This is the time of year when bloggers post their Favorites of 2013 lists or Best Books for the Holidays lists but the Iron Guy, never afraid to do things differently, is going to do something, well, different. I’m going to recommend a couple of biographies. These would make great reading over the break. As well as doing some fun reading like Unstoppable: No Where to Run, it’s good sometimes to read about real-life people and learn from the great lives they led. Two of the best biographies I’ve read in a long time are To Dare Mighty Things: The Life of Theodore Roosevelt by Doreen Rappaport and Lincoln: A Photobiography by the great Russell Freedman.
The first one is brand new; in fact, I got it just a couple of days ago. It’s a terrific story of a remarkable man.
Theodore Roosevelt was, in some ways, one of the toughest guys ever in the White House. He herded cattle for three years in the Dakotas, led the Rough Riders in the charge up San Juan Hill in the Spanish-American War and galloped around Washington DC every morning on horseback. but he didn’t start out that way. Teddy was a sickly child–he “coughed, sneezed, wheezed, had raging fevers, and hardly ate. His asthma was so bad that he had to sleep sitting up in bed or in a big chair.” But he didn’t let that stop him. He lifted weights, climbed mountains and exercised enough to build his body into health. He also read “books about the soldiers at Valley Forge and frontiersmen Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone” saying, “I felt a great admiration for men who were fearless. I had a great desire to be like them.” As a politician and president, he fearlessly took on corrupt police departments, city governments and business monopolies. Not only that, he explored the western wilderness, fell in love with and preserved much of the great outdoor USA as National Parks. TR lived an epic life and this is an epic book. The story is interesting and the illustrations are great. And it’s a Good Quick Read. I finished it in about a half hour, but it has stayed with me. What a guy! What a story! What a book! And it’s a fun read too–just wait until you read about the giant tortoise escapin in his college dorm room!
The other book is older (it came out in 1987) but it’s still good. In fact, it’s one of the most remarkable books I’ve read this year. Lincoln: A Photobiography is another epic story about an epic life. Abraham Lincoln was the essential American success story; the poor uneducated boy who became President. He was born in the middle of nowhere to parents “who couldn’t read or write at all.” but decided to educate himself out of poverty. He borrowed books whenever he could and read all the time. He would even “carry a book out to the field with him, so he could read at the end of each plow furrow while the horse was getting its breath.” Eventually he learned law and went into politics. Not only was he physically tough (“his hard physical had given him a tough, lean boy with muscular arms like steel cables”) but he was morally and mentally tough, taking on things that would have crushed many other men. He kept the country going during the Civil War when most everyone wanted to give up, fought tirelessly to end slavery, endured criticism for years (being called once “the original gorilla”) and all this time having to fight against sever depression. But, in the end, he triumphed. He won the war, ended slavery and became the most respected man of his time. Until his tragic end. I need to say it again–What a guy! What a story! And what a book!! Russell Friedman is a powerful writer and really brings this tremendous story to life. I’ve read a lot about Abraham Lincoln but still found myself turning page after page to keep reading this incredible story. And it won the Newbery award for best kids’ book of the year in 1988. Rightly so.
And do you what these two great men had in common? Other facing up to great challenges? Other than leaving their worlds better places? Other than bringing themselves up out of bad childhood situations?
That’s right, guys. One of the ways they brought themselves out bad circumstances was reading books. Roosevelt inspired himself with books about soldiers and frontiersmen. Lincoln read books and educated himself into a better life. READING CHANGES LIVES. Remember that. That’s why I run this blog. Get books into your hands, boys, and who knows what you could accomplish.
Well, thanks for letting onto my soapbox. If you want to read about how reading changes lives, click on the “Being Teddy Roosevelt” tab under this post under this post and see my review of that terrific book. If you’d like to read about another book by Russell Freedman (about Valley Forge!), click on the “Russell Freedman” tab. Same thing if you want to learn about more biographies.
I hope all of you have a great holiday season.
And be sure to write in to us at Boys Rule Boys Read!