Review: Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

Title: Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln
Author: Doris Kearns Goodwin
Started: 11/30/09
Finished:  1/15/10
More Information:
Jon’s Summary: If you ever decide to read a book on Abe Lincoln, you should probably read this one. Why? Well because about halfway through the book I realized that it read more like fiction than history. You really feel connected to historical figures that died over a hundred years ago due to Goodwin’s writing style. And even though you know that the book will come to an abrupt stop on April 15, 1865, you still hope things may turn out differently!

Read this book mostly over 3 weeks, as I didn’t get much reading in over the holiday. It goes surprisingly fast as you want to know what will happen next. For me, someone who did extremely well in US History, it was a great refresher course for material I hadn’t studied in 10 years. It also gives some interesting insight into 19th century relationships, including the lost relationship type known as “intimate platonic male friendship”. While I’m fairly close to a few of my male friends, I don’t think I would ever write to them about how I “longed to feel their love”!

More than anything else the book underscores the benefits of rational thought over emotional even under pressure. Many times Lincoln could have succumbed to petty emotional decision making regarding subordinates, however he always gave himself time to refocus — in many cases writing letters he never sent due to his rashness of tone within them.

Great read.

Review: Lies I Told My Children by Karen McQuestion

Title: Lies I Told My Children
Author: Karen McQuestion
Started: 11/11/09
Finished:  11/16/09
More Information:
Jon’s Summary: So contrary to what you might expect, this book is not about lying to kids. Well not explicitly, anyway. I happened to stumble on this book because it was insanely cheap at Kindle marketplace, only $1.99! I figured – heck, how bad can it be? And the preview looked promising. So I plunked down 2 dollars and was promptly amazed by a number of things:

1. 2 dollars gets you what you pay for quantity wise – this thing is pretty short. Heading from Toledo to Detroit via plane (20 minutes, 50 with boarding, etc..) – then take this book along. It’ll be a quick read.

2. The essays given are interesting, however they aren’t riveting. It’s brain candy – extremely humorous in some parts, but a bit slow in others. My favorite essay was probably either the first (where lying to children is actually discussed) or the one regarding preparing a young teen girl for a dance (a harrowing experience I am sure, despite never having the pleasure to experience it).

3. The writing style is accessible, so at least it’s not a slow and boring read – it’s fast and mundane!

So there you have it – are you looking to read a somewhat interesting book in your spare hour? It’s a good bargain…

Book: Without You: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and the Musical Rent by Anthony Rapp

OK, so since I read a fair bit on the train to and from work, I’ve decided to start publishing reviews on JonWestfall.Com for a variety of reasons. First, so I remember later what I thought of a book. Second, so perhaps others get a sense of books they might want to read. And Third, it’s a cheap source of material to keep new content flowing. So here’s the first review, of a book I finished this morning.

Title: Without You: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and the Musical Rent
Author: Anthony Rapp
Started: 11/3/09
Finished: 11/11/09
Jon’s Summary:
The author examines a period in his life between 1994-1998 which found him staring in a Broadway production and simultaneously dealing with the prolonged illness and death of his mother. The book follows a progressive path from showing the author’s general numbness to the concepts of grief and shared sorrow to an understanding and acceptance. A running sub-plot is the author’s romantic relationships during this time and the effects the relationships had on the central story.

This book was another Kindle recommendation that turned out to be pretty good. I enjoyed reading it, found it engaging, funny, and a unique perspective into the soul of someone dealing with quite a lot at one time. As a fan of Rent and generally intrigued by the self-analysis provided by anyone (Why do you think I have a degree in psychology?), I found it to be a good and quick read. In a few spots it did seem to drag, especially in the late stages of his mother’s illness – however thankfully those “dragging” moments were few. If you’re somewhat empathetic, be prepared to be moved by some of the content in the last quarter of the book. Also knowing the music of Rent will help understand the connections the author makes to it (Although limited lyric excerpts are provided). Overall a good book, 4 out of 5 stars.

Without You: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and the Musical Rent

Beautiful Day


While this isn’t a picture from Today, it was a nice picture I found. Nothing really earth shattering about this blog post, just one to remind everyone to enjoy beautiful days now before the snow storms commence in the coming months!