True Stories: Confucius, Jenny Sanford, Ben and Quinn Bradlee, Peter the Great, Chely Wright, and Paddling Through the Wilds of Floridaby Larry Cox on Jul. 06, 2010, under Uncategorized
Lives of Confucius by Michael Nyland and Thomas Wilson (Broadway Books, $25)
The single most important person in Chinese history, aside from Mao Zedong, is, without a doubt, Confucius. Michael Nylan, a professor of Chinese history at the University of California at Berkeley, and Thomas A. Wilson, an associate professor of history at Hamilton College, have written a new perspective of this great philosopher based on newly discovered archeological findings. This well crafted book builds a convincing case that the doctrine of Confucius is as powerful as that of Jesus and Mohammad, perhaps more so, and has gained prominence over Taoism and Buddhism. Although Confucius died almost 2,500 years ago, his teachings continue to hold relevance and insight. This fresh perspective on one of China’s great teachers is accessible and informative.
The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama by David Remnick (Knopf, $29.95)
Although there have been dozens of biographies written in recent months about Barack Obama, this one is one of the more balanced and detailed accounts. David Remnick, a reporter for The Washington Post for more than a decade and winner of the 1994 Pulitzer Prize for “Lenin’s Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire,” not only documents the life of Obama, he explores both the ambition and circumstances that led to his political success. One of the more fascinating aspects of “The Bridge” is that it is one of the first biographies that sorts out the rather complex life of Obama’s father, Barack Hussein Obama, Sr., a brilliant economist who abandoned his family and ended his life a beaten man, and the influence of his mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, an anthropologist who build a career living and studying in Indonesia. Obama’s career, set against the turbulent backdrop of Chicago racism and politics, was triggered not just by his personal ambitions but by a hunger for basic change in America.
Devoted: The Story of a Father’s Love for His Son by Dick Hoyt with Don Yaeger (Da Capo, $22.95)
When Rick Hoyt was born, his parents, Dick and Judy, were told by doctors that he had cerebral palsy with associated spastic quadriplegia. They added that he had no hope of normalcy and recommended that the newborn be placed in a state institution. The Hoyts decided that they would, instead, provide Rick with every opportunity that his capabilities would allow. With cutting-edge technology that enabled Rick to communicate, he was able to go to school, eventually graduating from Boston University. When Rick urged his dad to enter them in a charity race, it had unexpected consequences. By competing together as a team, they discovered how much they enjoyed the challenge. During the next few years, Dick pushed his son’s wheel chair over more than a thousand finish libnes, including those of twenty-six Boston Marathons and even the grueling triathlon of Hawaii’s infamous Ironman. This remarkable book is the inspirational story of what can happen when two determined people create an unbreakable bond and set out to achieve the almost impossible.
The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University by Kevin Roose (Grand Central Publishing, $13.99, softbound)
When Kevin Roose, a sophomore at Brown University, transferred for a semester at Liberty University, the late Reverend Jerry Falwell’s “Bible Boot Camp,” he quickly realized that, like Dorothy, he wasn’t in Kansas anymore. The new rules included no drinking, smoking, dancing, or R-rated movies. While attending church, classes, and choir practice, Roose managed to find time to attend an evangelical hip-hop concert, go on several chaste Christian dates, and even participate in proselytizing to partying coeds. This blend of humor, empathy, and compassion is an unexpected pleasure. It was described by this critic when originally published in 2009, as “hilarious and heartwarming, respectful and thought provoking.”
The Man Who Owns the News: Inside the Secret Life of Rupert Murdoch by Michael Wolff (Broadway Books, $16, softbound)
Michael Wolffe, a columnist for Vanity Fair, commentator for CNBC, and two-time National Magazine Award Winner, conducted extensive research that included nine months of interviews to reveal one of the most powerful and illusive men in the world, Rupert Murdoch. Through his access to Murdoch and his associates and family, Wolffe reveals that the mogul is Machiavellian and overbearing, not a big surprise. What might be unexpected is that he is also a doting father, a love-struck husband married to a woman forty years his junior, and probably the most brilliant newsman who ever lived. This biography, originally published in 2008, was an instant bestseller and has been reissued with a new foreword and afterword that provide additional information including Murdoch’s reaction to the book. This is the inside dope about this fascinating man, his family, his hopes for the future, and even the other media companies that he has targeted and hopes to eventually own.
Peter the Great by Derek Wilson (St. Martin’s Press, $29.99)
Peter the Great was physically imposing, incredibly intelligent, often ruthless, extremely energetic, and one of the most powerful monarchs the world has ever known. Born in Moscow in 1672, he was the son of tsar Alexey and his second wife, Natalia Naryshkin. He was joint tsar with his retarded half-brother, Ivan, under the regency of his sister, Sophie. When Ivan died, seventeen-year-old Peter ousted his sister, becoming sole tsar. He built a modern army and created the Russian navy in addition to reforms that changed almost every aspect of life of his people. In addition fiscal, administrative, educational, religious, and cultural changes, he helped make Russia the undisputed ruler of the Baltic from the new capital he established in St. Petersburg. Derek Wilson, a British-based biographer and novelist, has written a biography that places Peter the Great in historical context while documenting the incredible achievements he was able to accomplish.
A Life’s Work: Fathers and Sons by Ben and Quinn Bradlee (Simon & Schuster, $19.99)
Ben Bradlee, the former executive editor of The Washington Post, was sixty when his son, Quinn, was born. The child was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect and learning disabilities that created daunting challenges. Quinn proved from the very beginning ten and Quinn write separately about what the other means to them in this back-and-forth literary dialogue that highlights the particulars of their unique relationship. This life-affirming slender book documents how the two men continue to enrich each other’s lives. Quinn. Wjp attended Landmark College, American University, and the American Film Academy, has made a series of documentary films about children with learning disabilities and rare genetic syndromes. His mother, Sally Quinn, also shares some of her observations.
Leo & His Circle: The Life of Leo Castelli by Annie Cohen-Solal (Knopf, $35)
Leo Castelli immigrated to New York in 1941. Sixteen years later, shortly after his 50th birthday, he opened a gallery and was one of the first to exhibit the then-unknown Jasper Johns. He help establish such twentieth-century masters as Lichtenstein, Warhol, and Twombly. His influence in the world of art was almost unequalled. In this crisply written new biography, Annie Cohen-Solal, a Visiting Arts Professor at New York University’s Tisch University and author of the highly acclaimed “Sartre: A Life,” draws on her personal friendship with Castelli to serve up an elegant, shrewd, and sensitive portrait of a visionary who help trigger worldwide enthusiasm for American contemporary art.
Without a Paddle: Racing Twelve Hundred Miles Around Florida by Sea Kayak by Warren Richey (St. Martin’s Press, $24.99)
Warren Richey dodged sharks, allighators, and pythons during his 30-day adventure to complete 1,200 miles through some of the most frightening and dangerous waters in America. This remarkable physical and emotional journey cuts to the chase of what it means to be a man, a husband, and a father. In one of the most interesting travel books of the summer, Richey, a journalism who is currently with the Christian Science Monitor, set out on the adventure of a lifetime following his divorce. In this unforgettable narrative, the author documents that with only 120 miles to go, he found strength in recalling the experiences of his life that would help him to the finish line. In this Ultimate Florida Challenge, Richey not only completed his goal, but ultimately won a fresh sense of wonderment at his own life. Alternately heartwarming and inspirational, this story of how one man put his life back together by setting new goals and challenges.
Like Me: Confessions of a Heartland Country Singer by Chely Wright (Pantheon, $25.95)
Recognized by the Academy of Country Music as the Top Ten Female Vocalist of 1995 and featured in People’s 50 Most Beautiful list, Chely Wright has toured throughout the world, performing for troops in the Middle East seven times. As she states in her new autobiography, she is one of the few people in country music who has ever admitted his or her homosexuality. From her childhood in Kansas, where she prayed to God three times a day to keep her from “sinning,” to being cast in Country Music USA’s Opryland, to Nashville and her first record, to the astonishing successes that followed, the singer shares the candid details of her life in this no-holds-barred memoir.
Staying True by Jenny Sanford (Ballantine Books, $25)
Jenny Sanford married Mark Sanford of South Carolina and together, they had four sons. She served as campaign manager for her husband. Following his successful campaign for governor, he was considered one of the rising stars of the GOP and was even hailed as a possible presidential candidate in 2012. Mark Sanford’s presidential hopes came crashing down when it was revealed that he was having an affair with a woman in Argentina. With uncommon candor and strength drawn from her spiritual faith, Jenny Sanford reveals that during this ordeal she was determined to remain grounded and to prevent herself from being the victim in the tabloid feeding frenzy that was triggered by her husband’s very public sexual misconduct. As she reveals in her new book, throughout her life she has made choices. For example, she gave up a career of investment banking, moved from her childhood home in Illinois, and even changed her religion. Every choice was a glad concession to both harmonious life and, more often than not, her husband’s political aspirations. How she maintained her independence and integrity during this difficult period is a remarkable story in itself.