Write Team: Books for summer reading

Robert Cotner, Write Team

In the closing chapter of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s, “The Unfinished Love Story,” she cites a speech by 28-year-old Abraham Lincoln in which he observes that people no longer have first-hand contact with early history and must depend upon reading to understand their past.

With this as a beginning and with requests I have had from readers, I offer in this essay some of my favorite books recently read for some very pleasant reading.

In August 2022, we lost one of our finest historians, David McCullough – but he left a legacy of beautiful writing. While I have read all of his books, I will cite three at this time: his John Adams book inspired keen interest in our second president and his wife Abigail, who provided early distinguished leadership and much futuristic thinking for our nation. In “The Great Bridge” he provided the dramatic story of the design and building of Brooklyn Bridge, our nation’s greatest cultural artifact. His final book “The Pioneers,” recounts eloquently the opening of the Ohio Valley, the founding of Marietta, Ohio, and the settlement of the lush verdant land to the west.

Another historian, Douglas Brinkley, born in Perrysburg, Ohio, was invited to write by the editor of American Heritage the book “American Heritage History of the United States,” a sweeping survey of American history. This is a highly-readable general history of America, which might serve as a beginning for an extensive read in American history.

Brinkley specializes in conservation and environmental themes in much of his writings. I’ll cite two of my favorites: in “Rightful Heritage: Franklin D. Roosevelt” he focuses on the seldom-studied success of FDR in American conservation. His “Silent Spring Revolution” presents the history of environmental programs under Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon in the years following the 1962 publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.

Jon Meacham is one of my favorite historians, in part because both of us used to write for The Chattanooga Times. A fine biographer – of Andrew Jackson and George H. W. Bush – my favorites are “The Soul of America,” a rare historical look at the spiritual domain of our nation and “His Truth is Marching On,” a biography of John Lewis, hero of the bloody Sunday event of Selma, Alabama.

One of the fine World War II historians, Winston Groom, wrote a twin trilogy worth consideration. The first is “The Generals,” a study of generals George Marshall, George Patton and Douglas MacArthur, whose lives intercepted in World War I and reached great success and fame in World War II. The second trilogy is called “The Aviators.” It is portraits of Eddie Rickenbacker, Jimmy Doolittle and Charles Lindbergh.

Let me cite additional books:

William I. Hitchcock’s, “The Age of Eisenhower,” a time of great joy in America – my upgrowing-years in the Midwest.

Andrew Meier’s, “Morgenthau: Power, Privilege, and the Rise of an America Dynasty,” a study of three generations of this distinguished family.

Douglas Brunt’s, “The Mysterious Case of Rudolf Diesel,” the intriguing tale of the inventor of the diesel engine, who disappeared from family and friends in 1913.

David Williams’, “William E. Boeing Story,” a history of my favorite airplane, the B17, the “Flying Fortress” of World War II fame and many other aircraft.

David Nasaw’s, “Andrew Carnegie,” the biography of an inventor, industrialist and philanthropist, who gave our country public libraries in almost every city and town.

More to come.

Robert Cotner spent 25 years as an English teacher that include serving as Fulbright lecturer in English at the University of Liberia. He concluded his career as an executive at The Salvation Army and Shriners Children’s Hospital-Chicago. He now lives in Seneca.

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