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Topic: 2012 Uncle Sam Choice Discussion

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Kat (polbio) -
Subject: 2012 Uncle Sam Choice Discussion
Date Posted: 1/1/2012 6:26 AM ET
Member Since: 10/10/2008
Posts: 3,067
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Post a review of the book you chose for this category here

Matt C. (mattc) - ,
Date Posted: 1/5/2012 11:37 AM ET
Member Since: 8/13/2008
Posts: 3,849
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I just finished Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard.  The focus of the book is the assassination of James Garfield, the 20th president, but it delves into a number of historical areas, with smaller biographical sketches of others involved, including Alexander Graham Bell, who attempted to help save Garfield by locating the bullet with a special metal detector invented practically overnight for the purpose, and the assassin Charles Guiteau, who was mentally unstable, but was hung in spite of his insanity plea.  There was a lot of attention given to the medical practices of the day, especially Joseph Lister, whose sterilization techniques had not been adopted by most doctors.  It is pretty clear that Garfield died of infection, and there's a strong case made that he might have survived with no medical attention at all...that it was the doctors continual probing of the wound with unsterilized fingers and instruments that killed him.  I never knew much at all about Garfield, and the book was very informative and interesting to me.  It wasn't as large a part of the book, but I was also interested to read about the VP, Chester Arthur, who lived here in Upstate NY (I even briefly attended his alma mater, Union College, in Schenectady).  I'd known he was basically a political hack, making an enourmous amount of money off the spoils system in appointed jobs.  Interestingly it was Arthur who helped end this system by supporting Civil Service requirements for government jobs.  

Date Posted: 1/5/2012 11:50 AM ET
Member Since: 8/17/2009
Posts: 929
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Matt, I listened to this author on CSpan and thought the book sounded fascinating.  It's on my wishlist.

 

Matt C. (mattc) - ,
Date Posted: 1/5/2012 5:03 PM ET
Member Since: 8/13/2008
Posts: 3,849
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Well, I can't help with your WL...as with most new releases, I got it from the library.

Date Posted: 1/5/2012 6:20 PM ET
Member Since: 8/17/2009
Posts: 929
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I know,Matt...I try and do the same.

Date Posted: 1/5/2012 7:13 PM ET
Member Since: 11/12/2011
Posts: 473
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Speaking of Garfield, has anyone read Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell? It's light reading but a fun intro (can it be?) to the deaths of Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley. I haven't read any other of her books, but want to find some.

Date Posted: 1/5/2012 7:21 PM ET
Member Since: 8/20/2006
Posts: 1,930
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Thanks for the review Matt - adding it to my Reminder list. I have not read much about Garfield.

Kat (polbio) -
Date Posted: 1/5/2012 7:33 PM ET
Member Since: 10/10/2008
Posts: 3,067
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Matt, that sounds like a great book, I am definately adding it to my WL as well. Thanks for the review!

Date Posted: 5/6/2012 3:29 AM ET
Member Since: 11/15/2008
Posts: 210
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I read The Summer of 1787 by David O. Steward. It was an in-depth look at the writing of the Constitution.  It was interesting reading the series of compromises and debates that went into the creation of the document.  Clearly no one ended up with exactly what they wanted.  I've read many references over the years regarding the "intent of the framers" as though there was a cohesive plan of government on which the framers agreed, but the reality is that there were as many opinions as there were people attending.  We tend to have a sense that our form of government was inevitable and clearly planned and this book showed how it was many weeks of painstaking work and a product of many debates and compromises.