Book Review: The American President

The American President: From Teddy Roosevelt to Bill Clinton

Rating –  Put it on your list

Level –  Moderate to difficult read, 800+ pages

This book is kind of unique. I thought I was buying a big book that essentially be a volume of shortish biographies for all the presidents of the 20th century. In a since that is what it is, the presidency from Teddy to Bill. The major difference it is really is focused on each man’s presidency more than it is the man himself. There is short biographical into, so to speak, but it really is more a chronicle of their years in office.

It is more than just history that Leuchtenburg write on, the uniqueness comes from his approach of how the presidency changed under each man and overtime. In a way, the book is more a biography/history of the presidency in the 19th century; certainly much more so than a collection of biographies.

My Thoughts
It really is an interesting book. The presidency changed so dramatically from Teddy to Bill, covering those changes and diving into the intricacies of how and when they happened really is a fascinating take on history. For his part, Leuchtenburg is a master historian, but if I had one criticism of him, it is that often it seemed he was going out of his way to find a long, rare word. I fire threw about 50 books a year and write reviews for most of them, so I feel I have a pretty decent vocabulary, but I felt like I had to look up words every few pages or so.

In that sense, the book was a bit academic, but for the most part, his writing is much more of story telling. You can breeze through a surprising amount of pages as he tells the tale of the major shifts in the way the most powerful office in the country has been handled. When you are ready to tackle this book, you better well know, it is not small. Not only is it well over 800 pages, but they are large pages, and densely packed with writing.

All that said, anyone interested in politics or history needs to pick up this book. Hopefully, there are come college classes out there requiring it. The book is a wealth of information and is exceedingly important to see how we got to where we are today with regard to presidential power.

Books for Fathers Day

With Fathers Day coming up in a few days, I figured instead of my usual Wednesday book review of a single book, I want to be lazy and just give you a list of books that are interesting for fathers.

Best pre-dad book I’ve reviewed – The New Dad’s Playbook: Gearing Up for the Biggest Game of Your Life
Best pre-dad I haven’t reviewed – Be Prepared
Best book for early childhood – Brain Rules for Baby (Updated and Expanded): How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from Zero to Five
Best Gospel-centered parenting book (my review) – Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family
Best book for men in general, but certainly has a few value for fathers and husbands (my review) – Disciplines of a Godly Man (Paperback Edition)

*This book is more focused on women, but is actually a pretty good read. My advice to dads and pre-dads who fear their wife might be over-protective is to have them read this book (y’all both read, she’ll appreciate the effort if nothing else) – Bringing Up Bébé

A few others to consider:
The Pregnancy Instruction Manual: Essential Information, Troubleshooting Tips, and Advice for Parents-to-Be (Owner’s and Instruction Manual)
The Baby Owner’s Manual: Operating Instructions, Trouble-Shooting Tips, and Advice on First-Year Maintenance
Einstein Never Used Flashcards: How Our Children Really Learn–and Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less
How Toddlers Thrive: What Parents Can Do Today for Children Ages 2-5 to Plant the Seeds of Lifelong Success
The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind

Sorry if the suggestion skew young as they are all about pre-dad to preschool, mostly baby and toddler books, but I’m young (ish) and have just the one toddler, so I don’t know what to tell you other than to check back in the next few years for more.

Book Review: The New Dad’s Playbook

The New Dad’s Playbook: Gearing Up for the Biggest Game of Your Life

Rating – Put it on your list

Level – Quick and easy

The book is basically what it says it is – a guide to fatherhood – just (sometimes too) heavily mixed with football metaphors. The book is 14 chapters broken into five parts, all based on a football season – training camp, regular season (pregnancy), super bowl (birth), postgame, and off-season(dad things, have another child). The attempt to put everything neatly into these categorise can be a bit of a stretch, especially in the ‘training camp’ section, but actually work out really nicely in ‘regular season’ and ‘post game.’

My Thoughts
This book turned out better than I thought. I was little skeptical at the beginning, with the intro chapter somewhat meandering, but Watson really got into stride with the practical advice. As mentioned above, training camp was probably the weakest, but I have to say, I was really surprised at how well the ‘regular season’ chapter turned out. It was a great pregnancy 101. Watson actually goes through the different terminology, stages of pregnancy, and medical options defining and explaining in quick and simple terms what they mean. Maybe it is because Baker is a ‘Christian’ publisher (who typically aren’t great a practical advise), but I was surprised at how useful and practical this section was.

‘Postgame’ and ‘Off-season’ where also good chapters, where he moves away from practical advice (in the step-by-step, playbook sense) and honestly moves into challenging men. Basically saying we need to step up for our family, work to keep the marriage strong, and then realize we will fail, regardless, and that it is alright, because you can’t be a perfect dad. To wrap-up and really expand the breadth of the parenting aspects, he ends on a solid discussion on what it means to have another child, and even differing thoughts on how long to wait and how many children to have.

For those skeptical that you can find a practical (pre)parenting book from a CHristian publisher, this one is the exception. For those maybe interested due him being a famous football player, but disinterested in the CHristian-y parts, I think it is still a solid option. The intent of the book is to be practical and helpful, he isn’t kidding with the ‘playbook’ part of the title. However, it is clear that the man loves God. He obviously takes his relationship with God, his wife, and his children very seriously. It was encouraging and convicting at the same time.

Any pre-dad should have a number of books and resources in mind, and this is definitely one to put on your list. If you have a friend that doesn’t like reading and might only read a book because it was written by a football player (and you probably know a few), this book is perfect. I can think of a guy right now whose wife is almost through the first trimester that I will give this book to. The practical advice, the sports references, and the quick and easy pace of the read will make this book one that anyone will finish.

* I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

**You still have time to order this book and give it to a pre-dad as a father’s day gift, should you be so inclined.

Book Review: The Imperfect Disciple

The Imperfect Disciple: Grace for People Who Can’t Get Their Act Together

My Rate – Must Read

Level – Fairly easy, short to moderate length.

A book about how to be a disciple written by someone who apparently isn’t very good at it. As usual, I don’t have a very good summary of what this book is about. The best summary of the books is right there as the subtitle – grace for people who can’t get their act together. I don’t know how to add to that. There are 10 chapters (20ish pages each) with a short introduction and even shorter conclusion.

My Thoughts
This is what a book about discipleship should be. This might be the best book I’ve read this year, certainly the best ‘Christian’ book of the year, probably the best in a while. I was given a copy of this book to review, but I may actually go buy a few more to hand out. So, what makes it so good? Was there anything revolutionary in this book for me? Honestly, no. There was almost nothing new and different for me, other than a growing jealously of his writing style.

Why would I want more copies of this book then? Because it is the best book to give out to people who ‘try’ hard to be ‘good’. I resonated deeply with his background, in the fundamentalist/moralistic sects of the baptist world. It probably took me until my 20’s to really understand Grace and the Gospel. To his subtitle, I already know I don’t have together and never will, and understand that this is the need for grace. However, there are so many people who don’t yet know this. Wilson is a master at saying what needs to be said in a way that will be heard by those who need to hear. He writes with the obliviously well worn heart of a pastor who has seen people burn themselves out or tear themselves down.

Buy this book for a new believer. Buy this book for the old believer you know who is always trying to ‘be’ better and is confused as to why they can’t. Buy this book if you disciple anyone, or lead any small group. Buy this book if you work with youth or college students. Buy this book for anyone new to the Biblical concept of Grace. Finally, go ahead and get if for yourself. It is a fun, enlightening read. I just pulled up amazon and it is less than $9. Admit it to yourself, that is less than you spent last time you went to one of those weight your ice cream places.

I rarely ever hold pages, or underline/make notes in non-academic books (things other than commentaries or systematics), but I just flipped back through this and found 15 dogeared pages. Maybe the most surprising is how broad they are, everything from what it means to be a disciple with examples from Isaiah, to issues with American Christianity and consumerism, to depression and struggling with your faith, and coincidentally to me as I am studying this right now – some good teaching from the Sermon on the Mount.

This book really is a go to book for what it means to be a disciple and a must read for anyone interested in the topic of being a follower of Jesus. The depth of the theology and pastoral messaging was incredible, while at the same time the book was funny and honest. He writes the way a non-pretend theologian blogger would write if he were to write a book.

* I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Mile Marker Zero

Mile Marker Zero: The Moveable Feast of Key West — William McKeen

My Rating – Put It On The List

Level – Short to moderate in length, but reads longer, easy to moderate read

I’m torn on the summary. It can be summed up in a basic sentence, or it would take a whole page to do justice to the craziness of this book. essentially, it is about Key West, way back when. When Key West wasn’t a tourist trap, when it was the wild west of modern America. This is post landbarron, like Flager, and celebrity, like Hemingway, but pre-over commercialization. There were as-yet unknown writers like Corcoran, McGuane, and Buffet. Hunter S. Thompson among others makes an appearance.

All to say, if you grew up with the legends of the Conch Republic, read this book, if you’ve never heard the stories of the way things were, it will either be dull or incredibly fascinating.

My Thoughts
So, I did grow up the stories of Key West, especially from my dad, who visited more often in his lost years. In fact, we took a pilgrimage, driving the 800+ plus miles from Atlanta, when I was maybe 12 or so. In a somewhat odd coincidence my dad actually grew up next to where Vaughn Cochran, proprietor of the Black Fly and secondary character in these Key West chronicles, spent his summers. Actually, it was my dad who loaned me this book.

Anyway, this book is a lot of fun. If you’ve spent time in Mallory Square or read the autobiographies of Jimmy Buffett or Hunter S. Thompson, you’ll get a lot out of this. It is all the craziness you’d expect and then some. Plus, some somewhat odd and data funny parts, like the little crew down there getting members only jackets with fake name to wear as the walked around getting drunk and partying.

There is a just an interesting mix of writers, musicians, and artist, you have to wonder why it never really got the popularity of some of the other historical places for such people. Maybe because it was at the bottom of the country, inhabited by nomadic Southerners so forgotten than the US Army once accidentally invaded the island; but probably mostly the commercialization tha followed. Ironically, Buffet’s own Parrot Head/Margaritaville and Cheeseburger in Paradise stores are currently part of the problem, a victim of his success.