Reader’s Corner: What the President Read

the_power_broker_book_coverRecently, Barry told Wired about the books that have shaped him over the years. They broke down his syllabus in typical efficient-nerd fashion, by how long it would take to read. Predicting one could get through Robert Moses’s 1,300-odd page The Power Broker in 19 hours seems dubious unless you’re a speedreader.

Still, this list is nonetheless a fascinatingly mixed one, jumping from fiction (a surprising Steinbeck selection) to urban studies (Caro, the book that explains New York City) and environmentalism (Kolbert’s terrifying study of climate change and mankind-caused extinctions):

  • The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln
  • Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954–63, Taylor Branch
  • The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York, Robert Caro
  • The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin
  • Andy Grove, The Life and Times of an American, Richard S. Tedlow
  • Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Noah Harari
  • Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kaheman
  • The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, Elizabeth Kolbert
  • In Dubious Battle, John Steinbeck
  • Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity, Katherine Boo

New in Theaters: ‘The Better Angels’

Braydon Denney as young Abe Lincoln in 'The Better Angels' (Amplify)
Braydon Denney as young Abe Lincoln in ‘The Better Angels’ (Amplify)

Everybody knows that Abraham Lincoln was raised in a log cabin in Indiana. But it’s still jarring to consider how a man raised in the middle of nowhere with little schooling by probably illiterate parents became one of the nation’s greatest and most erudite leaders. A.J. Edwards’ beautifully abstract, Terence Malick-ian film about Lincoln’s childhood explores that mystery with only limited success.

The Better Angels opened yesterday in limited release. My review is at Film Journal International:

Abraham Lincoln is remembered as one of the nation’s most facile writers and speakers. Yet in this dreamy black-and-white tone poem about Lincoln’s childhood in a dirt-floor cabin in the Indiana woods, the future president says barely a word. It’s an intriguing gambit from debut director A.J. Edwards, the mirror opposite of the standard Spielbergian biopic, and ultimately not a successful one…

Here’s the trailer: