Thursday, May 16, 2013

Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President

Yes, I know Abraham Lincoln is getting all the attention right now, what with the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, the National Lincoln Exhibit, Bill O’Reilly’s bestselling book Killing Lincoln, and the award-winning film Lincoln. Whew, that’s a whole lot of Lincoln, but if you’re at all interested in the lives—and deaths—of some of our other presidents, I’ve got the perfect book for you: Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard. Destiny of the Republic deals specifically with our 20th president, Ohio-native James A. Garfield, chronicling his meteoric rise as a scholar, a military leader, and a politician. Garfield admired men with intellect and drive, men who didn’t let obstacles stop them from achieving their goals, and if anyone could be held as an example of such a man, it was Garfield himself. Frankly, as brilliant as Garfield was, I don't believe there was anything he couldn't accomplish. However, it was Garfield’s unexpected—and unwanted, I might add—winning of the presidency that ultimately led to his death at the hands of deranged assassin Charles Guiteau mere months after Garfield took office. Destiny of the Republic presents Garfield’s story in a fascinating and briskly paced narrative that will keep you turning the pages, and all the players in this presidential drama, from Dr. D. W. Bliss to Alexander Graham Bell, are given their due. If you love history or reading about the presidents, you'll really love Destiny of the Republic. I believe you'll come away with a deeper appreciation for Garfield. At the very least, you'll learn something, and that's never a bad thing.

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