The American Spirit by David McCullough (2017, Simon & Schuster)
This is a short (171 pages) book of speeches given by McCullough over the years, each addressing a different aspect of the American experience. If you’re looking for a pleasant, nonpartisan respite from the battles of the day while being reminded of why you participate in politics in the first place, this book is ideal for you.
McCullough is one of the foremost experts on American history, and he combines that expertise with an impressive narrative skill. The result is a smoothly written and informative speech which is typically quite inspirational, and he includes more than a dozen of them here.
The book would have been worth the price for me just for the reminder of Senator Margaret Chase Smith’s response to Senator McCarthy: “I speak as a Republican. I speak as a woman. I speak as a United States Senator. I speak as an American. I don’t want to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the four horsemen of calumny – fear, ignorance, bigotry and smear.” I think I have my new e-mail tagline in that last sentence.
The book is full of such moments, both recalling past events learned but forgotten and introductions to new and salient historical facts. It’s also filled with pride in his nation and its people, and hope that we can once again defeat both our baser instincts and efforts both external and internal to destroy what made us great.
We Must Be Gods – Two Lumps Year 2 by Mel Hynes & J. Grant (2008, Stonegarden)
There are many comic strips about cats. With the international moneymaking ability of Garfield serving as inspiration, hundreds of cartoonists both skilled and fledgling have attempted to put their own spin on a cat comic. They typically fall into two categories: those who humanize the cats, and those that peter out after a year. (Get Fuzzy was a pleasant deviation from that standard, arguably because of the equal time given to the human and the dog in the household.)
Two Lumps focuses only on the cats. There’s Eben: crafty, clever, and prone to sitting around; and Snooch: goofy, curious, energetic and gluttonous. Three strips a week, now for more than a decade, and it’s still a great strip.
They don’t think like cats… they discuss things back and forth in plain English, and Eben secretly knows things like how to use a computer… but they act like cats and they’re motivated like cats, which is to say they’re often not motivated by anything more than food and petting.
It’s a fun strip, and considering how self-absorbed and demanding they can be, it’s entertaining to dog fans who are glad they don’t own the creatures as well as cat fans who recognize the situations the pair sometimes make their owner deal with.
Year Two shows the creators after getting their feet from the first year, while all of the possibilities were stretching out ahead of them. It includes commentary from both creators on each strip, as well as some extra history about the comic toward the end of the book.