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Brothers: On His Brothers and Brothers in History Hardcover – November 27, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

“It’s a wonder I didn’t end up with a permanent crick in my neck from literally and figuratively looking up to my older brother,” writes Colt at the beginning of this engaging memoir about a quartet of brothers growing up in suburban Massachusetts. Colt idolized his smart, clever sibling, Harry, and writes with candor about their childhood years. He laments the distance that grew between the two as Harry matured. (Both attended Harvard, and even though their college years overlapped, they rarely saw one another, much to the younger Colt’s chagrin.) The author adored his two younger brothers—Ned, the rebel of the family, and Mark, the baby—but he didn’t feel the same brotherly bond as with Harry. Interspersed with Colt’s personal story are tales of famous (and infamous) brothers in history, including consummate nineteenth-century stage actor Edwin Booth, whose brother John Wilkes assassinated Abraham Lincoln, and the Marx Brothers, brilliant comic collaborators who battled offstage over money, women, and fame. An enjoyable read for members of small and large broods alike. --Allison Block

Review

“A masterful blend of history and memoir…” (San Francisco Chronicle)

“A great book—brilliantly conceived, daringly organized, endlessly fascinating...” (Steve Weinberg The Dallas Morning News)

“Part memoir, part exhaustively researched biography of famous brothers and how they drove each other, loved each other, fought, drove each other crazy, and supported each other through craziness…Insightful and harrowing and funny and stacked with stories.” (Maile Meloy The New Yorker)

“Anyone who’s had the pleasure of reading Colt’s previous, National Book Award-nominated work, The Big House, will know his delicate, detailed, ironically self-mocking way with prose, and his lucid, affectionate fair-mindedness. . .Colt has done a prodigious job of research and synthesis, and his skill at storytelling is such that each of them is transformed into something fresh, dramatic, and emotionally piercing.” (Phillip Lopate The New York Times Book Review)

“Colt writes movingly and insightfully about how the mercurial fraternal relationships can so quickly move from loving idolatry to hands-around-the-throat…This is one fine book, both wildly entertaining and utterly thought-provoking.” (Richard C. Morais Barron's)

“Vivid and psychologically revealing…” (Edward Morris Bookpage)

“Detailed considerations…of well-known brothers and cameo references to many others, famous and not so, help Colt in his quest to explain the mystery of how siblings can be so different from one another.” (Madeleine Blais The Chicago Tribune)

“Colt elegantly captures the complicated dynamics between brothers that both bind and define them, as well as the evolving relationships between his own brothers as they move into middle age.” (Parade)

“Colt is an acute observer and sensitive chronicler of male emotion…Searingly poignant.” (Kate Tuttle Boston Globe)

“Colt’s fine writing, extensive research, and thoughtful analysis make Brothers a meaty, pleasurable read.” (Deb Baker The Concord Monitor)

“The brotherly counterpoint between fierce rivalry and stalwart affection is teased out in this absorbing meditation on family dynamics…No one writers better than Colt about families and the strange alchemy that binds them, and the way siblings make each other what they are even as they become distinct, even estranged, personalities.” (Publishers Weekly)

“An enjoyable read for members of small and large broods alike…” (Allison Block Booklist)

“The second of four brothers, [Colt] perceptively explores his fraught relationship with them—the competitiveness and conflicts, the yearning for a closeness that would not come until several decades had passed—in the context of an often wistful memoir of an…American family in the 1950s and ‘60s.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“As soon as I started reading Brothers, I found myself talking about it to everyone I saw. You will want to give it to people in your life. George Howe Colt is a master at balancing the personal and the universal, and the book makes a powerful case for sibling rivalry—and love—as a driving force not just in individual lives but in the world.” —Maile Meloy, author of Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It and Liars and Saints

“A master craftsman of literary nonfiction, George Howe Colt brilliantly conjoins history and memoir, insight and humor—not to mention Cain and Abel, Groucho and Harpo. Every page of this book is a pleasure.”—Adam Goodheart, author of 1861: The Civil War Awakening

"A captivating blend of historical anecdote, personal revelation, and psychological insight, this lively and imaginative book will serve up a great deal of wisdom (and just as much fun) to anyone who has ever been a brother or had a brother. In fact, maybe all you have to do to derive pleasure and nourishment from Colt's book is simply to have once met a brother—it’s that appealing."—Daniel Okrent, author of Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; Advance Uncorrected Proof edition (November 27, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416547770
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416547778
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #606,893 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Flamingo on January 1, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A good read that helped me understand why my grandsons tick (and fight). I found it interesting to find out the "brothers" concept involved in the assasination of Lincoln. I enjoyed learning of the celebrities and artists and authors but most of all, I loved getting to know this family through the author's description and feelings changed throughout their lives.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By David A. Bryant on April 21, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Just finished this and thoroughly enjoyed it! Very well written. As someone who has no brother, only sisters, i had not ever spent too much time thinking about what it would be like to have one. i was vaguely aware that the experience of growing up would have been different if i had had a brother, but did not understand or appreciate the power of such circumstances. the book has mini-biographies on many famous brothers from history, and those are revealing and fascinating as well. The author's research must have been daunting -- it is as if he wrote several books. I liked the way he interwove the development of his own family relationships with the stories of the other brothers from history. Fascinating!
i highly recommended this book. Second book i have read by this author, and i enjoyed this one even more than the first.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By shopper on April 15, 2013
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I love non-fiction, personal stories, and this one gives great insight into the author's brothers and famous brothers throughout history. I grew up in the same era as the author, and can relate to many of the TV shows and various products, etc that he mentions in the book. I also loved The Big House, about the author's family's summer home (on Cape Cod?) Style of writing is very unique. Sometimes a bit too much detail is included for my taste but overall, I love the book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Gloria Bean on August 6, 2013
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I loved the story between the Colt Brothers as well as the historical information of the other brothers. I found it very interesting to read parts of letters between brothers of history that were almost like poetry and then to wonder how it will look in another hundred years to see "twitters" between brothers that read "c u later" "lol" and "whatever"!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ron Galvin on March 25, 2013
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A wonderful book about brothers...anyone who grew up in a family with brothers will find the book very insightful. I especially enjoyed the historical information about brothers.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Peter L. Mansfield on March 20, 2013
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Woven in between compelling, thoroughly painted analyses of historically significant brothers are heartfelt chapters devoted to the author himself and his very different, but ultimately close brothers. A wonderful, rich journey.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Janice Cairns on February 5, 2013
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It would have been nice if there were pictures included in the print version that there were also pictures included in the Kindle version. Other than that it was great.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Dave Schwinghammer VINE VOICE on January 10, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
BROTHERS by George Howe Colt is an unusual book in that it jumps back and forth between the doings of the four Colt brothers and other celebrity type brothers. Although they're extremely likable, perhaps the Colt segments are too long.

Some of what Colt discovers about brothers in general is old hat. The oldest brother tends to bond with his parents, tends to be more successful, seems more like a little adult. The youngest is more creative and has a tendency to take more chances. The poor guy or guys in the middle don't get as much attention from their parents and don't have as much self confidence.

Although he covers several dozen brother groups, Colt concentrates on the Kelloggs (think breakfast cereals), The Boothes, The Marx brothers, The Van Goghs , and Henry and John Thoreau.

Maybe it's because I have five brothers and no sisters, I found this book fascinating. For instance Edwin Booth suffered from depression most of his life despite being the greatest actor of his day. The two older Booth brothers, June and Edwin, were also loyal to the Union, while John was a loyal rebel. John was also spoiled rotten by his older sister while Edwin acted as a "dresser" for his father, Junius Brutus Booth, (also considered the greatest actor of his times). The father was also mentally ill, although Colt suggests this may have been an act to draw crowds.

Perhaps the most interesting brothers (predictably I suppose) were the Marxes. Colt explains how they got their names. Their mother Minnie, whose younger brother was a vaudeville star, put them on the road at an early age and they got the names from a fellow performer while playing poker.
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