Mini-Reviews: A Very Stable Genius, You Never Forget Your First & The Mosquito

A Very Stable Genius by Philip Rucker & Carol Leonnig
Rating: ★★★★★
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: January 21, 2020
Source: Borrowed

Rucker and Leonnig have deep and unmatched sources throughout Washington, D.C., and for the past three years have chronicled in depth the ways President Donald Trump has reinvented the presidency in his own image, shaken foreign alliances and tested American institutions. It would be all too easy to mistake Trump’s first term for pure chaos. But Leonnig and Rucker show that in fact there is a pattern and meaning to the daily disorder.

Relying on scores of exclusive new interviews with first-hand witnesses and rigorous original reporting, the authors reveal the 45th President up close as he stares down impeachment. They take readers inside Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and the Trump legal team’s scramble for survival, behind the curtains as the West Wing scurries to clean up the President’s mistakes and into the room to witness Trump’s interactions with foreign leaders and members of his Cabinet, and assess the consequences.

What’s interesting about this book is that the authors don’t try to push an agenda or influence the reader’s opinion — they just present quotes and events and let the reader draw their own conclusions. In my opinion, there’s really only one conclusion to draw, but hey. I’m just a book blogger.

Anyway, here are four things I learned while reading this book:

  • Trump thought the attorney general was his own personal lawyer.
  • Putin was the world leader Trump most wanted to meet.
  • He wants to bill other countries for US military support.
  • He thought he might win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Overall: very well-written, would recommend.


You Never Forget Your First by Alexis Coe
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: February 4, 2020
Source: Borrowed

In a genre overdue for a shakeup, Alexis Coe takes a closer look at our first—and finds he’s not quite the man we remember

Young George Washington was raised by a struggling single mother, demanded military promotions, chased rich young women, caused an international incident, and never backed down—even when his dysentery got so bad he had to ride with a cushion on his saddle.

But after he married Martha, everything changed. Washington became the kind of man who named his dog Sweetlips and hated to leave home. He took up arms against the British only when there was no other way, though he lost more battles than he won. Coe focuses on his activities off the battlefield—like espionage and propaganda.

After an unlikely victory in the Revolutionary War, Washington once again shocked the world by giving up power, only to learn his compatriots wouldn’t allow it. The founders pressured him into the presidency—twice. He established enduring norms but left office heartbroken over the partisan nightmare his backstabbing cabinet had created.

Back on his plantation, the man who fought for liberty finally confronted his greatest hypocrisy—what to do with the hundreds of men, women, and children he owned—before succumbing to a brutal death.

Alexis Coe combines rigorous research and unsentimental storytelling, finally separating the man from the legend.
 

I feel like I’ve seen this book everywhere since it came out! I’m not really a historical biography reader — if I’m going to read about politics, I much prefer current events — but I figured the hype had to be there for a reason. And it was.

This is a very different kind of biography. It’s short, hitting all of the highlights within about 300 pages, and never boring. It’s highly informative but still engaging. It dispels a lot of common myths about George Washington, like the wooden teeth and the whole cherry tree thing. All in all, it just shows a much less stodgy side of Washington than we usually see.

If you’re looking to learn more about the first president of the United States, you could sure do worse than this one.


The Mosquito by Timothy C. Winegard
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: August 6, 2019
Source: Borrowed

A pioneering and groundbreaking work of narrative nonfiction that offers a dramatic new perspective on the history of humankind, showing how through millennia, the mosquito has been the single most powerful force in determining humanity’s fate

Why was gin and tonic the cocktail of choice for British colonists in India and Africa? What does Starbucks have to thank for its global domination? What has protected the lives of popes for millennia? Why did Scotland surrender its sovereignty to England? What was George Washington’s secret weapon during the American Revolution?

The answer to all these questions, and many more, is the mosquito.

Across our planet since the dawn of humankind, this nefarious pest, roughly the size and weight of a grape seed, has been at the frontlines of history as the grim reaper, the harvester of human populations, and the ultimate agent of historical change. As the mosquito transformed the landscapes of civilization, humans were unwittingly required to respond to its piercing impact and universal projection of power.

The mosquito has determined the fates of empires and nations, razed and crippled economies, and decided the outcome of pivotal wars, killing nearly half of humanity along the way. She (only females bite) has dispatched an estimated 52 billion people from a total of 108 billion throughout our relatively brief existence. As the greatest purveyor of extermination we have ever known, she has played a greater role in shaping our human story than any other living thing with which we share our global village.

Imagine for a moment a world without deadly mosquitoes, or any mosquitoes, for that matter? Our history and the world we know, or think we know, would be completely unrecognizable.

Driven by surprising insights and fast-paced storytelling, The Mosquito is the extraordinary untold story of the mosquito’s reign through human history and her indelible impact on our modern world order.
 

Microhistories are something that I’ve recently gotten into, and after having read books like Stiff and How Music Got Free, I was interested to see this almost 500-page take on mosquitoes. But instead of a book on mosquitoes, their spread throughout the world, and the diseases they carried with them, I ended up with this… military history?

Unexpected.

I did learn a few fun facts while reading this book, like that people with Type O blood are bitten twice as often as Type A, and that an old remedy for dysentery was to inject mercury directly into the male urethra, but overall, I was kind of disappointed. I think instead of The Mosquito, a title like Malaria & Militias would have been more appropriate.


Have you read any of these books? Are any of them on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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7 thoughts on “Mini-Reviews: A Very Stable Genius, You Never Forget Your First & The Mosquito

  1. whatsnonfiction says:

    All three of these sound totally fascinating, although kind of a big disappointment that the mosquito one turned out to be more about military history. Just the facts you cited are incredible though!

    I’d avoid Very Stable Genius just because I was burnt out on all the administration books I’d read already, plus following the news, but it does sound like that one is really worthwhile. And the George Washington one too. I’d never be motivated to read a biography of him but this one sounds really well done, and especially if it’s a short one that hits all the highlights. Great reviews!!

    Like

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