It's been awhile since a 101 in 1001 update...trust me, I've been checking them off, I just need to actually take the time to chronicle them!
While I am clearly a huge bibliophile, I tend to pretty much confine myself to the fiction side of the bookstore. Fortunately, my years of friendship with Rabes have forced me to broaden my horizons, and I've found that reading non-fiction is actually so much more delightful than the stereotypical textbook experience I expect!
That said...I shouldn't probably herald finishing five biographies in two years as a major achievement, especially considering how Rabes plows through them (remind me to take a snap of the bookshelves in the "Reagan Room" at their new house sometime...). With his carefully curated selections, I found four excellent options to dig in to, and stumbled on a fifth thanks to a recommendation from an old teacher. Without further ado:
1. Traitor to His Class, H.W. Brands: Brands is one of Rabes's favorite writers, and with good reason. His comprehensive biography of Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a can't-put-down choice to start off with. I'm that nerd who marathoned "The Roosevelts" on PBS when it came out, so reading a biography on a subject I was fairly familiar with was a good way to start - it added so much extra color. Bonus: if you, like me, are a bit of a history nerd, check out Brands's Twitter, where he's retelling American history through haikus. I love it.
2. Landslide: LBJ and Reagan at the Dawn of a New America, Jonathan Darman: This selection was a sort of different twist on a biography, telling the tale of the thousand days immediately following Kennedy's assassination through the lens of Lyndon Johnson's presidency and Ronald Reagan's political rise. The way these two very different leaders were juxtaposed against each other (historically and in the book) was new to me, and piqued my interest in an era of American politics I haven't really delved into with much fervor.
3. The Greater Journey, David McCullough: Another favorite of Rabes (and his friend Solsma), McCullough's writing is rich in detail and vivid imagery. I downloaded The Greater Journey for our flight home from Paris in May of 2015 - a perfect pick, as it tells the tale of American expatriation to Paris from the 19th century forward. While I knew that numerous Americans had sought Paris out for cultural and artistic purposes, I didn't know it was also an epicenter of medical study. Expanding my knowledge of Americans in Paris beyond the Founding Fathers and Jazz Age luminaries added so much to my appreciation for the City of Light.
4. The Heir Apparent, Jane Ridley: My first-ever true biography was on Queen Victoria, a terribly dry tome for AP Language in 11th grade that I slogged through halfheartedly on the dock at the cabin...a brutal and off-putting introduction to the art of biography. The Heir Apparent chronicles the life of Victoria's eldest son Edward (Bertie), the longest-waiting heir to the English throne until Prince Charles. This biography, due in large part to its subject matter, read more like a gossip blog than a school lesson...affairs, fashion, political intrigue and scandal abounded. Totally juicy...in a refined, restrained, English way!
5. The Nine, Jeffrey Toobin: FINALLY, and oh my god did it take me a (needlessly) long time to get through this one: I've had The Nine for no joke nine months, thanks for your patience with me, Rabes! The Supreme Court in the latter half of the 20th century and early 21st century is the topic matter at hand, and I found myself totally absorbed in this one from about 20 pages in until the very end. Larger-than-life personalities like Sandra Day O'Connor and "the notorious RBG," the finer points and niceties of legal wrangling behind the scenes, even just the structure and machinations of day-to-day life on the Court...all covered in beautiful detail and with a wealth of insight into personalities of the Court justices and their supporting characters. Highly recommend for the lawyers in my life!
BOOM. Checked that one off, although it took me so long to do it! (To be honest, I didn't count the THREE biographies of Kate Middleton and Queen Elizabeth II that I read last summer...shh!) Next on my list: Ron Chernow's Alexander Hamilton, duh, because I'm obsessed.
For more 101 in 1001, head here. For biography recommendations, go to Rabes. I'm clearly unqualified in every way!