On My Nightstand | No. 1

August 3, 2016

Book reviews of the stories I’m reading these days:

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Snobs

by Julian Fellowes (Yes, that Julian Fellowes)

I packed this book on our annual family vacation to Lake Tahoe per the recommendation of my little sister McKenna. Here, I’m easily distracted by the scent of pine that permeates the air above the glacial blue waters of the lake; diverted by the massive granite boulders tossed haphazardly on the shore. So I’ve learned over the years to keep the reading light, books easy to pick up and put down in between lake swims and mountain climbs.

Despite my sister popping her head over my shoulder all week, gleefully asking how far I was, I was able to finish it. And yes, I loved it.

“The English, of all classes as it happens, are addicted to exclusivity. Leave three Englishmen in a room and they will invent a rule that prevents a fourth joining them.”

“Snobs” is very Downton-esque, written in a style similar to that of The Great Gatsby or Rules of Civility, albeit a touch more light-hearted (both of which, if you haven’t read, I highly recommend.) I ended up loving the narrator himself, and how he approached the “outsider on the inside,” observations with a sharp eye and forgiving tone, making him a source you could trust. While I think that the title gives a juvenile “mean girl” misconception to the story, the lines are clever, observations insightful, characters well-developed, and scenery reminiscent of Downton Abbey. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. If you’re looking for a lighter read this summer, you won’t be disappointed with Julian Fellowes debut novel.

See more recommendations here



book-review-franklin-winston-jon-meacham

Franklin and Winston: An intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship

By Jon Meacham

I’ve been on a World War ll kick these days, and while I’ve struggled through other biographies, this one held my attention ’til the last page. I learned a great deal about the war itself but even more so about these two men. Meacham gives the reader a well rounded portrayal of them, compiled from letters and interviews, through their own words and the words of those who knew them well. An imperfect canvas displaying an epic portrait of heroism and friendship.

“A man loves his friend,” Churchill had noted, because “he has stood by him perhaps at doubtful moments.”

Here you will find men who largely disagreed, and often frustrated each other, while maintaining a deep respect for one another. Respect which grew into a remarkable friendship, one that would in turn mold the twentieth and twenty-first century. We would be hard pressed to find a relationship which so aptly demonstrates “iron sharpening iron.’ Not in harmony but in conflict are we made better, and in this case the whole world was blessed by it.

What I loved most was that Meacham doesn’t write to portray them as perfect men, or place them on a pedestal. He writes clearly and articulately about their faults, their character, their strengths, their weaknesses. And instead of finding yourself disappointed in them, you’re all the more aware of their heroism. Growing up we were often given one dimensional characters from history to idolize, only to become disillusioned when we found out how often they faltered. But isn’t it far more inspiring, far more encouraging, to hear that these men were just like us? That heroism isn’t contingent on perfectionism, but on having the courage, even if in a singular moment, to make the right choice when everything is on the line.

They stood up, when they very much could have sat down; they spoke up when the whole world was silent. They made decisions that forever altered the course of the free world. And we don’t remember them for their bad habits, or annoying tendencies but for the decision they made in tumultuous times, those moments of courageous leadership, and days of brazen defiance against tyranny and terror.

These men have raised the bar, setting lofty standards for what it takes to be a hero, and what it takes to be a friend. It’s a story about the greatest leaders of the ‘Greatest Generation.” Read it, you won’t be sorry.

 

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