An embargo prevented pre-pub reviews for Jon Meacham’s newest Presidential biography, Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush (Random House; BOT; OverDrive Sample).The media managed to get their hands on the book, however, and the story that the elder President Bush called Dick Cheney an “iron-ass” became the talking point of last week’s 24-hour news shows. As a result, holds are generally topping 5:1 in places we checked, with local spikes running much higher.
Now that the book has been released, reviews have begun to appear. The newest daily NYT reviewer, Jennifer Senior, calls the biography “absorbing” and “artful” and says that Meacham is “clearly possessed of the same judiciousness and diplomatic skills as his subject.”
But Senior pulls no punches when Meacham “turns a blind eye to unflattering events,” offering a number of examples including the following about the fallout after Katrina:
“Forget whether this blistering attack was justified. What’s interesting here is the incident Mr. Meacham does not mention: that the former first lady Barbara Bush, after touring the Houston Astrodome and seeing thousands of evacuees living in squalor, told NPR, “So many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this, this is working very well for them.” How could he have left that out?”
Jim Kelly reviews the book for the NYT’s Sunday Book Review saying:
“Meacham’s access and lack of ideological fervor allow him to paint Bush the man in unusually subtle colors … Destiny and Power reflects the qualities of both subject and biographer: judicious, balanced, deliberative, with a deep appreciation of history and the personalities who shape it. If Meacham is sometimes polite to a fault, Destiny and Power does not suffer for it. His kinder, gentler approach succeeds in making George H. W. Bush a more sympathetic — and more complex — figure.”
We highlighted the title in Books to Know and Recommend the week of Nov. 9.