Book Buzz April 16, 2012: Pulitzer Prize for history, but not for fiction



Pulitzer Prize for history, but not for fiction

The late Manning Marable won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for history, honored for a Malcolm X book. But no Pulitzer Prize was awarded for fiction.

Source: CS Monitor, 4-16-12

The late Manning Marable won the Pulitzer Prize for history Monday, honored for a Malcolm X book he worked on for decades, but did not live to see published. For the first time in 35 years, no fiction prize was given.

Another long-term project, John Lewis Gaddis’ “George F. Kennan: An American Life,” won the Pulitzer for biography. Gaddis is a Yale University professor and leading Cold War scholar who began work on the Kennan book in the early 1980s. The project was delayed by Kennan’s longevity. Kennan, a founding Cold War strategist and a Pulitzer winner, was in his 70s at the time he authorized the book. He asked only that Gaddis wait until after his death…..READ MORE


Book Buzz April 16, 2012: Yale History Professor John Lewis Gaddis wins Pulitzer Prize for Kennan biography



Gaddis wins Pulitzer for Kennan biography

Source: Yale Daily News, 4-16-12

History Prof. John Lewis Gaddis received the National Humanities Medal in 2005.
History Prof. John Lewis Gaddis received the National Humanities Medal in 2005. Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

History professor John Lewis Gaddis won the 2012 biography Pulitzer for “George F. Kennan: An American Life,” which was published in November after nearly two decades of research.

Mary Gabriel’s “Love and Capital: Karl and Jenny Marx and the Birth of a Revolution” and Manning Marble’s “Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention” were named as finalists for the Pulitzer Prize for Biography…..READ MORE

Book Buzz February 20, 2012: For Presidents Day, a tower of Lincoln books



For Presidents Day, a tower of Lincoln books

Source: LAT, 2-20-12


It’s Presidents Day, which through the years has become a celebration of George Washington, whose birthday was Feb. 22, Abraham Lincoln, who was born on Feb. 12, and other of our commanders in chief. Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C. — where President Lincoln was shot and which continues to operate as a theater and is a National Historic Site — is celebrating, bookishly.

Ford’s Theater is opening a new Center for Education and Leadership on Tuesday, but inside today is a 34-foot tower of books. A tower of books about Abraham Lincoln.

That is an awful lot of Lincoln books.

The tower is 8 feet in diameter and is more than three stories tall. There are 7,000 books in the tower, while 15,000 books are said to have been written about Lincoln. “It makes a real statement to anyone that this is an important guy and there was a whole lot written about him, and there continues to be a whole lot written about him,” Paul Tetreault, director of Ford’s Theatre,” told NPR.

The only bummer about this extravagant display of Lincoln literary love is that it isn’t made of books; the book tower is constructed of aluminum, imprinted with copies of book covers. See photos of the Lincoln book tower at NPR.

Presidents’ Day: Carl Sandburg’s ‘Lincoln’ — Our best presidents are as close as the nearest biography



Presidents Day: our best presidents are as close as the nearest biography

With biographies like Carl Sandburg’s ‘Lincoln,’ Americans can learn about past presidents on any day of the year.

Source: Christian Science Monitor,  2-20-12

Carl Sandburg was thought an unlikely choice by some to chronicle the life of Abraham Lincoln, but his lyrical prose still makes his biography on Honest Abe a compelling read today.

…With the arrival of another Presidents Day, perhaps now is as good a time as any to acknowledge our debt not only to Lincoln, but to Sandburg, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1940 for the concluding volumes of his Lincoln biography. Sandburg, best known as a poet, seemed an unlikely biographer of the nation’s 16th president when he started the project in the 1920s….READ MORE

Sandburg, who died in 1967 at age 89, wrote biography with the kind of flourish that can seem quaint to modern ears, but his basic sense of how to tell a good story is a reminder that even writers who aren’t professional historians also have something to contribute to presidential biography.

His “Lincoln,” though perhaps little read today, is part of a larger tradition of presidential biography started by Washington Irving, the 19th-century writer who gained fame as the author of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” before turning to a mammoth life of Washington. Then, as now, Americans depended on popular writers to chronicle their commanders-in-chief – a practice that continues today in the able hands of David McCullough, Richard Reeves, and others.

Thanks to Sandburg and his successors, we can connect with the lives of our presidents on Presidents Day, and every other day of the year.

Danny Heitman, a columnist for The Baton Rouge Advocate and a frequent essayist for national publications, is the author of “A Summer of Birds: John James Audubon at Oakley House.”

Book Buzz February 20, 2012: Public Library Presidents’ Day Children’s Books Choices



Bedford Hills Library Says Watch, Read About Presidents Day

Source: The Daily Bedford, 2-20-12

While Presidents Day in recent years may be known for shopping sales and days off from school and work, the Bedford Hills Free Library and the Mount Kisco Public Library are suggesting you show your children, and maybe remind yourself, why the holiday presents a valuable day to educate.

Books can offer a unique perspective on history, according to Bedford Hills Librarian Kathy Storfer. But what Storfer suggests for the week is a day spent in front of the silver screen. The video of the Broadway musical “1776” is a classic, Storfer said, along with “Glory,” the tale of the first all-black volunteer company in the Civil War. But she strongly requests the HBO mini-series “John Adams.”

“It’s brilliantly done and brilliantly acted, and it humanizes him,” she said of President John Adams. “We often picture these people on pedestals, but these were real human beings. They show the dirt and the mud, the real human beings. Adams was reviled because he defended the British. And they showed that.

Vicki Kriegeskotte of the Bedford Hills Free Library brings in the literature point of view, as she suggests for young readers books that focus on the behind the scenes story, one about the first ladies. Books like “A is for Abigail” by Lynne Cheney and “First Ladies” by Amy Pastan are suggested.

“They had their own opinions, but also supported what their husbands did,” she said. “And they were there and took care of things their husbands couldn’t take care of to make sure things ran smoothly.”

Deirdre Johnson, who heads of the children’s section of the Mount Kisco Public Library, said she specifically enjoys new book “Those Rebels, John and Tom” by Barbara Kerley. It’s about John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, and their sometimes difficult but ultimately crucial relationship.

“It shows how they were complete opposites, but they worked together really well and did wonderful things for the country,” Johnson said. “History is one of the things that helps kids imagine and helps their character, and helps them know where they are in the world.”



Book Buzz February 19, 2012: Douglas Brinkley Review’s Jodi Kantor’s ‘The Obamas’



The First Marriage ‘The Obamas,’ by Jodi Kantor

Source: NYT, 2-17-12

The Obamas…The difference when a head of state’s spouse performs an advisory role is that both the content and its consequences resonate through a lot more than one household. And that’s the point of Jodi Kantor’s new book, “The Obamas.” Call it chick nonfiction, if you will; this book is not about politics, it’s about marriage, or at least one marriage, and a notably successful one at that. This is a couple who listen to each other, and no one believes more in America’s 44th president than his wife. Last August, at a party for his 50th birthday, Kantor writes, Mrs. Obama toasted her husband for passing the health care bill, appointing two women to the Supreme Court and killing ­Osama bin Laden. When he signaled for the accolades to be toned down, she cut him off. “No, you’re just going to stand there and listen,” she snapped. “I know it makes you uncomfortable, but you only turn 50 once, so you’re just going to have to take it.” And he did.

Kantor, a Washington correspondent for The New York Times, interviewed the Obamas for a 2009 Times Magazine profile and became intensely interested in the working relationship between ­Potus and Flotus. Recognizing that most books on the Obama White Househave largely been about policy, she sensed an opening. The result is “The Obamas,” a dimly controversial palace intrigue that attempts to explain how the first couple’s marriage works. “In public, they smiled and waved,” Kantor writes, “but how were the Obamas really reacting to the White House, and how was it affecting the rest of us?” A reportorial wunderkind, she had the gumption not only to collect colorful, hard-to-come-by insider anecdotes about the Obamas, but also to venture into the dangerous terrain of psychoanalyzing the first lady. When an amateur puts the powerful on a shrink’s couch, following the example of Freud with Woodrow Wilson, the hunches about human nature had better be spot on.

Fortunately, “The Obamas”is more Sally Bedell Smith than Kitty Kelley. Kantor interviewed 33 White House officials and aides and cabinet members, to good effect. She reconstructs a half-dozen or so strange, gossipy moments that hardly hold up as serious journalism, but provide insight nonetheless. Mostly, she illuminates, in breezy prose, how the first lady sets the tone and tempo of the current White House. Kantor’s admiring portrait of Mrs. Obama, a hug really, shows a marvelous mother, an acerbic political strategist and a strong-willed spouse….READ MORE

Black History Month: A trip through time for young readers



A trip through time for young Black History Month readers

Source: USA Today, 2-8-12

February is Black History Month, a popular time for novels and non-fiction about African Americans. Here are four new titles for young readers.

Ellen’s Broom | By Kelly Starling Lyons, illustrated by Daniel Minter; Putnam, 29 pp., $16.99, for ages 5-8 | *** 1/2 stars (out of four)

When Grandmama Sings | By Margaree King Mitchell, illustrated by James E. Ransome; Aristad/Harper Collins, 40 pp., $16.99, for ages 5-9 | ***

To the Mountain: My Journey Through the Civil Rights Movement | By Charlayne Hunter-Gault; Roaring Brook, 198 pp., $22.99, for ages 12 and up | *** 1/2

What Color Is My World? The Lost History of African-American Inventors | By Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Raymond Obstfeld, illustrated by Ben Boos and A.G. Ford; Candlewick, 44 pp., $17.99, for ages 8 to 12 | ***