Tag Archives: Douglas Brinkley

Reflections on Brinkley’s Biography of Cronkite

On Wednesday, I present a synopsis of Douglas Brinkley‘s biography of Walter Cronkite.

The book, simply titled Cronkite (Harper, 2012) took me a summer to read, as it is over 1000 pages long.  It was worth it.

I presented it at a bonus program for the First Friday Book Synopsis, and for several associations and companies in Dallas.  Since it was never a best-seller, we did not feature it in a monthly presentation.

Brinkley has become one of our great biographers, and this one is almost novel-like in its content and construction.

Cronkite was known as the “most trusted man in America.”  His work for CBS News was strengthened by his initial work in newspapers.  He was truly a journalist, not a TelePrompTer reader.  His flexibility comes across again and again in the book, noting that it was never too late to get important news on the air in a broadcast.

This is a book you could read 25-50 pages a week over the summer and make a strong headway.  Maybe you could latch on to the content and even read it faster.

Douglas Brinkley photoCronkiteCover

Brinkley’s Omission is Sad

I consider Douglas Brinkley one of the top biographers of our time.  He has rapidly risen up the list.  Most recently, I thought his work, Cronkite, was really outstanding.  Douglas Brinkley photo

I have to admit to you that I was disappointed in the announcement that he chose not to include the Watergate tapes in his newest work on Nixon, entitled The Nixon Tapes:  1971-1972, co-authored with Luke A. Nichter (New York:  Houghton-Mifflin, 2014).

It is true that the tape content is readily available elsewhere.  What is not readily available is Brinkley’s take, analysis, and commentary on those tapes.

Anyone can listen to the tapes.  Anyone can also give his or her interpretation.  But “anyone” is not Brinkley. And, I am buying this to see what he says about the tapes as much as any other reason.

Nixon Tapes Book CoverThis will be a best-seller.  Brinkley’s books always are.

But, how much we may be missing when we don’t have this analysis?

My personal preference would have been to make two volumes.

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If  you would like to read a recent review of this book published in the Wall Street Journal by John Lewis Gaddis on July 25, 2014, click here:

 

Paul Dickson’s Masterpiece about Bill Veeck

I have believed that two of the greatest living biographers are David McCullough and Douglas Brinkley.  I have blogged before about their best-selling works.Please add to their companionship the name of Paul Dickson, whose biography, Bill Veeck (New York:  Walker Publishing, 2012), is as thorough and entertaining of this type of book that I have read.

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One given is that it doesn’t take a lot to get great material when the subject matter is Bill Veeck.  As a major league baseball owner of several teams, no one has ever had stranger techniques or wilder promotions.  He also was one of the great “givers” that the game has ever known, particularly from the owner’s box.

This book details these techniques and promotions well.  Who could ever forget sending a midget up to bat to ensure a sure base on balls?  Or, how about disco-burning night, where more fans than could fit into the stadium showed up to contribute their albums to both a literal and figurative blow-up?

And, how humanitarian Veeck was.  He sat with fans in the bleachers.  He gave thousands of tickets away to kids who could not afford them.  He wore a prosthetic most of his life, but it did not stop him from parading onto the field to play the national anthem as part of a spirit crew.  And, he showed great courage by bringing players of color into the limelight, especially the great pitcher, Satchel Paige.

But this book is not just a recount of Veeck’s history.  Dickson skillfully weaves sports, politics, economics, and other aspects of our culture into the story.  It is a compelling tale, told by a skillful author, who has researched his focal person and subject well.

This is Paul Dickson’s seventh book.   Not all are about baseball, and not all are biographies.  But, this book clearly places him among the best currently writing.

I can’t present this book at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas.  It did not make a best-seller list, which is our requirement for selection.  But, I hope someday to get to talk about it formally for some audience, somewhere.

Consider buying and reading it.  It will be well worth your reading time.