Thoughts While Reading

/ posted in: Reading

I’ve been duped!

I was doing really well only reading books for #blackathon this month.  If I tried to pick up a book by a white author I’d feel guilty.  I was browsing my TBR list for more books and realized that Prime Reading (which I didn’t even know was a thing) had a copy of JB West’s book.  I like reading about White House history.  I’ve read a lot about it.  This is an old book but I figured this was a good time to pick it up because JB West was black.

 

Upstairs at the White House: My Life with the First LadiesUpstairs at the White House: My Life with the First Ladies by J.B. West

“J. B. West, chief usher of the White House, directed the operations and maintenance of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue—and coordinated its daily life—at the request of the president and his family. He directed state functions; planned parties, weddings and funerals, gardens and playgrounds, and extensive renovations; and with a large staff, supervised every activity in the presidential home. For twenty-eight years, first as assistant to the chief usher, then as chief usher, he witnessed national crises and triumphs, and interacted daily with six consecutive presidents and first ladies, their parents, children and grandchildren, and houseguests—including friends, relatives, and heads of state.

In Upstairs at the White House, West offers an absorbing and novel glimpse at America’s first families, from the Roosevelts to the Kennedys and the Nixons. Alive with anecdotes ranging from the quotidian (Lyndon B. Johnson’s showerheads) to the tragic (the aftermath of John F. Kennedy’s assassination), West’s book is an enlightening and rich account of the American history that took place just behind the Palladian doors of the North Portico.”

I’ve even watched a really old miniseries based on this book. But as I got into it (and it is magnificent) there were a few comments that made me pause. Eventually during the Truman years, I did myself a Google and…

JB West was a white man!!!!

How dare he! Thinking about it I have no idea how I convinced myself he was black. I’m sure in the miniseries he was probably played by a white actor. I admit that the idea of allowing a black man to run the White House during the years in question was probably completely out of the question, especially since I didn’t think all his underlings were black. Here I was thinking he was this voice of progress and equality all this time. Nope. I made it all up.

Anyway, the book is good. The man is respectful but he’s got the dirt on everyone. I got all up in my feelings and wanted to fight Mamie Eisenhower even though she’s been dead a long time.  I’d probably win because of that.  She needed a good smackdown in my opinion.


Can't Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the OddsCan’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds by David Goggins

For David Goggins, childhood was a nightmare — poverty, prejudice, and physical abuse colored his days and haunted his nights. But through self-discipline, mental toughness, and hard work, Goggins transformed himself from a depressed, overweight young man with no future into a U.S. Armed Forces icon and one of the world’s top endurance athletes. The only man in history to complete elite training as a Navy SEAL, Army Ranger, and Air Force Tactical Air Controller, he went on to set records in numerous endurance events, inspiring Outside magazine to name him “The Fittest (Real) Man in America.”

I picked this up because the ebook was available from Libby and it fit in with #blackathon. I’m reading it with sort of a fascinated horror. His childhood was bad but what he has done to himself is worse. I sort of want to pet him and ask if he has considered therapy. He is going on about how to you have to “callous” your mind to move past pain to unlock your potential. That’s good advice to a point. He goes far past the healthy point though to the point of seriously injuring himself over and over for no good reason other than outrunning the demons in his mind.

I’m retold parts of the story to my ex-military husband and he just shakes his head. He appears to think that there are gung-ho military people and then there are idiots. He is placing this author in the latter category. Not sure if I’m going to finish this one. If I do, it will just be out of morbid fascination.


The Class: A Life-Changing Teacher, His World-Changing Kids, and the Most Inventive Classroom in AmericaThe Class: A Life-Changing Teacher, His World-Changing Kids, and the Most Inventive Classroom in America by Heather Won Tesoriero

I finished this audiobook. I’m glad that my school didn’t participate in any science fairs or have science research classes. That would have been the kind of thing that I would have felt like I needed to participate in but I would not have enjoyed. I’m eternally grateful that I got into vet school early so I didn’t have to do my senior research in college.

I’m also completely appalled by the kid in here who was offered a full scholarship to college including a semester in England, research funding, and the ability to set his own coursework and turned it down to take a half scholarship somewhere else. Oh, sweet summer child, who has never paid his own bills. You are the embodiment of book smart but not practical.


The Longest Line on the Map: The United States, the Pan-American Highway, and the Quest to Link the AmericasThe Longest Line on the Map: The United States, the Pan-American Highway, and the Quest to Link the Americas by Eric Rutkow

“The Pan-American Highway, monument to a century’s worth of diplomacy and investment, education and engineering, scandal and sweat, is the longest road in the world, passable everywhere save the mythic Darien Gap that straddles Panama and Colombia. The highway’s history, however, has long remained a mystery, a story scattered among government archives, private papers, and fading memories. In contrast to the Panama Canal and its vast literature, the Pan-American Highway—the United States’ other great twentieth-century hemispheric infrastructure project—has become an orphan of the past, effectively erased from the story of the “American Century.”

The Longest Line on the Map uncovers this incredible tale for the first time and weaves it into a tapestry that fascinates, informs, and delights. Rutkow’s narrative forces the reader to take seriously the question: Why couldn’t the Americas have become a single region that “is” and not two near irreconcilable halves that “are”? Whether you’re fascinated by the history of the Americas, or you’ve dreamed of driving around the globe, or you simply love world records and the stories behind them, The Longest Line on the Map is a riveting narrative, a lost epic of hemispheric scale.”

This is my new audiobook.