Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Life of John Marshall - Winner, Biography, 1920

The Life of John Marshall
by: Albert J. Beveridge
Houghton, 1920

I had the distinct pleasure of reading this biography, about the life of our greatest Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, in a first edition. Now, this won't be such a great feat as I get into the more recent books, but to be reading out of the actually edition printed in 1920 was pretty exciting to me.

I found this biography to be quite interesting. It starts from the very beginning of Marshall's life and examine how each event that he experienced affected his interpretation of the law and Constitution. It is fascinating to see how Marshall grew up in close contact with many of our founding fathers. He was a cousin of Thomas Jefferson's (although there great disagreements later in life are well known...). He was at Valley Forge with George Washington. He studied law at the College of William & Mary under George Wythe (whose home we have visited at Colonial Williamsburg).

What a fascinating and intelligent man! I would recommend this book for someone who is doing research, especially trying to connect how Marshall's decisions in court were affected by his life experiences. (Being 4 volumes, I'm not sure it would make the best pleasure reading...)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Magnificent Ambersons - Winner, Novel/Fiction, 1919

The Magnificent Ambersons
by: Booth Tarkington
Doubleday, 1918

The Magnificent Ambersons Takes place at the turn of the century in your typical, growing Midwestern town. It follows the rise and fall of a wealthy family and shows the fascinating struggle between old money & new money and the struggle faced by many who grow up with old money, feel a sense of entitlement, think they will never have to work a day in their lives, & find out that they are wrong.
I loved this book. Social commentary, especially in this time of American history, is my absolute favorite thing to read. I did find it hard to ever have any positive feelings toward the main character, George Amberson Minafer, who was a spoiled brat whom everyone in town hoped would one day "get his come-upance." And, while he eventually does get his "come-upance" by pridefully refusing to work and continuing to spend the family money, by the time he does the town has long ago moved on and no one even remembers him.
I would definitely recommend this book. It is a fascinating study in the way that America shifted from truly valuing "Old Money" as the only authentic form of wealth to valuing money only, regardless of whether it is new or old.