Many books have been written about Abigail Adams's correspondence with her husband John. Dear Abigail is an account of her life and correspondence alongside her sisters', as well as their children. The spotlight remains largely on Abigail, naturally enough, but while the events are often familiar, the emphasis on the relationship with her sisters renders them with more domestic detail. As somebody who reads every book on the Adamses that she can get her hands on, I found that this book was still enlightening.
The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism by Doris Kearns Goodwin
It's been a while because I've been working my way through the second book on the Carnegie nonfiction shortlist, The Bully Pulpit. This is a massive book but it's worth it. As the title suggests, it covers three stories, those of two presidents and that of investigative journalism in the late nineteenth/early twentieth centuries, and their relationships with each other. Since I live in Ohio and have been to a few historic sites involving our presidents, including Taft's home, I've probably more familiar than most general readers with his history, the concept that he was perhaps always more disposed towards the Supreme Court than the White House (where he did indeed wind up after his administration), et cetera. Roosevelt is of course more familiar to the public at large, but telling their stories side by side here illuminates the similarities and differences in their philosophies and temperaments that makes them more comprehensible than reading them separately, with one just featuring as a supporting character for the other. Sometimes it seems that journalism gets the shortest shrift, since it's a broader category and therefore individual journalists may appear only for brief sections, but I'm also happy to have the chance to learn even as much as I did about Ida Tarbell. This is not only a large book, it's one that can't be rushed through, but I highly recommend it to any history reader who's willing to invest the time.
Overall Grade: A
Since the rest of the Carnegie fiction shortlist hasn't come in for me at the library yet, I skipped over to the nonfiction list. If On Paper does not literally cover the everything of paper's history, it does at least offer a wide sampling. Besides the more obvious printing, it also goes into great depth about "papers" in the sense of government identification, oragami, shredding/pulping (and the use of pulp), the Nazi's records in context of the Nuremberg trials, and the random bits of paper from the World Trade Center that rained down after their destruction. Perhaps considering the breadth, it's not surprising that the depth sometimes leaves something to be desired, but read out of the desire to hear a little bit about everything, it was mostly satisfactory until the end.
But... the end is the identification of a bit of paper from the WTC. Literally. That is the epilogue. I can understand the idea that something that looms as large as the attacks of Sept. 11 does in American minds needs to be the final subject introduced in this book because nothing else is really going to follow it... but. When a book covers as much disparate ground as this one, either the epilogue or, if there's not a proper epilogue, the final chapter needs to address the big picture and make some effort to tie the whole thing together, possibly looking towards the future of paper, what uses are likely to last the longest and which are more likely to vanish in a generation or so. The total lack of any conclusion, in any sense of the word, seems more appropriate for a book that people are meant to dip into than one people are meant to read straight through. I do have the impression that this is a book people are meant to read from beginning to end (for one thing the chapters are longer than I associate with books people are meant to pick up and turn to a section at random), but it doesn't end so much as stop.
Just another nerdy librarian