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Otis Library Asks:
Book reviews and best sellers lists are all well and good, but sometimes the best books are those you hear about from word of mouth. With that in mind, the Otis Library asks ďWhat are you reading?Ē Add their recommendations to your own reading list! Remember to ask at the Information Desk if you need help locating one of these books.
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This month and for the past several months Iíve been reading all about the Roosevelts ó Teddy, Franklin, Eleanor and the rest of the clan. (Actually two clans, since Teddy and Franklin were very distant cousins.) Itís in preparation for my next book, which will be called Alice and Eleanor: The Wars of the Roosevelts. Iím going to tell the story of Alice, the daughter of Teddy, and her first cousin and rival, Eleanor, who grew up to marry their fifth cousin Franklin. Both were extraordinary women, but of very different temperaments and worldviews. Alice was Republican, conservative, gregarious and beautiful; Eleanor was Democrat, liberal, shy and plain. From their earliest days growing up together, their lives were intertwined, and their rivalry was destined to shape the politics of Franklinís administration and the direction of both their parties.
So Iíve been reading every Roosevelt tome I can lay my hands on. Some remarkable historians have chronicled the family. Iíve read David McCulloughís Mornings on Horseback and Edmund Morrisís Theodore Rex, biographies of Teddy; Doris Kearns Goodwinís No Ordinary Time, the story of Franklin and Eleanor in the White House; and Stacy Corderyís Alice, the first and so far only biography of Alice Roosevelt. And thatís just the beginning: I have a pile of other volumes stacked by my desk. After that, it will be time to dive into the actual letters left behind by these extraordinary figures.
What makes these books so memorable is the way these very skillful historians manage to summon up the past and make it feel very real and contemporary. Thatís what a historian must do in order to make his or her subject relevant to readers today. Iíve had plenty of experience evoking past decades of Hollywood; now Iím looking forward to bringing back to life Oyster Bay and Hyde Park, New York, as well as Washington, DC, from the 1910s to the 1960s.