2.5 stars



1. Pox: An American History by Michael Willrich - 4.5 stars

2. A Distant Melody (Wings of Glory #1) by Sarah Sundin - 3 stars

3. The Scandalous Suffragette by Eliza Redgold - 3 stars

4. The Final Days by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein - 5 stars

5. Beauty Queens by Libby Bray - 4 stars

6. The American Plague: The Untold Story of Yellow Fever, the Epidemic That Shaped Our History by Molly Caldwell Crosby - 4 stars



1. The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty - 1 star

2. Eisenhower 1956: The President's Year of Crisis - Suez and the Brink of War by David A. Nichols - 4 stars

3. War on Peace: The End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence by Ronan Farrow - 5 stars

4. Oklahoma City: What the Investigation Missed - and Why It Still Matters by Andrew Gumbel and Roger G. Charles - DNF

5. Stillhouse Lake (Stillhouse Lake #1) by Rachel Caine - 1 star

6. Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth by Sarah Smarsh - 4.5 stars

7. The Dead & the Gone (Last Survivors #2) by Susan Beth Pfeffer - 3 stars

8. 1666: Plague, War, and Hellfire by Rebecca Rideal - 3 stars

9. The Girls of Mischief Bay (Mischief Bay #1) by Susan Mallery - 4 stars

10. A New Life (West Meets East #1) by Merry Farmer - 2.5 stars


Goals and Challenges:

GoodReads: 40/125 (32%)

Library Love: 17/24 (70%) - I am thinking of moving up my goal to the next level


Participated in BoB28

Participated BL's Snakes & Ladders 2020

Participated in Dewey RAT

Participated in 24 in 48 Stay at Home RAT



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review 2020-05-22 19:55
The nattering nabobs of Gilded Age negativism
Twelve Against Empire: The Anti-Imperialists, 1898 1900 - Robert L. Beisner

America’s war with Spain in 1898 is generally regarded as the point at which the United States emerged as an imperialist power. While Americans greeted their victory over Spain with enthusiasm, their response to the acquisition of the Philippines and Puerto Rico was much more ambivalent, as prominent Americans from across the political and ideological spectrum expressed their opposition to the acquisition of these territories.


Robert Beisner’s book is an examination of twelve prominent public figures who emerged as anti-imperialists during this period. While the men Beisner selects share much in common – all are older white Anglo-Saxon Protestants who were traditionally associated with the Republican Party – he divides them into two groups: “Mugwump” reformers who often prioritized issues over party, and more mainstream Republicans whose opposition to the acquisition of overseas territories represented a notable break from their traditional commitment to party orthodoxy. For each man he describes the arguments they made against the McKinley administration’s policies and analyzes them for what they reveal about the men’s convictions and the failure of their efforts.


What Beisner achieves with this is a fascinating exploration of the world-views of a distinct group of Americans in the Gilded Age. For many of the Mugwumps, their opposition was of a piece with their longstanding advocacy of reform and their fears for a nation in which their influence was in decline. Racial anxieties were a part of this as well, as many of them worried about the consequences of absorbing large populations of Hispanic and Asian Catholics into a country already beset by racial issues. Many regular Republicans shared these concerns as well, to which were added worries about greater entanglement in international affairs and the ramifications for this at home as well as abroad.  Yet for all of their fears about the consequences of empire Beisner concludes by detailing the extent of their inability to shape public opinion or government policy, as the territories were annexed with fateful consequences for both them and for the United States generally.


Beisner’s book offers its readers a sharp examination of both an important subset of American political activism in the debates over imperialism and the reasons for its failure. Yet for all of its insights his analysis leaves the reader wanting more, as throughout the book he alludes to a broader anti-imperialist movement that he never addresses. While Beisner makes it clear that this movement was never organized or coherent, focusing it on greater detail would have strengthened his argument about the failure of the anti-imperialists to achieve their goals. As it is, his book is a valuable profile of one prominent part of the anti-imperialist movement in the United States at the dawn of America’s imperial age. But in it the end it only covers a part of it.

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review 2020-05-20 22:45
Podcast #184 is up!
The Radio Right: How a Band of Broadcasters Took on the Federal Government and Built the Modern Conservative Movement - Paul Matzko

My latest podcast is up on the New Books Network website! In it, I interview Paul Matzko about his book examining the emergence of right-wing radio in the 1950s and the federal government's response to it. Enjoy!

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review 2020-05-02 22:35
The role of the military in America's history
For the Common Defense: A Military History of the United States from 1607 to 2012 - William B. Feis,Peter Maslowski,Allan R. Millett
I had read the first edition of Allan Millett and Peter Maslowski's book back when I was in college. While I can't remember what my impression was of it back then, I proceeded through the next three decades of my life without feeling the need to revisit it. Recently, however, I had cause to revisit it, and I'm glad I did.
Now in a third edition, Millett and Maslowski have been joined as co-authors by William Feis, a specialist in the Civil War era. For the most part, little changed beyond additional coverage of American military history up to 2014 and the elimination of the very useful bibliography from the first edition (supposedly it was moved online, but the link provided in the book is dead). Yet rereading it I came to appreciate just how excellent of a job they did in covering the military over the centuries of the nation's existence. It's especially impressive considering their scope: while most military histories are happy to confine themselves to accounts of campaigns and commanders, the authors have provided an extraordinarily well-rounded account that addresses policymaking, military-civil relations, and the development of military theory. In this respect their book is not just a military history in terms of an account of America's wars, but of the role of the military throughout the nation's history.
By the time I reached the end of the book, I had a newfound appreciation for the authors' achievement. While not without its flaws — leaving out the bibliography proved a mistake, while the two chapters on the Vietnam War are overdue to be consolidated into a single one — it is an impressive book that remains the single best work for anyone interested in learning about America's military and how it shaped the country it built and defended.
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review 2020-05-01 22:25
A Pox on Your House
Pox: An American History - Michael Willrich

Title: Pox: An American History

Author: Michael Willrich

Publish Date: March 27, 2012

Publisher: Penguin Books

Format: Paperback

Page Count: 432

Source: My personal copy

Date Read: March 14 - April 24, 2020



This is a meticulously and exhaustingly researched book that was very readable. I'm just a slow reader to begin with and reading this while in the very early stages of the pandemic gave me a very small attention span. 


This book takes the smallpox scourge and investigates it from eight angles, broken into eight chapters: the Beginnings - takes a look at how smallpox developed and moved around the globe; the Mild Type -  how smallpox evolved into two distinct viruses, causing confusion and complancency; the work of CP Wertenbaker in Appliachia and the Deep South to help end the cycle of epidemics; War is Health - basically the US Army goes to war against the Spanish and smallpox; Stable and Laboratory - how vaccine purity needed an overhaul and how to produced enough pure vaccine for a growing empire; Politics - immigrants, working class workers, African American migration to the North and West and the politics surrounding the vaccination compulsion; the Activaccinationists - just like now, full of grifters!; and Speaking Law to Power - a bunch of lawsuits and legalese surrounding smallpox. Add in a prologue and epilogue, and it is a hefty book for only 345 reading pages (the rest is notes and index). The chapters are lonnnnnnggggggggg - 30-40 pages on average, so taking one chapter a weekend still required time to devote to this book. 


I thought the last chapter could have used some content editing, especially as the author gets into the weeds about the legal definitions of words and how those definitions can change a question before the courts. It was bit of a slog. I also think he coddles and enables today's anti-vaxxer in the epilogue - 


"In a broader sense, the history of America's turn-of-the century fight against smallpox cautions us against making reflexive judgments about the innumerable people, the world over, who greet scientific innovation and expert authority with skepticism, resentment, or steadfast resistance...It tells us little about the root causes of ambivalence toward medical science or how to bridge the gap between popular beliefs and the imperatives of preventive medicine." 


Yeah, he went and both sides the whole fucking point of the book with the last two paragraphs of his epilogue. I had to take at a star off for that and the too-long legalese chapter. But I would still recommend this book because Willrich does a commendable job covering smallpox from every corner.


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