Words, Words, Words
I'm back to share some thoughts on what others have written.
It’s State of the Union week! The State of Our Union looks great from high atop a white Chinese spy balloon!
Speaking of which…nothing can shoot down my gratitude for your support of Okay History.
I know I mentioned on Monday that I wouldn’t have anything for today, but I’m back with some material to share, so why not. I hope my change of mind is…well…okay.
Anonymous and I are back from our honeymoon on a secluded island. If you haven’t been on a honeymoon, I strongly recommend it. If it’s been a while since your honeymoon, I recommend finding someone new and taking that person on a honeymoon. Either way, knock out ten days at the beach where you don’t speak the language of the natives and enjoy yourself.
Anonymous and I did one thing consistently over the past ten days.
You guessed it. We read!
Anonymous is a vivacious reader. She is conducting this Library Challenge, which is her picking up books at the library, reading, and then reviewing them on her Library Challenge Instagram account. I haven’t updated my Okay History account in over a year! I gotta get on that.
My reading habits are a different story. Last year I read four books, which is embarrassing. You could say I have my own Library Challenge, but it would be much different from my wife’s.
I did read a lot more magazines and articles that I subscribe to online. But I miss books, especially big old history books, that I read for a while, then put on a shelf, then forget about for about two years. Never lend me a book; you will never see it again.
Last week I matched my total for the number of books I read in 2022, which helps me be a better blogger on history! I read for you.
So for our first Friday get-together of the year, I thought I’d share the books I read last week to give you an idea of what books I do read when I read.
In keeping with my style, I have ranked them while giving you The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, with an additional verdict on whether you should get the book. We will go from 4 to 1!
Here’s what I got:
4. James Madison. Written by Richard Brookhiser, the title matches the length of the book. Short and to the point. Speaking of short, I did not realize Madison was barely five feet tall.
James Madison did a heck of a job getting the Constitution completed.
He did allow the British to burn down the White House.
James Madison suffered from a lot of stomach challenges. He would miss sessions or other important meetings because of some gastroenterological issues. There are a few times where Brookhiser mentioned these issues would arise when Madison needed to ride his horse. Ouch.
Meh. Do you really want to read a book on James Madison? If you find this at the library, go for it; just don’t get hit with the late fees because you forgot about it and put it on a shelf.
3 out of 5 stars.
3. The Birth of Modern Politics, Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, and the Election of 1828. Written by Lynn Hudson Parsons, it skims over the presidential elections of 1824 and 1828. I bought this book in 2021, and it doesn’t disappoint the anticipation I had when I bought it and put it on a shelf. You can tell I eagerly awaited reading it because I picked it up just under two years later. Just check my Instagram.
Quincy Adams and Jackson respected each other greatly. When Jackson was running around the South murdering Indigenous people and keeping martial law in New Orleans long after the battle and the War of 1812 ended, Quincy Adams defended him to President Madison. Jackson, smartly, appreciated the gesture. I knew this earlier, having read a bio on Quincy two years ago after I bought it five years before that.
Martin Van Buren plays the villain in this story. It was surprising; I wasn’t expecting it. There are references to William Seward, a man who would become Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of State who was attacked the night of Lincoln’s assassination. I know this because I borrowed a book on Seward like ten years ago, read half of it, and now it sits on my shelf, wondering when I will finish it and give it back to Pops.
Quincy Adams really screwed himself by winning the 1824 election. He immediately named Henry Clay Secretary of State, the stepping stone to the presidency at the time. Jackson screamed that it was a Corrupt Bargain, because he won both the popular and electoral votes, then, with the help of Van Buren, masterminded the first modern campaign with the bells and whistles that we see today. By bells and whistles, I mean dirty tricks, propaganda, and lies.
I’d let you borrow mine, but I carved this book up with notes I will need to reference in the future, like when I drop Van Buren into the depths of the next round of rankings. The 1828 election is a doozy and I hope to dive into it more later. It’s an easy read, so grab it.
4 out of 5 stars
2. Poe for Your Problems. Written by Catherine Baab-Muguira, it’s a clever self-help book from the unlikeliest of life coaches, Edgar Allan Poe. Catherine is a subscriber, and you can find her work here. In even more disclosure, I have never met Catherine and only know her through Substack, so it’s not like I’m pushing my cousin’s work on you people.
I enjoy her writing style; it’s a lot like mine, only way better.
I’m not a Poe fan, can’t say I have ever read anything other than The Raven, but the 24 lessons of Poe-sitive thinking is hilarious. I’m partial to Poe Lesson #17 and think lesson #18 is too true.
Poe got famous after his death through a scathing obituary that caused people to want to check out his work. There is hope for me after the grave. Christopher Dake was a brilliant mediocre history teacher-guy!
Grab this book if you are looking for something different. It doesn’t disappoint.
4 out of 5 stars.
1. The Impeachers the Trial of Andrew Johnson and the Dream of a Just Nation. Written by Brenda Wineapple, it regales the first impeachment of the 17th president of the United States. When this book came out in 2019, I wanted to read it badly. So badly that I forgot about it, and then four years later, I discovered it at the library when Anonymous was on one of her Literature Challenge adventures.
Thaddeus Stevens was a fantastic person who lived and represented the people who thought the idea of owning other people was wrong. He was a relentless challenger of Johnson on various levels, especially Andy’s views on race.
Wineapple fills this book with stories that frankly piss you off. After the Civil War, everyone in the South woke up one day and decided we needed to murder black people who were freed from bondage. It’s disturbing. Johnson, of course, did nothing, which is infuriating.
Also, when you impeach the president, it’s an impossible task to try and remove him from office. The defense can run out the clock, and then people complain that we all just need to “move on.”
Meanwhile, Thaddeus Stevens is being carried into the Senate Chambers because he could die at any moment, but by golly, he is going to stick it to racist traitors who hand over the country to former rebels.
This book is probably no longer available to read in Florida. Also, the managers of impeachment and the House did themselves a great disservice by presenting 11 charges against Johnson. That was too many. They began with the last charge, the general high crimes and misdemeanors, losing by one vote for removal. Then they took a break, came back, and had the same result with the following two charges, and then the rest is history. Okay.
The Impeachers reads like a novel, and the main characters are developed well in this voluminous book. If you are looking to go on a honeymoon, maybe you don’t bring this book, because it will make you upset, then you get mad at your partner when you are playing games and you leave the room to pout like a baby. But look for it in your local library and read it before you put it on a shelf.
4 out of 5 stars
I’m excited to announce that I have picked up at least one new subscriber daily for the past few weeks. Welcome to our new members! I’m getting close to 150, which is so much fun!
I’m so grateful that you have chosen to let me fill up your inbox with history lessons that are okay. I pledge that I will work hard to ensure you keep coming back. Which I hopefully did today and will do again on Monday.
Hope your weekend is full of reading!