Blago's Book List
Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich provides his reading list to The Daily Beast—the summaries of the books are ours.
How Churchill lost so many battles but still won the war.
Rethinking a political career. Winston Churchill is perhaps the most celebrated wartime leader, but Carlo D’Este’s 2008 biography, Warlord: A Life of Winston Churchill at War, 1874-1945, reveals that “a list of battles he directly affected, from Antwerp in 1914 to Anzio in 1944, amounts to a record of military disaster,” according to Booklist. Publishers Weekly raves: “Elegantly written, this tour de force belongs in every library addressing the 20th century.”
Enough about Lincoln. Let’s celebrate Old Hickory.
A great leader celebrated. Though he is less frequently invoked today than Lincoln and Roosevelt, Andrew Jackson’s presidency was one of the most consequential in American history. Reviewing H.W. Brands’s Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times for the Washington Post, Ted Widmer noted that, despite the fact that “we see him every day on the $20 bill,” Jackson’s legacy is much less celebrated than similarly influential presidents. Widmer chalks it up to Jackson’s slave-owning and expansionism. Despite the book’s gripping subject matter, he notes, “The heavy focus on blood and guts comes at a price, however. Brands' treatment of Old Hickory's political career is comparatively thin.”
A portrait of the 20th century’s most powerful bromance.
A story of political friendship. Newsweek editor Jon Meacham’s 2003 Franklin and Winston chronicles the relationship between two of the 20th century’s greatest leaders: Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. When the two first met in 1918, Roosevelt called Churchill a “stinker.” Come 1939, the two men were significantly closer. Says the New Yorker: “[Meacham] seems amazed at what Winston is willing to put up with from Franklin. Churchill paints a landscape for the president, sings for him, and agonizes when his notes go unanswered; Roosevelt teases him in front of Stalin, criticizes him to reporters, and eventually breaks his heart with a diverging vision of the postwar world. But Churchill never gives up, and he later recalled, ‘No lover ever studied the whims of his mistress as I did those of President Roosevelt.’"
A town rejects a man who exposes a dark scandal.
Scandal rocks a small town. Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People, translated by Arthur Miller, is the story of Dr. Thomas Stockmann, who discovers that his coastal town’s tourist-attracting baths are being contaminated by a nearby tannery’s waste. The public, however, rejects his findings and ostracizes Stockmann because his discovery threatens its livelihood. The play includes a famous line: “The strongest man in the world is the man who stands most alone.”