Alexander Hamilton’s Guide to Life (2016)

alexJeff Wilser, Alexander Hamilton’s Guide to Life New York: Three Rivers Press, 2016, 314 pp. $11.55

The Founding Father’s were men of principle and courage. In Jeff Wilser’s book, Alexander Hamilton’s Guide to Life, he argues that Hamilton is the most underrated Founding Father. Indeed, Alexander Hamilton is likely the most qualified man to serve as President, yet never filled the office.

Alexander Hamilton’s Guide to Life is cleverly divided into nine areas of discussion. These areas include self-improvement, career advancement, romance, money, style & etiquette, leisure (!), friends & family, leadership, office politics, and honor. The author reveals the heart of Hamilton in each area and carefully unfolds the pertinent aspects of his personality, core convictions, and weaknesses.

Wilser’s work is a mixture of history and suggestions for personal improvement. Sections of the book of really funny. Alexander Hamilton’s Guide to Life is a quick read. It is a fun read, to be sure. But it is also a serious historical work. Never intended to match the scholarship of books like Ron Chernow’s, Alexander Hamilton, Wilser’s writing clearly depends on Chernow’s scholarship. In that respect, the work under consideration is truly unique. It is a fitting introduction to Alexander Hamilton and will likely motivate readers to dig deeper into the life of this Founding Father.

The closing words demonstrate Wilser’s respect for the man:

After writing this book, I’m convinced that Alexander Hamilton is one of the main reasons – maybe the reason – that we are the United States, not just some united states. He’s the reason that we do more in America than just plant cabbage and herd sheep. With astonishing foresight that eclipsed every other Founding Father’s – Washington, Adams, Jefferson, all of them, Hamilton envisioned the future of the United States. Then he made it happen.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

Biography · History · Law · Legal · Politics

True Faith and Allegiance – Alberto R. Gonzales


Alberto R. Gonzales, True Faith and Allegiance. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2016, 526 pp. $19.09

True Faith and Allegiance is the biographical tale of a man who has experienced the American dream. Rising from humble origins, this man served in a prestigious Texas law firm, and served under George W. Bush during his days as governor of Texas. He became the Secretary of State in Texas and was named as a Supreme Court Justice in that state. He was later appointed by then-President George W. Bush to serve as special legal counsel until he reached the apex of his career in an appointment to serve as Attorney General in the Bush administration.

True Faith and Allegiance recounts the life and career of Alberto R. Gonzales, the first Hispanic man to ever serve as Attorney General. Gonzales writes with a stunning amount of transparency in this book, sparing no details.

While the book is primarily about Gonzales, one of the most fascinating features is his insight into the forty-third president of the United States, George W. Bush. Gonzales speaks highly of Bush and alerts readers to his keen intellect, rock-solid integrity, loyal friendship, and his leadership abilities.

The most outstanding feature of True Faith and Allegiance is the depth of Gonzales character. It is a testament to personal integrity, courage under fire, and devotion to the Commander in Chief. Alberto Gonzales paid a steep price for being a man of integrity and for living according to a set of timeless principles. Gonzales shares in great detail about the painful assault on his character and the tragic dividends he reaped after his time in office.

Despite these painful events, Gonzales forged ahead. He never gave up and he continues to use his gifts to serve people and glorify God. The former Attorney General writes,

Everyone at some point, believes life is unfair, but you must learn to accept and overcome adversity, put your trust in God rather than human beings, and move on. I harbored resentment for a time against Democratic senators and staffers who attacked me, and against Republicans who abandoned me. Now I see that while they sought to do evil to me, God used it for good.

Gonzales takes a page out of Joseph’s playbook by maintaining a God-centered perspective. He encourages young people, “Step into the arena with your eyes open and your armor securely attached. Be bold and take risks. Never fear criticism; you will not be treated fairly; accept the fact that you will be criticized no matter what you do, so do good anyway.”

True Faith and Allegiance is a story for every American. Some may disagree with Gonzales convictions. Others may reject his politics. But none can accuse him of being unfaithful to his country. Gonzales is a model patriot worthy to be emulated. Indeed, he is a man of true faith and allegiance!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.


The Last Crossing of the Lusitania

0307408876_bErik Larson. Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania. New York: Broadway Books, 2015. 443 pp. $11.00

Dead Wake is the historical account of the Lusitania, a massive ship in route to Liverpool. Erik Larson is no stranger to popular works of historical lore. He writes with the precision, depth, and passion of David McCullough and the depth of Walter Isaacson.

Erik Larson leaves no stone unturned in Dead Wake. His research is meticulous as he sets up the historical backdrop and traces the journey of the Lusitania from start to finish. No stone is left unturned in this wonderful work.

Characters are wonderfully presented in vivid detail. Most interesting is the portrayal of President Woodrow Wilson, a classic portrait of a spineless leader. The tragic events in his personal life weigh heavily on the leader of the free world. But world events also press in and battle for his attention, including the events that surround the Lusitania.

The subtitle of the book gives some of the drama away as readers should not be surprised when the massive ship sinks. A German U-20 submarine launches a torpedo which cripples the Lusitania and leaves over 1,000 people dead. This tragic ending is presented thoughtfully and tastefully by Larson as he recounts various stories of both death and survival.

Dead Wake is a wonderful read, filled with interesting biographical detail and helps piece together some of the events of World War I which have been largely forgotten. I commend it highly.


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LAST ACT: The Final Years and Emerging Legacy of Ronald Reagan – Craig Shirley (2015)


a reagThe legacy of President Ronald Reagan is securely established in history. Liberals can scoff and moan but the fact remains; Ronald Wilson Reagan is one of the most influential Americans of all time. Indeed, Reagan is not only one of the loved and respected presidents in American history; he is also one of the most effective.

Most books focus on the life of President Reagan and work hard to establish his presidential accomplishments. Craig Shirley’s new masterpiece, Last Act: The Final Years and Emerging Legacy of Ronald Reagan takes a different approach. Shirley sets out to help readers see Reagan in a different light and in a different context. This book serves as a lens for Americans to view President Reagan in his post-presidential days, including the days which followed his diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.

Last Act begins with President Reagan on his death bed. The author highlights Reagan’s life and legacy from different perspectives – including friends, family, and foes. One of the constant themes that weaves through the book is the deep and abiding love that America has for the 40th president of the United States.

We would do well to listen to the words of Reagan’s old arch nemesis, Senator Ted Kennedy who offered these fitting words, upon hearing of Reagan’s death:

He brought a special grace to the White House and the country in everything he did. We often disagreed on specific issues, but he had an undeniably unique capacity to inspire and move the Nation. On foreign policy, he will be honored as the President who won the cold war. It was more than the fact that he was a superb communicator. Some attributed at least part of his success to the fact that he was a superb communicator. Some attributed at least part of his success to the fact that he had been an actor. But his deepest convictions were matters of heart and mind and spirit, and on them, he was no actor at all.

Last Act: The Final Years and Emerging Legacy of Ronald Reagan bears the marks of a book which is informed by thorough research and careful study. Craig Shirley should be commended for his clear writing and respect for the 40th president of the United States. Last Act is not only a tribute to one of the most beloved leaders in American history; it is a gift to the American people.

The legacy of Ronald Wilson Reagan speaks for itself and will continue to reverberate throughout history. Antonin Scalia notes, “Ronald Reagan needs no one to sing his praises.” Justice Scalia may be on target. But the fact remains: History will not stand by in silence. The legacy of Ronald Reagan will endure for generations.

I received this book free from the publisher.   I was not required to write a positive review.

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KILLING REAGAN – Bill O’Reilly (2015)

Some people love him; others hate him. But one thing is certainreagan about Bill O’Reilly. The popular host of the O’Reilly Factor makes history interesting. The “no-spin” Irish-American journalist began a series of killing books, with the publication of Killing Lincoln. This effort was followed by Killing Kennedy, Killing Jesus, and Killing Patton. O’Reilly’s latest offering, Killing Reagan has sparked a bit of controversy, since unlike the other characters, Reagan was not murdered.

Readers will not be surprised that at the heart of this book is an insiders look at the assassination attempt of President Reagan. The would be executioner, John Hinckley Jr. is rightly portrayed as a psycho-path drifter who will go to any length, including killing the President of the United States to impress the actress, Jodi Foster.

But readers may be surprised at how O’Reilly portrays the President. The author carefully paints a portrait of the 40th president and includes details that are making some readers uncomfortable and even upset. Make no mistake: the king of no-spin in unwilling to leave any stone unturned in this book.

Apart from some of the more controversial elements of the book, O’Reilly includes fascinating discussion about Reagan’s relationship with Nancy, staff members, Mikhail Gorbachev, and of course, the Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher.

This book will draw criticism from liberals. But it will also invite the critical response of conservative who revere Ronald Reagan. But it is clear that O’Reilly writes as an unbiased journalist here. He has no bone to pick. He has no axe to grind. He merely desires a telling of the facts. The end result is a fascinating read that ultimately honors the 40th President of the United States. Killing Reagan is a memorial to one of America’s great leaders. It is a vivid reminder of the importance of freedom. This is the story of Ronald Wilson Reagan – patriot, promoter of liberty, and President of the United States of America.


AVENUE OF SPIES – Alex Kershaw (2015)

My introduction to Alex Kershaw took place several years ago as I spiespoured over his excellent book, The Longest Winter.  Kershaw is back again with another historical gem, Avenue of Spies.  The book chronicles the life and legacy of Sumner Jackson and his wife, Toquette.  These brave people joined the French in their pushback against the Third Reich during the heart of World War II.

Kershaw is a master story teller who has a special gift for transporting readers into the heart of Paris, a city that was overtaken by Nazi thugs.  He carefully guides readers through the historical drama, noting the tragic turn of events for Mr. and Mrs. Jackson and their family.

The author educates readers by helping them understand the worldview of Hitler’s henchmen as well as those who fought against the Third Reich.  The attention to detail is breath-taking.  The scenes are memorable.  The heroic deeds of the Jackson’s are sure to inspire readers.

I heartily recommend Kershaw’s excellent book, which is researched with precision and recounted in a thoughtful and memorable way.

I received this book free from the publisher.   I was not required to write a positive review. 

4 stars

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41: A PORTRAIT OF MY FATHER – George W. Bush (2014)

bush“Read my lips.  No new taxes.”  These are the words that enter the minds of most Americans when then think of President George H.W. Bush.  It is an unfortunate turn of events that the President was placed in a position where a decision to raise taxes become a necessary compromise with Democrats.

President George W. Bush writes about his father in the gripping biography, 41: A Portrait of My Father.  The book represents the first attempt of son who served as president to write about his father who also served as president.

The book spans the life of George H.W. Bush from his days growing up to his college years at Yale, his military service, numerous federal positions, not to mention his time in the oval office.  Several reviews note sharp criticism for 41 but nothing could be further from the truth.  Perhaps the most revealing insight into the life of the 41st president is his unfailing loyalty to country and comrades.  George H.W. Bush was not a war monger as suggested by the liberal left.  Rather, he was a political heavyweight.  But more importantly he was a man of integrity and honor.  He loved his country and is showed – it still does!

President George H.W. Bush was not a perfect man.  He made mistakes as we all do.  But the 41st president of the United States made principled decisions; decisions that were informed by facts and inspired by honesty.

4 stars

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BN-CX891_bkrvst_DV_20140523142333“His face lost its color.  His breathing became distorted.  He choked to death as we watched.  The death agony was painful.  At the last-minute he opened his eyes again, a terrible look, mad, or angry, and full of the fear of death.  His left hand rose, and seemed to be pointing upwards, or threatening us all … then his spirit tore itself from his body.”

The final moments of Joseph Stalin’s life, as recorded by his daughter, Svetlana.

Paul Johnson provides a valuable service in his book, Stalin: The Kremlin Mountaineer.  The book is a short summary of Stalin’s evil reign in the Soviet Union.  The book is not meant to be comprehensive by any stretch of the imagination.  However, he does provide enough detail to motivate readers to turn to other sources.  Such sources would include Young Stalin or Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, both by Simon Sebag Montefiore.

Johnson’s book is a reminder of where atheism leads and how unchecked power always leads to devastating results – in Stalin’s case the loss of millions of lives.

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THE MAN WITHOUT A FACE: The Unlikely Rise of Vladamir Putin (2012)

Masha Gessen has a story to tell.  This Russian journalist draws the lines clearly and writes in terms that are understandable and inspiring.  Gessen tells the story of the ascension of President Putin in The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladamir Putin.

Gessen writes, “And with this, the transformation of Russia back into the USSR was, for all Putin’s intents and purposes, complete.”  This sentence, in my mind proves to be the most important sentence in the book.  It is also the last.  The previous 269 pages set up the trajectories that make this sentence possible.  Those pages tell the story of a former KGB spy turned president and deemed the most powerful man in Russia and one of the most influential men in the world.

My aim is not to disrespect the author in any way who has written a fascinating account of the rise of Putin.  However, the best and most interesting part of the book takes place in the epilogue.  Here, the author reveals her real hopes and fears as she explains the protests that took place in nearly one hundred cities in Russia in December, 2011.  The major strokes reveal a deep love of freedom, transparency in the press, and a respect for the heritage of her motherland.

Gessen’s work will no doubt raise questions and answer questions at the same time.  It may confirm suspicions.  It will inspire hope for a new day in the great mass of land we know as Russia.

4 stars


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DUEL WITH THE DEVIL – Paul Collins (2013)

hamiltonJonathan Edwards is the greatest theologian to plant his feet on American soil.   It should come as no surprise, then, when one learns about the able individuals that sprouted forth from Edwards family tree – physicians, lawyers, university presidents, and even a vice-president.  Aaron Burr was Thomas Jefferson’s vice-president, of course.  Burr was also Jonathan Edwards grandson.  So when I learned about a new book that chronicled the well-known showdown between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton, I eagerly devoured the book.

Duel With the Devil is the story of the unlikely pairing of Burr and Hamilton, two attorney’s who combined their efforts to represent and defend a man convicted of murder.  Courtroom drama, political maneuvering, and personality conflicts weave throughout this tale.  Paul Collins is the author who has a gift for transporting readers to a historical setting – in this case, 18th century America.

While many are familiar with the duel between Hamilton and Burr, most are unaware of their work together on this murder case, which  consumes most of the book.

Students of American history will be pleasantly surprised by Collins work.  Here is a combination of a writer with John Grisham-like ability to tell a story and Dan Brown-like attention for detail.  The book is filled with historical tidbits but reads like a very fine novel.

I received this book free from the publisher through the Bloggingforbooks.org. I was not required to write a positive review.