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Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush Hardcover – Deckle Edge, November 10, 2015

4.4 out of 5 stars 294 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“[Jon] Meacham’s book should be required reading—if not for every presidential candidate, then for every president-elect.”The Washington Post
Destiny and Power reflects the qualities of both subject and biographer: judicious, balanced, deliberative, with a deep appreciation of history and the personalities who shape it. If Meacham is sometimes polite to a fault, Destiny and Power does not suffer for it. His kinder, gentler approach succeeds in making George H. W. Bush a more sympathetic—and more complex—figure than if the former president had written his own doorstopper after all.”The New York Times Book Review
“Jon Meacham, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his biography of Andrew Jackson, put an enormous amount of work into this volume: nine years of interviews, full access to the diaries of George H. W. and Barbara Bush, and an open door to family members and friends. Add to this Meacham’s balanced journalism and smooth writing, and you have a fascinating biography of the forty-first president.”The Dallas Morning News
“When we rank, reconsider, laud, or denounce past Presidents, living or dead, we are taking stock of our own times. In that sense, the vindication of George H. W. Bush is a reflection of what we know we’ve lost. Jon Meacham’s new biography of Bush, Destiny and Power, makes that plain from its very first pages.”The New Yorker
“Graceful prose, backed by diligent mining of the archives and access to an oral diary that Bush dictated throughout his presidency . . . The story of the forty-first man to hold the office sheds light not only on the country we were, but the one we’ve become.”Los Angeles Times
“Meacham is a superb historian and he weaves a compelling historical narrative, drawing heavily on Bush’s own contemporaneous diaries. The result is a fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpse into high-stakes decision making in a rapidly evolving world.”The Seattle Times
“Through one man’s long journey through politics, we see America’s changing attitudes toward power and duty.”Time
“Illuminating . . . written from Bush’s perspective but with a journalist’s rigor . . . George and Barbara Bush have provided extraordinary cooperation [for] an account of his life and presidency that has depth and value.”—USA Today (4 out of 4 stars)

“A gripping new biography of the forty-first president.”The Economist

“Meticulously researched . . . a revealing biography that should serve as the starting point for future evaluations of the forty-first president.”Kirkus Reviews
“A vivid, well-written account.”Publishers Weekly

“The more time passes, the more the dust settles, the clearer it becomes that George H. W. Bush and the strengths of character he brought to his long service to this country deserve more attention and appreciation. And now comes Destiny and Power, Jon Meacham’s altogether fair, insightful biography of the forty-first president—a portrait made especially compelling by the author’s remarkable access to Bush’s private White House diaries. This is a timely, first-rate book!”—David McCullough
“What a spectacular and moving portrait this is—not only of a remarkably classy man but of the era that shaped him! It is hard to imagine a biographer more fitted than Jon Meacham to write what will surely be the definitive work on George Herbert Walker Bush.”—Doris Kearns Goodwin

“This astonishing book is both timely and timeless. Based on candid interviews and intimate letters and diaries, it provides a deep insight into the character of George H. W. Bush, flavored with colorful anecdotes depicting his relationships with people ranging from Gorbachev and Reagan to his sons George and Jeb. The result is a fascinating and insightful portrayal of the life of an exemplary American citizen.”—Walter Isaacson
“Jon Meacham’s timely and intimate biography of George Bush 41 is a welcome reminder of this modest president’s call to service, from the cockpits of World War II to the Oval Office and the end of the Cold War. Here you’ll meet a man of patrician manners, wartime heroics, Texas assimilation, party and personal loyalty, with a refined sense of power that carried him into history. Meet the George Bush you didn’t know.”—Tom Brokaw
“This riveting biography by the incomparable Jon Meacham gives George H. W. Bush his well-deserved place in history. Destiny and Power is full of surprises, revealing 41’s important role in scene after crucial historical scene of the past seven decades. President Bush used to say that he could never quite convey his “heartbeat” to Americans. Now, using a treasure of heretofore unseen diaries and other documents, as well as his own detailed interviews, Meacham takes us behind closed doors to show us what this sometimes misunderstood leader was really like.”—Michael Beschloss

About the Author

Jon Meacham received the Pulitzer Prize for his 2008 biography of Andrew Jackson, American Lion. An executive editor at Random House, he is also the author of the New York Times bestsellers Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, American Gospel, and Franklin and Winston. Meacham, who teaches at Vanderbilt University and at The University of the South, is a fellow of the Society of American Historians. He lives in Nashville and in Sewanee with his wife and children.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 864 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; First Edition edition (November 10, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400067650
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400067657
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.7 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (294 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,588 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By College Stealth TOP 500 REVIEWER on November 10, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
So, this isn’t a quick read, but it’s a good one, thick with information, back story and really tracing family genealogy at the onset so you get a sense of who is who. Also, before you get all angry about Republican vs. Democrat, etc. Keep in mind, it’s a biography, a well written one at that, which highlights some really interesting aspects of Former President Bush’s life, it’s relatively apolitical and focuses on the actions of Bush. It may seem a bit formal for some, but it’s actually a refreshing write, without yelling obscenities or blaming others, it’s a really good reflection on Bush, his life, and attitude and approach to various events. It is interesting that the book, in the Prologue, actually starts off in the defeat of Bush in 1992. However, in the Prologue it raises some interesting observations about the changing lens of America, moving away from President’s who actively served vs. those who did not. Overall, it’s an expansive look at Bush’s life, which keeps the reader moving forward with appropriate attention paid to details someone may wish to know a little bit more about, and then keeps moving forward. It’s a really good biography.

An element that I did enjoy was the backstory to the Bush family in general. There is no hiding the aspect that it was and has been an affluent family for quite some time and gives insight into this rise of upper class, it even takes the time to go into a bit of the backstory of Andover, discuss Bush’s experiences at the school (at least from the lens of others) and moves in to Bush’s time at Phillips Academy. The relationship between “Poppy” (as Bush was called) and Barbara Bush is quite charming, having excerpts from early communication between the two, a relationship that began in 1941/42, prior to Bush entering the military.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Jon Meacham's biography of George HW Bush, "Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush" is a well-written and interesting book about our 41st president, but midway through it, I realised that it could very easily have been written by Bush as a mildly revealing autobiography.

Biographies seem to to be written to two extremes. One is as a hagiography of the subject, while the other is a warts-and-all portrait. The second type seem to be mean-spirited and petty and while they are often fun reading - at first, anyway - the vindictiveness makes the book weary reading. However, the first type often gets tiring to read, too, as much is told but not much is revealed. They usually read like autobiographies where the writer/subject wants control of the story. (I find many autobiographies dull - Bill Clinton's was a good example of a winded book, while the Washington Post's Katharine Graham's autobiography was a masterful combination of great writing and internal revelation).

Anyway, Jon Meacham's book is not an autobiography, but in a way it sure reads like one. Perhaps because it is based on Bush's personal diaries and notes, as well as long interviews with the former president, but much is written, but not much is revealed. George Bush comes off as favorably as if he had controlled the message, which in fact he did, in many ways. Meacham's telling of HW's dissatisfaction with his son's aides in pushing for war in the Middle East seems to be Bush's way of telling the public - AND his son - exactly what he thought. Jon Meacham became the "messenger", so to speak, in that and other matters.

I'm in no way impugning Jon Meacham's book. He's an excellent writer and the book is quite interesting. I learned many things about our 41st president I hadn't known. I just wish it was a bit more "critical".
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
“Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush” is the most recent biography of the man who is perhaps one of the most underrated politicians American history: George H.W. Bush, the 41st President of the United States.

Written by Jon Meacham and published in 2015, “Destiny and Power” is an elegantly written and altogether fascinating full-scale biography that brilliantly succeeds in being scrupulously fair and even-handed in its treatment of its subject. Meacham, a journalist who once served as editor of “Newsweek,” and is also the Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of Andrew Jackson, provides a surprisingly admiring and yet honest assessment of the life and accomplishments of George Herbert Walker Bush.

In Meacham’s view, George Bush was a man who was humble and yet ambitious; a child of wealth and privilege who was generous almost to a fault with those less fortunate than he was; a man deeply imbued with traditional values who was at the same time pragmatic and forward-thinking; and a man who possessed both a well-defined sense of public duty and a strong work ethic.

Meacham traces Bush’s long career of public service, beginning with his heroic stint as a naval aviator in World War II. After the war, he completed his education and set out for Texas with his new wife, Barbara Pierce Bush. It was there he made his own fortune in the booming Texan oil fields. It was also there that his political career began. Over the course of nearly three decades, he served in a succession of increasingly important government roles: Congressman, US Ambassador to the United Nations, US Envoy to China, CIA Director, and Vice President of the United States. Finally, in 1988, he was elected the 41st President of the United States.
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