Last week I finished:
Grace & Steel, J. Randy Taraborrelli
Another smash by the wonderful biographer J. Randy Taraborrelli. I've read several books by Taraborrelli, and I've loved them all. They expertly straddle the line of research and gossipy stories, and while they are always long, they read fast and are never boring. This one details the women of the Bush "Dynasty" (oh how the Bush family hates that word): Dorothy Walker Bush, married to Senator Prescott Bush; first lady Barbara Bush, married to President George H. W. Bush; and first lady Laura Bush, married to President George W. Bush. Other female members of the family are also discussed, including Barbara Bush's mother Pauline Pierce, Laura Bush's mother Jenna Welch, and Governor Jeb Bush's wife Columba. While a great deal of the book is information I already have stored away in the Bush vault in my mind, there were lots of stories I'd never heard before (I especially loved the story about Barbara Bush and Laura Bush that started the book), and there was a great deal of information about Dorothy Bush that I'd never read before. She was a remarkable woman, and I grew quite attached to her. Taraborrelli discusses Barbara's difficult relationship with her mother and much easier relationship with her mother-in-law, Laura's quest for approval from Barbara, the tragic accident that changed Laura's life forever, the various campaigns and presidencies, etc. and etc. It's a wonderful book, and I loved every page of it. The copious interviews the author conducts really brings these folks to life. My only disappointment is how much time was spent on President George H. W. Bush's alleged infidelity--which both parties denied. It was treated here as fact, and of course it could be, but I've never seen it put forward as fact before. Was Taraborrelli just being salacious? I don't know, but mention of it would have been sufficient, given the denial of it by both parties. My rating: 5 stars.
Write It When I'm Gone, Thomas M. DeFrank
I listened to this book last year, and I enjoyed it so much, I decided to listen again. This is an account of President Gerald Ford's vice presidency, presidency, and post-presidency by a reporter, DeFrank, tasked with covering his career. President Ford had a good relationship with the press, and over the thirty years they talked, DeFrank grew to have a personal relationship with him. The book covers President Ford's career in politics and his long life after it. Over the years, Ford talked about various presidents, historical events, and political figures, opining on President Reagan, both President Bushes, the Clintons, and President Carter; why he lost election in 1976 (pardoning President Nixon had a lot to do with it); the "co-presidency" talk in the 1980 election; and his political predictions (among others, that Hilary Clinton would be the first female president). He talks about his pride in being the groomer of both Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. To date, the modest Michigander has the distinction of being the only president never elected to the presidency or vice presidency. It's a remarkably human look at the president, and there is just enough side commentary by DeFrank, which never really swerves into opinion. The last part of the book, which deals with President Ford's last years, is very poignant. It really is a remarkable book, very approachable, never boring. I love it. My rating: 4 stars.
This week I'll finish:
And then I'll begin:
My nightly reads: