Robert Lowell was considered by many to be the English-speaking world’s pre-eminent poet after the Second World War. In 1946, when he was barely 30 years old, he received the Pulitzer Prize for his second poetry collection, Lord Weary’s Castle. He received a second Pulitzer for The Dolphin in 1973, and many other awards followed until his death in 1977.
Jack London lived during America’s first Gilded Age from the late 1800s through the early 1900s. Readers of his very popular books (he was the first U.S. author to make more than a million dollars) were entertained by stories about dogs and wolves and gold miners and ships and cannibals. At the same time, London was educating the public about serious societal problems that required fundamental reform.
Henry Kissinger is one of the most controversial statesmen in American history. Some regard him as the country’s greatest strategic foreign relations thinker, while others describe him as conspiratorial or as a war criminal. Noted Harvard historian Niall Ferguson tells the first part of Kissinger’s story in great detail in Kissinger: 1923-1968: The Idealist, the first of a projected two-volume biography.
In his richly detailed and stimulating new book, Kissinger’s Shadow: The Long Reach of America’s Most Controversial Statesman, historian Greg Grandin writes that Kissinger was “the quintessential American, his cast of mind perfectly molded to his place and time.”
In his farewell remarks to the White House staff after his resignation from the presidency, Richard Nixon said, “Always remember, others may hate you, but those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them. And then you destroy yourself.” In his illuminating and compelling One Man Against the World: The Tragedy of Richard Nixon, award-winning author and journalist Tim Weiner tells the story of a tormented man, considered by many to be a brilliant politician, in the process of destroying himself.
John Quincy Adams was devoted to literature, and had he been able to pursue his ideal career, he wrote in 1817, “I should have made myself a great poet.” He did write poetry throughout his extraordinary life, but, from a very young age, his parents strongly encouraged him toward life as a leader in the new republic. His literary skills, however, were not wasted.
Mohandas K. Gandhi was born and raised in India and is best known for his work there as a world-renowned social reformer, political thinker, religious pluralist and prophet. If his life had followed the traditional path for someone of his family and caste, he would have remained in India, served in a prominent position and been unknown to most of the world. But as the noted scholar Ramachandra Guha demonstrates in his eminently readable and exhaustively researched Gandhi Before India, the 20 years that Gandhi spent in South Africa before his return to his home country in 1914 were fundamental to his success.
John Hay modestly insisted that the unique opportunities that came his way during an extraordinary life, and the accomplishments that resulted from them, were just the result of fortunate accidents. His public career began when he was in his 20s and became the assistant private secretary to Abraham Lincoln in the White House, where, living and working in close quarters, he grew close to the...
When Warren G. Harding died in office in 1923, in the midst of scandalous behavior by some members of his administration, his relatively little-known vice president, Calvin Coolidge, assumed the presidency. With a strong commitment to service and the dignity of the office and a core belief that less government was better, he restored trust and confidence. Coolidge went on to win a landslide...
Throughout U.S. history, presidents and vice presidents usually have not been close to each other. One has all the power of his office; the other does not. That invariably leads to many opportunities for misunderstandings, slights and mistrust. The mix is especially difficult if the president is an elder statesman and the symbol of victory in World War II, known to the public as being...