Presidents Day Reading

Since today is President’s Day, I thought I would share one of the books I read last year about a president.  (I only read three books about presidents, and the other two books were both small episodes of Theodore Roosevelt’s life.)  Actually, my husband and I listened to Destiny of the Republic on last summer’s road trip.  I probably did not convey just how fascinating this story was.

In other words, I’m on a holiday break, and I’m copying this review from my Goodreads account.  There’s a little link thingie over on the right if you want to befriend me on Goodreads.  I’ve been lazy about writing reviews lately, but I do keep my reading list up to date.

Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a PresidentDestiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard

When you know perfectly well that the protagonist dies, and you still get teary eyed when it happens, that is a well told tale. It’s not only that James Garfield was thoroughly likable, but my heart ached for his devoted wife and children, two of whom were with him when he was shot.

Destiny of the Republic is more than a biography of James Garfield. It is also an account of the life of his assassin, Charles Guiteau. Candice Millard manages to portray Guiteau with neither sympathy nor antipathy. Egotistical, and unlikable, he was clearly mentally ill.

However, it was not Guiteau’s bullets that killed Garfield. Lingering for months after being shot, Garfield was ultimately killed by infection caused by the aggressive and unsanitary medical care he received at the hands of the egotistical Dr. Bliss.

Throughout, Millard places the story in the context of its day. The relationships between Garfield and those around him, the political climate and intrigues, the state of medical knowledge and practice, the technology of the day. She shows how Garfield’s assassination and death led to changes in these various realms.

If you’ve read anything good (recently or not) about a President, please share, especially if it might be available an audio.  I need about 60 hours of listening for our summer road trip, and my husband and I both enjoy biographies and history.


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