But I’ve very much enjoyed Thomas Fleming’s “The Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers” (Smithsonian Books, $27.99), which examines the women behind the men who launched our nation. A young George Washington was head-over-heels for his half-brother’s wife’s hot, young, married sister-in-law long before he met the wealthy widow with whom he would share his life; Benjamin Franklin, while undeniably randy in his youth, was not nearly the elderly horndog his detractors made him out to be; John Adams, while constantly obsessing over perceived slights and his own historical legacy, couldn’t imagine being without Abigail yet endured years apart from her. We’re quick to deify these men, quick to forget they were real people with real lives that helped define the birth of our nation; this very engaging book offers a window into who they really were, and the vital roles their life partners played in making history.
Far less exciting is “O is for Obama: An Irreverent A-to-Z Guide to Washington and Beltway Politics” (Triumph, $16.95), written by the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank and illustrated by Mark Anderson. “D is for Drudge, who, like Limbaugh and Hannity/Believes that Obama is causing calamity.”
Among other titles that’ve crossed my desk lately:
“California’s Golden Years: When Government Worked and Why” (Berkeley Public Policy Press) – William Bagley, a moderate Republican lawmaker (1960-74) from the North Bay who later served on the California Public Utilities Commission, the California Transportation Commission and the University of California Board of Regents, shares “an insider’s explanation for why politics seemed to work better then than now.”
“The Insecure American: How We Got Here & What We Should Do About It” (University of California Press, $24.95) – George Mason University Anthropology Professor Hugh Gusterson and Colby College Anthropology Professor Catherine Besteman edit essays from 19 leading ethnographers “to create a unique portrait of an anxious country and to furnish valuable insights into the nation’s possible future,” touching upon issues including the economy, terrorism, the “war on drugs,” racial resentment, a fraying social safety net, immigration, health care and more. Features a forward by Barbara Ehrenreich.