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American Sketches: Great Leaders, Creative Thinkers, and Heroes of a Hurricane Hardcover – Deckle Edge, November 24, 2009
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"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover," illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Learn more
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From Publishers Weekly
Conventional wisdom is stoutly defended in this staid collection of essays, mostly culled from the author's newspaper and magazine articles. Isaacson (Einstein) has a knack for finding the middle ground and the incontestable truism in any topic. Thus, Benjamin Franklin's life shows us that â€œdemocracy requires pragmatic people who can find common ground,â€ but also know when â€œto take a stand.â€ Colin Powell is â€œan exemplar of the balanceâ€ between realism and idealism that foreign policy demands. A piece on Time cofounder Henry Luce extols â€œcommon senseâ€ over â€œknee-jerk ideological faiths.â€ (The one extremist the author wholeheartedly supports is Albert Einstein, a â€œrebelâ€ against received notions of time and space, who receives several glowing hosannas.) Isaacson also mines a vein of cautious and sometimes dated business futurism—the collection includes breathless profiles of moguls Bill Gates and Andrew Grove—that yields such banal prognostications as â€œAmong the few things certain about the [21st] century are that it will be wired, networked and global.â€ It's hard to argue with Isaacson's pronouncements—and harder still to stay awake for them. (Dec.)
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“A compelling, highly readable collection of fresh perspectives on some of the most significant names in American history.” –Kirkus --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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This book is a collection of first rate essays and articles covering an array of American political and creative leaders as well as some thoughts on journalism and its future. The essays were written over a span of several decades, so in addition to the actual essays, each contains a foreword by the author to put it into current perspective.
All of the essays are good, but some are more interesting than others. Isaacson is clearly infatuated with Einstein, so Einstein gets more than his share of coverage in this collection. Very interesting and deserving material though.
My favorite was the piece on Bill Gates. Longer than most, it gives the reader a real feel for who Gates is and how he is wired. The essay addresses his many incredible strengths as well as some of his flaws. The eulogy for George Plimpton was also especially good.
I was particularly interested in the book's introduction in which the author explains his own background and how he got from New Orleans to Harvard to the editorship of Time and Chairmanship of CNN. Good stuff!!
As expected the book is an anthology of short sketches on various "people of interest"; some are historical figures, some are current politicians, a celebrity, etc. Unfortunately there is nothing new here. It's a mish mash of Isaacson's impressions, past interviews etc. There is no unifying theme, no new materials and no insight. Much of the material might have been timely at a certain time, e.g. the material about Ronald Reagen, but is no longer of interest. I cannot imagine why the book was published, since most of it had already been published, unless it was to wring further income from his readers!