As a lifelong reader and writer, I have had the opportunity to read books of nearly every genre, length, and caliber. Although I planned on including each of the books I read this year in my summary (2014’s summary), this biography of one of our lesser known Presidents left enough of a mark to warrant its own individual thoughts. As we might say in Internet speak, it “got me right in the feels bro“.
This book blew me away and if you happen to be one of the several people I’ve bombarded with James Garfield and Alexander Graham Bell trivia tidbits gleaned from my reading, I apologize (that should cover my wife, Dave V, Derek, Dave C, Sheri, and several coworkers). Well, maybe I apologize and maybe I don’t. So THERE! 😛
It’s rare that a book can go from “well that sounds kinda interesting” to “MUST FINISH” so rapidly but that ascent is how and why I was so excited to share with my fellow book nerds.
Candice Millard has put in her research on this one.
Up to this point, I’ve always been a bit enamored with Theodore Roosevelt, as both a president and a man’s man who appears to have wasted very little of his time on this planet. While I am not a HUGE history buff, I am always interested in learning just about anything and everything. What Millard has done is take a subject that I never knew that I was even remiss on and made me want to learn more.
Each and every “character” in this biography was given their part in the story. The research and resulting anecdotes of all the main people involved in James Garfield’s life is fantastic stuff. No stone lies unturned here. Alexander Graham Bell is present with his telephone and later the induction coils he sank his heart and mind into during the attempts to locate the bullet lodged in President Garfield. We find that the first real use of air conditioning, by John Wesley Powell, was in order to ease the pain of Garfield.
The loss of our twentieth president James Garfield, up to this point never an event I gave much thought to, is palpable to the reader. The man was loved and hardly an ill word was uttered regarding his character, even from his political counterparts.
There are several examples throughout the book of the effects President Garfield had on those around him. Consider the following one;
Two thousand people worked all through the night to lay over three thousand feet of railroad track to a house on the Jersey Shore, after Garfield requested to spend his last days looking out to the ocean. During this laying of track, they realized that there was a yard in the way of the tracks. The woman who owned the property that would be destroyed by the laying of the tracks stated that if the destruction of her property could save the President she was more than willing to allow it. Even after the track had been laid, the train car carrying Garfield couldn’t make it up the final hill to the sea side window. Two hundred men came and pushed BY HAND his train car to its final destination on the top of the hill.
This book has made me want to delve a bit more into each and every one of our presidents. We’re currently on our 44th Commander In Chief and how many do you truly know anything about? If you read no other nonfiction this year, I don’t think I can recommend this one enough.