Busy with my own, 2013 has been an off year for me book reading-wise. Nevertheless, I had time for these.
“The Hour of Peril: The Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War” by Daniel Stashower
Progressive President, much talk of a conspiracy to assassinate, mysteries still unsolved.
A century before bullets brought down President Kennedy, would be assassins targeted President Lincoln.
Lincoln is on the cover but Allan Pinkerton, who investigated the plot, is the star of the book.
“The Unwinding, An Inner History of the New America” by George Packer.
Steinbeckian in its feel, Packer’s illumination of struggling Americans made me feel like I was living on the sidelines during those hard economic times.
Relentless indeed. Birmingham Sergeant/FBI analyst Ben Herren’s investigations led to the successful prosecution of the murderers of four black children at a church in Birmingham.
The Investigator: Fifty Years of Uncovering the Truth by Terry Lenzner
In a year when we needed to be reminded that Washington has heroes as well as scoundrels, this private eye’s terrific memoir shows us there are good guys in the government.
Seems to me that when we think of Chesapeake, we think of Maryland. When we think of the War of 1812, we think of Maryland.
When it comes to enslaved persons in the antebellum period, and their desires for freedom, Alan Taylor shows us we need to remember those two things also applied to Virginia. Makes one rethink their opinion of those Founding Fathers who owned slaves.
The End of the Suburbs: Where the American Dream is Moving by Leslie Gallagher
In 1980, Neil Peart reminded us the “suburbs have no charms to smooth the restless dreams of youth.”
Turns out those youth listened.
Whether you’ve lived the life or rejected it, this fact-filled and not-easy-to-swallow look at suburbia is an excellent follow-up to Christopher Leinberger’s, “The Option of Urbanism.”
12 Years a Slave
Northup’s riveting narrative was originally published in 1853. Therefore, I gave some thought to excluding it from my book of the year award. But 12 Years is much too powerful to disqualify that way.
Of all the stories Northup tells, the most soul-sapping of all is that of Eliza, an enslaved lady he met in the slave pen in Washington.
Eliza was the mistress of Elisha Berry, a rich man living in the capital city. Berry had told Eliza if she lived with him, he would set her free. She agreed.
How happy then, she must have been when liberation came in 1852. In the cruelest of all fates, however, Berry had lied. Instead of freeing her, he sold her to Birch, the slave trader in Washington and later in Alexandria.
Elated at the prospect of immediate liberty, she decked herself and little Emmy in their best apparel, and accompanied him with a joyful heart. On their arrival in the city, instead of being baptized into the family of freeman, she was delivered to the trader Burch. The paper that was executed was a bill of sale. The hope of years was blasted in a moment. From the height of most exulting happiness to the utmost depths of wretchedness, she had that day descended. No wonder she wept, and filled the pen with wailings and expressions of heart-rending woe.
Years later, still in bondage in Louisiana, Northup came across a dying Eliza.
Grief had gnawed remorselessly at her heart, until her strength was gone; and for that, her last master, it is said, lashed and abused her most unmercifully… She became at length, they said, utterly helpless, for several weeks lying on the ground floor in a dilapidated cabin, dependent upon the mercy of her fellow-thralls for an occasional drop of water and a morsel of food.
When the hands returned one day, they found her dead.