It’s not too late to start a new book. And if you need a good idea or two, here are a few that Utah’s politicos are reading. This is the eleventh in a series on what Utah’s politicians have on their summer reading lists.
Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox hails from Fairview, Utah and was eager to share his summer book list selections, the reading of which he manages to squeeze in between BMX stunts and driving in the demolition derby. In addition to the weighty biographies and current events selections below, Cox also said he’ll also probably pick up something fun, too.
Spencer Cox’s Summer Reading
- James Madison: A Biography by Ralph Ketchem
The best one volume biography of Madison’s life, Ketcham’s biography not only traces Madison’s career, it gives readers a sense of the man. As Madison said of his early years in Virginia under the study of Donald Robertson, who introduced him to thinkers like Montaigne and Montesquieu, “all that I have been in life I owe largely to that man.” It also captures a side of Madison that is less rarely on display (including a portrait of the beautiful Dolley Madison).
- The Last Founding Father: James Monroe and a Nation’s Call to Greatness by Harlow Giles Unger
In this lively and compelling biography Harlow Giles Unger reveals the dominant political figure of a generation. A fierce fighter in four critical Revolutionary War battles and a courageous survivor of Valley Forge and a near-fatal wound at the Battle of Trenton, James Monroe (1751–1831) went on to become America’s first full-time politician, dedicating his life to securing America’s national and international durability.
Decorated by George Washington for his exploits as a soldier, Monroe became a congressman, a senator, U.S. minister to France and Britain, governor of Virginia, secretary of state, secretary of war, and finally America’s fifth president. The country embraced Monroe’s dreams of empire and elected him to two terms, the second time unanimously. Mentored by each of America’s first four presidents, Monroe was unquestionably the best prepared president in our history.
Like David McCullough’s John Adams and Jon Meacham’s recent book on Andrew Jackson, this new biography of Monroe is both a solid read and stellar scholarship—history in the grand tradition.
- Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt by Michael Lewis
Flash Boys is about a small group of Wall Street guys who figure out that the U.S. stock market has been rigged for the benefit of insiders and that, post–financial crisis, the markets have become not more free but less, and more controlled by the big Wall Street banks. Working at different firms, they come to this realization separately; but after they discover one another, the flash boys band together and set out to reform the financial markets. This they do by creating an exchange in which high-frequency trading—source of the most intractable problems—will have no advantage whatsoever.
The characters in Flash Boys are fabulous, each completely different from what you think of when you think “Wall Street guy.” Several have walked away from jobs in the financial sector that paid them millions of dollars a year. From their new vantage point they investigate the big banks, the world’s stock exchanges, and high-frequency trading firms as they have never been investigated, and expose the many strange new ways that Wall Street generates profits.
The light that Lewis shines into the darkest corners of the financial world may not be good for your blood pressure, because if you have any contact with the market, even a retirement account, this story is happening to you. But in the end, Flash Boys is an uplifting read. Here are people who have somehow preserved a moral sense in an environment where you don’t get paid for that; they have perceived an institutionalized injustice and are willing to go to war to fix it.
- The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way by Amanda Ripley
How do other countries create “smarter” kids? What is it like to be a child in the world’s new education superpowers? The Smartest Kids in the World “gets well beneath the glossy surfaces of these foreign cultures and manages to make our own culture look newly strange….The question is whether the startling perspective provided by this masterly book can also generate the will to make changes” (The New York Times Book Review).
In a handful of nations, virtually all children are learning to make complex arguments and solve problems they’ve never seen before. They are learning to think, in other words, and to thrive in the modern economy. Inspired to find answers for our own children, author and Time magazine journalist Amanda Ripley follows three Americans embedded in these countries for one year. Kim, fifteen, raises $10,000 so she can move from Oklahoma to Finland; Eric, eighteen, trades his high-achieving Minnesota suburb for a booming city in South Korea; and Tom, seventeen, leaves a historic Pennsylvania village for Poland.
Through these young informants, Ripley meets battle-scarred reformers, sleep-deprived zombie students, and a teacher who earns $4 million a year. Their stories, along with groundbreaking research into learning in other cultures, reveal a pattern of startling transformation: none of these countries had many “smart” kids a few decades ago. Things had changed. Teaching had become more rigorous; parents had focused on things that mattered; and children had bought into the promise of education.
- The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester
From the best-selling author of The Professor and the Madman, The Map That Changed the World, and Krakatoa comes a truly wonderful celebration of the English language and of its unrivaled treasure house, the Oxford English Dictionary.
Writing with marvelous brio, Winchester first serves up a lightning history of the English language–“so vast, so sprawling, so wonderfully unwieldy”–and pays homage to the great dictionary makers, from “the irredeemably famous” Samuel Johnson to the “short, pale, smug and boastful” schoolmaster from New Hartford, Noah Webster. He then turns his unmatched talent for story-telling to the making of this most venerable of dictionaries. In this fast-paced narrative, the reader will discover lively portraits of such key figures as the brilliant but tubercular first editor Herbert Coleridge (grandson of the poet), the colorful, boisterous Frederick Furnivall (who left the project in a shambles), and James Augustus Henry Murray, who spent a half-century bringing the project to fruition. Winchester lovingly describes the nuts-and-bolts of dictionary making–how unexpectedly tricky the dictionary entry for marzipan was, or how fraternity turned out so much longer and monkey so much more ancient than anticipated–and howbondmaid was left out completely, its slips found lurking under a pile of books long after the B-volume had gone to press. We visit the ugly corrugated iron structure that Murray grandly dubbed the Scriptorium–the Scrippy or the Shed, as locals called it–and meet some of the legion of volunteers, from Fitzedward Hall, a bitter hermit obsessively devoted to the OED, to W. C. Minor, whose story is one of dangerous madness, ineluctable sadness, and ultimate redemption.
The Meaning of Everything is a scintillating account of the creation of the greatest monument ever erected to a living language. Simon Winchester’s supple, vigorous prose illuminates this dauntingly ambitious project–a seventy-year odyssey to create the grandfather of all word-books, the world’s unrivalled uber-dictionary.
- David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism by Gregory A. Prince and Wm Robert Wright
Ordained as an apostle in 1906, David O. McKay served as president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1951 until his death in 1970. Under his leadership, the church experienced unparalleled growth—nearly tripling in total membership—and becoming a significant presence throughout the world.
The first book to draw upon the David O. McKay Papers at the J. Willard Marriott Library at the University of Utah, in addition to some two hundred interviews conducted by the authors, David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism focuses primarily on the years of McKay’s presidency. During some of the most turbulent times in American and world history, McKay navigated the church through uncharted waters as it faced the challenges of worldwide growth in an age of communism, the civil rights movement, and ecumenism. Gregory Prince and Robert Wright have compiled a thorough history of the presidency of a much-loved prophet who left a lasting legacy within the LDS Church.
- Double Down: Game Change 2012 by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann
In their runaway bestseller Game Change, Mark Halperin and John Heilemann captured the full drama of Barack Obama’s improbable, dazzling victory over the Clintons, John McCain, and Sarah Palin. With the same masterly reporting, unparalleled access, and narrative skill, Double Down picks up the story in the Oval Office, where the president is beset by crises both inherited and unforeseen—facing defiance from his political foes, disenchantment from the voters, disdain from the nation’s powerful money machers, and dysfunction within the West Wing. As 2012 looms, leaders of the Republican Party, salivating over Obama’s political fragility, see a chance to wrest back control of the White House—and the country. So how did the Republicans screw it up? How did Obama survive the onslaught of super PACs and defy the predictions of a one-term presidency? Double Down follows the gaudy carnival of GOP contenders—ambitious and flawed, famous and infamous, charismatic and cartoonish—as Mitt Romney, the straitlaced, can-do, gaffe-prone multimillionaire from Massachusetts, scraped and scratched his way to the nomination.
Double Down exposes blunders, scuffles, and machinations far beyond the klieg lights of the campaign trail: Obama storming out of a White House meeting with his high command after accusing them of betrayal. Romney’s mind-set as he made his controversial “47 percent” comments. The real reasons New Jersey governor Chris Christie was never going to be Mitt’s running mate. The intervention held by the president’s staff to rescue their boss from political self-destruction. The way the tense détente between Obama and Bill Clinton morphed into political gold. And the answer to one of the campaign’s great mysteries—how did Clint Eastwood end up performing Dada dinner theater at the Republican convention?
In Double Down, Mark Halperin and John Heilemann take the reader into back rooms and closed-door meetings, laying bare the secret history of the 2012 campaign for a panoramic account of an election that was as hard fought as it was lastingly consequential.