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Book Review of: Colonel Roosevelt

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Review of Colonel Roosevelt, by Edmund Morris (Hardcover, 2010)

(You can print this review in landscape mode, if you want a hardcopy)

Reviewer: Mark Lamendola, author of over 6,000 articles.

An outstanding biography, this is the third in a trilogy. I have not read the other two. Yet. After reading this one, I have put the other two on my "must read" list.

Over the years, I have listened to audiobooks on Teddy Roosevelt (or related to TR) and gotten biographical and historical information on him from other sources.  Much of my information on TR has come from books that were not about him per se but in which his influence is discussed. Often in these sources, he is caricatured as either an egotistical socialist or as an energetic reformer of unbridled capitalism.

What emerges from this biography of Teddy Roosevelt in his last 10 years of life is a picture of a man who is, like most other human beings, a complex mix of contradictions.  To understand TR's perspective, you must understand the context in which he fought his political battle. It is clear that Morris understands this context. Though seldom stated explicitly, TR's motivations are often evident. Morris provided just enough information to move the reader along.

Morris is apparently an obsessive researcher. And I don't say that just because his bibliography took up 8 pages in tiny print. I say that because went beyond simply relating the major facts to artfully revealing the subtleties. Because TR was a fascinating individual and an enormously prolific writer, there is plenty of material to draw from. And that is part of the problem for anyone writing on TR; it can be overwhelming to sift through all of the relevant material. Morris did this, and then wrote a page-turner that has the feel of a novel.

If Morris is considering a sequel to this trilogy, I'd like to read about the conflict between TR's surviving children and FDR. It amazes me that FDR has somehow gotten a "golden boy" image from historians, despite policies and behavior that put him on my Five Worst Presidents Ever list (Warren G. Harding, also mentioned in this book, is also on that list). That puts me firmly in the "TR's surviving children" camp. The fallout from FDR's insanity is still afflicting us today. Perhaps Mr. Morris will write a book that shows us the real FDR (not a good image), just as he has shown us the real TR.

Another contribution Morris makes is not just to the literature, but to our culture. Teddy Roosevelt had a profoundly positive influence on the USA and on other countries. Understanding what TR accomplished and why will help any citizen to better understand the real issues of today (rather than the irrelevancies the politicians talk about).

I'm not sure how long this book is. I reviewed a prepublication release. It has a lot of reserved pages. The total is 748, so the final publication will be about 750 pages, give or take. The text itself is 593 pages. The book contains 28 chapters and an epilogue. The prepublication prelease has several good photos it, too. However, it has many spaces for additional photos and illustrations.




About these reviews

You may be wondering why the reviews here are any different from the hundreds of "reviews" posted online. Notice the quotation marks?

I've been reviewing books for sites like Amazon for many years now, and it dismays me that Amazon found it necessary to post a minimum word count for reviews. It further dismays me that it's only 20 words. If that's all you have to say about a book, why bother?

And why waste everyone else's time with such drivel? As a reader of such reviews, I feel like I am being told that I do not matter. The flippancy of people who write these terse "reviews" is insulting to the authors also, I would suspect.

This sound bite blathering taking the place of any actual communication is increasingly a problem in our mindless, blog-posting Webosphere. Sadly, Google rewards such pointlessness as "content" so we just get more if this inanity.

My reviews, contrary to current (non) standards, actually tell you about the book. I always got an "A" on a book review I did as a kid (that's how I remember it anyhow, and it's my story so I'm sticking to it). A book review contains certain elements and has a logical structure. It informs the reader about the book.

A book review may also tell the reader whether the reviewer liked it, but revealing a reviewer's personal taste is not necessary for an informative book review.

About your reviewer

  • Books are a passion of mine. I read dozens of them each year, plus I listen to audio books.
  • Most of my "reading diet" consists of nonfiction. I think life is too short to use your limited reading time on material that has little or no substance. That leads into my next point...
  • In 1990, I stopped watching television. I have not missed it. At all.
  • I was first published as a preteen. I wrote an essay, and my teacher submitted it to the local paper.
  • For six years, I worked as an editor for a trade publication. I left that job in 2002, and still do freelance editing and authoring for that publication (and for other publications).
  • No book has emerged from my mind onto the best-seller list. So maybe I'm presumptuous in judging the work of others. Then again, I do more describing than judging in my reviews. And I have so many articles now published that I stopped counting them at 6,000. When did I stop? Probably 20,000 articles ago! (It's been a while).
  • I have an engineering degree and an MBA, among other "quant" degrees. That helps explain my methodical approach toward reviews.
  • You probably don't know anybody who has made a perfect or near perfect score on a test of Standard Written English. I have. So, a credential for whatever it's worth.

About reading style

No, I do not "speed read" through these. That said, I do read at a fast rate. But, in contrast to speed reading, I read everything when I read a book for review.

Speed reading is a specialized type of reading that requires skipping text as you go. Using this technique, I've been able to consistently "max out" a speed reading machine at 2080 words per minute with 80% comprehension. This method is great if you are out to show how fast you can read. But I didn't use it in graduate school and I don't use it now. I think it takes the joy out of reading, and that pleasure is a big part of why I read.

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