In the News, March 2015
Posted 02.19.15: Library Journal chooses The Law of the Land: A Grand Tour of Our Constitutional Republic by Akhil Amar as one of their "Editors' Spring Picks": "The author combines a thorough knowledge of the subject and an interesting premise with straightforward, sometimes humorous prose to create a book that entertains and educates." And Publishers Weekly's review says, “Geography takes center stage in this deep dive into U.S. constitutional jurisprudence.… This ambitious treatise shows how landmarks in American constitutional history can be viewed as products of topography…. He amply proves that the varied American landscape provides an illuminating lens with which to view our legal system's fundamental tenets." Basic Books publishes the book in April.
Posted 02.16.15: The PBS Newshour featured Judy Woodruff interviewing Jonathan Horn: “It is a fascinating book, whether you are into Civil War history or not. It's The Man Who Would Not Be Washington: Robert E. Lee's Civil War and His Decision That Changed American History”
Posted 02.11.15: Gregory Korte in USA Today on The Man Who Would Not Be Washington: Robert E. Lee's Civil War and His Decision That Changed American History: "Jonathan Horn traces the many connections between the man of Mount Vernon and the 'marble model'—the nickname given to Lee by his West Point classmates for graduating without a single demerit…. Horn makes a compelling case that the Washington myth weighed heavily on Lee throughout his life, from the time he grew up reading cherry-tree fables to his surrender at Appomattox Court House. The family connections are numerous. Lee's father, 'Light Horse' Harry Lee, was a Revolutionary War hero perhaps best known for delivering the eulogy at Washington's funeral: 'First in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen.' Lee married Mary Custis, the daughter of Washington's adopted son. Through his wife, Lee inherited Washington's property: his estates, his ceremonial swords, and Martha Washington's slaves—possessions that tied him down to Virginia and the southern cause. Washington's kin pop up throughout the book so often that the author has helpfully included a Lee-Custis family tree in the appendix. Horn weaves all these connections and coincidences into a coherent story—never overselling the point—and offers a modern and readable perspective on Lee's enigmatic character."
Posted 02.02.15: Eric Jager's Blood Royal: A True Tale of Crime and Detection in Medieval Paris has been chosen by the American Library Association's Notable Books Council as one the 2015 selections of the Notable Books List, an annual "best-of" list comprised of twenty-six titles—including fiction, nonfiction, and poetry—written for adult readers and published in the US in the past year. It was one of twelve nonfiction titles selected. Last year, in the New York Daily News, Jessica Leigh Hester wrote, "This whodunit is a gruesome tour de force, rich with scenes from the royal court, public gibbets, and monasteries where things aren't as pious as they seem.... Thoroughly researched and lyrically written, this sinister-but-informative period piece certainly beats watching reruns of 'CSI.'" Kirkus Reviews called it, "An impressive combination of mystery, crime story, and social and political history."
Posted 01.30.15: Library Journal on Akhil Amar's The Law of the Land: A Grand Tour of Our Constitutional Republic: “Using 12 states from all regions of the country, Amar tells individual constitutional stories; all hold national implications, but each one is distinctively imprinted by the characteristics of a place or region…. Even those disinclined to accept his thesis of geographic determinism will delight in his smooth prose, his frank confessions of bias, his frequently sharp insights and the many sparkling nuggets he scatters throughout…. A provocative, consistently interesting take on our constitutional history.”
Posted 01.29.15: Jonathan Horn's The Man Who Would Not Be Washington: Robert E. Lee's Civil War and His Decision That Changed American History is #8 on the Washington Post Hardcover Nonfiction Bestseller list.
Posted 01.28.15: “Today, Arlington House stands as a monument to one of America's greatest generals. But walking through the tattered home and around the shabby grounds, visitors cannot help but get the feeling that the ushers and guides who work there for the National Park Service are a little embarrassed to be heralding Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. All of this sadness and loss and strife ping from the darkness of our minds every time we catch a glimpse of the great columned portico atop the distant hill while crossing a busy city street or zipping past the house on a modern highway. Those pings ring loudest when you get a surprising glimpse from a different vantage point. Jonathan Horn, a speechwriter for President George W. Bush, takes those pings from the past and marshals them into a splendid symphony of local Potomac history in his book The Man Who Would Not Be Washington: Robert E. Lee's Civil War and His Decision That Changed American History, published this month by Scribner. The book takes a subject that most students of American history already know, gracefully winds it together with meticulous research and produces a vivid story of heartache, stoicism, loneliness, anger and loss…. The story Mr. Horn tells about the descendants of Mount Vernon dances along like a novel. Because of his copious research and detailed reporting, Mr. Horn successfully avoids the usual anti-South propaganda we always get from the North or the blindly loyal hagiography we sometimes hear from the South.”—Charles Hurt, The Washington Times
Posted 01.23.15: Richard Brookhiser in National Review on The Man Who Would Not Be Washington: Robert E. Lee's Civil War and His Decision That Changed American History: “Jonathan Horn's fascinating book looks at Lee through the prism of yet another famous man, George Washington. His subtle and sympathetic examination of the Washington–Lee connection helps us understand the Lee question…. Horn's story is fascinating, thought-provoking, and deeply sad.”
Posted 01.22.15: CNN's Wolf Blitzer will host “Voices of Auschwitz”, a one-hour special report, airing Tuesday, January 27th, the 70th anniversary of the camp's liberation on January 27, 1945. The show will look at the atrocities committed at Auschwitz through the eyes of those imprisoned there more than 70 years ago. Among the four survivors who tell their stories is Martin Greenfield, who tells his story in book form in Measure of a Man: From Auschwitz Survivor to Presidents' Tailor, by Martin Greenfield and Wynton Hall, which as Vanity Fair wrote, "demonstrates the extraordinary experience he had with capital-H history in the back half of the 20th century."
Posted 01.07.15: “Stirring and elegant…. [Jonathan Horn] chronicles Lee's life with a vitality that captivates our imagination and keeps us glued to Lee's story. With graceful vigor, he traces Lee from his childhood to his days at West Point, his command in Mexico, his leadership at Harper's Ferry and ultimately to his decision to resign his commission in the U.S. Army. Lee's decision to turn his back on the Union—and his canny leadership in battle—meant that he would be forever estranged from the nation he cherished. Horn's illuminating study offers a fascinating comparison between two figures who shaped American history.”—Henry L. Carrigan, Jr. in BookPage on The Man Who Would Not Be Washington: Robert E. Lee's Civil War and His Decision That Changed American History by Jonathan Horn
Posted 12.11.14: The Society for Classical Studies has given the Outreach Prize for "outstanding projects that make an aspect of classical antiquity available and attractive to an audience other than classics scholars or students" to Robert B. Strassler for his Landmark Ancient Histories, including The Landmark Thucydides, first published in 1996 and hailed as "a magnificent edition," and "Without question, this is the finest edition of Thucydides' history ever produced: It is a treasure.".
Posted 12.03.14: The New York Times has chosen Dying Every Day: Seneca at the Court of Nero by James Romm as one of its "100 Notable Books of 2014." Bettany Hughes reviewing the book earlier this year in the New York Times Book Review wrote,"Romm gives us a fresh and empathetic exploration… a robust framework for his quest about the truth of Seneca…. He does not judge Seneca with hindsight, but inhabits his life as it plays out. There are subtle and sympathetic observations…. But when there is analysis, it brings real clarity. Indeed there are moments of brilliance. The philosophical torment of the later years and the drama of Seneca's tripartite death once Nero turned against him are dealt with masterfully…. Romm reminds us that we need to care about Seneca—he is a touchstone for the modern world."
Posted 11.19.14: The Man Who Would Not Be Washington: Robert E. Lee's Civil War and His Decision That Changed American History by Jonathan Horn gets a starred review from Library Journal: "Horn's thematic biography captures the many facets of Robert E. Lee's crowded life…. Embedded throughout this fine work are adroit comparisons between George Washington and Lee. The author's superb epilog traces the subsequent unsuccessful attempts to tie Lee to the Washington legacy…. A seminal contribution of significant historiographical value."
Posted 11.15.14: Publishers Weekly on The Man Who Would Not Be Washington: Robert E. Lee's Civil War and His Decision that Changed American History by Jonathan Horn: "Robert E. Lee was frequently compared to George Washington, not only because of his personality and 'military genius' but also because he married Washington's granddaughter, and his father had a close relationship with the Founding Father. But at the start of the Civil War, … Lee rejected the Union and loyally followed Virginia into the Confederacy, despite his personal opposition to secession. Horn, a former White House speechwriter, puts a captivating spin on Lee's story by comparing and contrasting the two great men. Detailed yet accessible descriptions of battles are coupled with stories of Lee's personal life, revealing a man as complex as the war he reluctantly joined. Horn also points out the reverence for Washington during this time, and the way each side claimed him as their own…. Horn takes a fair and equitable approach to Lee, his life, and his struggle over participation in a war that tore apart the nation."
Posted 11.14.14: Measure of a Man: From Auschwitz Survivor to Presidents' Tailor, by Martin Greenfield and Wynton Hall, has been featured on Mark Levin's radio show, where the host called it a "remarkable book" and read a portion of it live on-air. The New York Post ran an excerpt, and Business Insider, The Daily Mail, Women's Wear Daily, Vanity Fair Daily, The Washington Post, and Breitbart News have all done features as well.
Posted 11.12.14: Kirkus Reviews on Jonathan Horn's forthcoming The Man Who Would Not Be Washington: Robert E. Lee's Civil War and His Decision That Changed American History: “A romantic, rueful portrait of the Confederate general and the fatal decision that shut him out of history. Former White House speechwriter Horn finds Robert E. Lee a deeply sympathetic American hero whom fortune seemed to have favored as heir to George Washington, if only Lee had thrown his lot with the Union rather than the South…. The author tracks Lee's rigorous antebellum loyalty to the Union… Lee's tortured decision to resign from the Union Army rather than fight against his home state resulted in the loss of his homestead; ironically, it would become a national cemetery for the young men he sent to their deaths. Compelling research.” The Bookspan Bookclub has selected the book for their February catalog.
Posted 10.13.14: Terry Teachout's Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington, has just won an ASCAP Foundation Deems Taylor/Virgil Thomson Award for “outstanding print, broadcast and news media coverage of music.” As the award announcement says, "The Timothy White Award for Outstanding Musical Biography in the pop music field recognizes Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington, written by Terry Teachout and published by Gotham Books."
Posted 09.19.14: “A High Volume of Poetic Greatness…. Last November, while on a West Coast poetry reading tour, I stayed for a few days at my friend Beverly's San Francisco home.... Serendipitously, the guest room doubles as the Poetry Room, everything alphabetized and divided into categories and sub-categories. It was there that I discovered the Best American Poetry series in its entirety. I had come across a volume or two and was already an admirer of the work of the Senior Editor, David Lehman, but never before had I had access to all twenty-five volumes. Jet lagged and bleary eyed, I stayed up as long as possible, devouring volume after volume. The next afternoon I was still at it, vaguely annoyed when I had to stop and attend my own reading…. What I will attest to, in all of these volumes, including the current one, is that there is brilliance, there is innovation, there are surprises…. David Lehman's early practice of writing forewords has evolved into a ‘state of the art' statement..”—Puma Perl, Chelsea News, on the Best American Poetry 2014 (Guest Editor, current MacArthur Fellowship prize-winner Terrance Hayes)
Posted 08.15.14: The Sunday New York Times Book Review on The Seven Sins of Wall Street: Big Banks, Their Washington Lackeys, and the Next Financial Crisis by Bob Ivry: "Even five years after the financial crisis of 2008-9 crested, there is zero consensus about its causes. Just about anyone who can be blamed has been: rapacious bankers, venal elected officials, corrupt or incompetent regulators, naïve home buyers. Ivry, an editor and reporter at Bloomberg News, is clear where he stands: The culprit was 'the unprecedented growth of the biggest banks' and the subsequent bailout that saved those banks but left the rest of us in little better shape. This is an angry book, full of high dudgeon about the various sins of Wall Street that give Ivry his title. He documents the absurdity of 'too big to fail' with a reporter's eye for the small story that illuminates the larger picture…. Ivry sees the crisis as a simple story of wrongdoing and the failure to punish it."—Zachary Karabell
Posted 07.23.14: “Nicholas Basbanes is something of a national treasure, bringing what is often called ‘book culture' in front of us. In an age of the digital page, when books can be downloaded, when e-mail and twitter are developing a distinctive lexicon and rhetoric, when the book itself seems to be on its way out of our private and public culture, Basbanes returns us, again and again, to the importance of paper, as we knew it, know it, and, hopefully, shall maintain it. On Paper: The Everything of Its Two-Thousand-Year History celebrates that ubiquitous commodity, and its manifold uses. This book is characteristically engaging and authoritative.”—Lewis Fried, The Key Reporter