Thursday, January 29, 2009

Guest Review: Giants

I am so excited to share with all of you a guest review written by my dad -- otherwise known as Booking Pap Pap. He has recently retired and is settled in his new home, so he has plenty of time to read (except for all those times when my mom has chores for him to do.) He enjoys books about the history of our country, but he also likes to read all types of fiction. His latest read was GIANTS by John Stauffer.

Summary: Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln were the preeminent self-made men of their time. In this masterful dual biography, award-winning Harvard University scholar John Stauffer describes the transformations in the lives of these two giants during a major shift in cultural history, when men rejected the status quo and embraced new ideals of personal liberty. As Douglass and Lincoln reinvented themselves and ultimately became friends, they transformed America.

Lincoln was born dirt poor, had less than one year of formal schooling, and became the nation's greatest president. Douglass spent the first twenty years of his life as a slave, had no formal schooling-in fact, his masters forbade him to read or write-and became one of the nation's greatest writers and activists, as well as a spellbinding orator and messenger of audacious hope, the pioneer who blazed the path traveled by future African-American leaders.

At a time when most whites would not let a black man cross their threshold, Lincoln invited Douglass into the White House. Lincoln recognized that he needed Douglass to help him destroy the Confederacy and preserve the Union; Douglass realized that Lincoln's shrewd sense of public opinion would serve his own goal of freeing the nation's blacks. Their relationship shifted in response to the country's debate over slavery, abolition, and emancipation.

Both were ambitious men. They had great faith in the moral and technological progress of their nation. And they were not always consistent in their views. John Stauffer describes their personal and political struggles with a keen understanding of the dilemmas Douglass and Lincoln confronted and the social context in which they occurred. What emerges is a brilliant portrait of how two of America's greatest leaders lived. -- Twelve

When my daughter asked me to read and review a book for her blog, I was pleased that she selected GIANTS by John Stauffer. The book fit quite nicely with my interest in biographies of great Americans.

When you think everything possible has been written about Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War along comes a book with a fresh approach to the story by paralleling the lives of Lincoln with Frederick Douglass, a slave who became one of the great civil activists of his time. Stauffer does a great job of portraying these great men as real individuals with real problems and not just bigger than life heroes. I particularly enjoyed the details Stauffer shares with us about the lives of Lincoln and Douglass from their early years up until their death. I garnered an understanding of how those early years impacted the later lives of Lincoln and Douglass as they became the prominent leaders of their time.

I was also surprised to learn that both these men changed their social and political positions many times throughout their lives. Although at odds throughout most of their lives, they finally realized their goals were not mutually exclusive. Lincoln’s decision to abolish slavery with his Emancipation Proclamation was not always his position and was driven by his conclusion that the Union could not be saved without it. Douglass moved from being a strict abolitionist to understanding that saving the Union was necessary to achieve his dream of abolishing slavery.

I highly recommend this book to anyone with interest in the story of slavery and the Lincoln presidency. This book is very timely with the election of Barack Obama, our first African-American President.

A huge thanks goes out to my dad for writing this guest post! I hope this is the first of many times that he'll be "visiting" my blog.

6 comments:

Tammy said...

Great review "Booking Pap Pap", thanks so much for sharing it with us. I was already interested in Abraham Lincoln and this sounds like a book that I should put on my TBR list. I hope to see more reviews from you in the future. What a great "Booking" family.

Anna said...

Sounds like an interesting book. I haven't read a book like this in ages, so I might look into this one. Thanks for the recommendation "Booking Pap Pap!"

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric

Natasha @ Maw Books said...

How fun! Thank you Booking Pap Pap!

Heather J. said...

Thanks Booking Pap Pap! It is always wonderful to hear from avid readers, especially family members. :)

S. Krishna said...

Aww, this is so sweet! And the book sounds really interesting!

bermudaonion said...

Great review, Booking Pap Pap - I hope to see more guest reviews from you!