The Letters of John F. Kennedy, Edited by Martin W. Sandler, Bloomsbury Press '13, $30, 372 pages, ASIN #1608192717. Index, two groupings of b&w glossy images.
With all the books written and published about John F. Kennedy's life and times, somehow a comprehensive collection of his letters has never been gathered. And while marking the 50th anniversary of JFK's tragic death is always painful, it does spur scholars and historians to take on tasks that will serve history well, such as a compendium of letters of one of the most literate of our presidents.
"One can discover more about Kennedy the man," writes historian Martin W. Sandler, "and the extraordinary and harrowing times in which he lived by reading his correspondence, than by reading any number of other books about him."
Usefully, Editor Sandler has isolated subject areas thematically, such as letters to JFK's parents from his boarding-school housemaster, defeated in his effort to get the boy to clean up his room. Other themes are worth reading as well:
*"(Presidential) Candidate Kennedy's delicate campaign to win the support of Eleanor Roosevelt, a liberal icon who had accused his family, in her newspaper column, of using Joseph Kennedy's money to buy political allegiances."
*"The warm correspondence between JFK and poet Robert Frost, who memorably read at his inauguration."
*"Witty (and merciless) critiques of JFK's campaign oratory and other initiatives from Harvard economist John Kenneth Galbraith, who went on to become one of the president's most trusted advisers and Ambassador to India."
Editor Martin W. Sandler has written numerous works on American history and has taught American history at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and Smith College.
Scheherazade's Feasts -- Foods of the Medieval Arab World by Habeeb Salloum, Muna Salloum, and Leila Salloum Elias, UPenn '13, in oversized format on glossy stock, 218 pages, ASIN #081224477X. Index, bibliography, notes, unillustrated.
From the dust jacket:
"The author of the 13th century Arabic cookbook Kitab al-Tabikh proposed that food was among the foremost pleasures in life. Scheherazade's Feasts invites adventurous cooks to test this hypothesis.
"The influence and power of the medieval Islamic world stretched from the Middle East to the Iberian Peninsula, and this Golden Age gave rise to great innovation in gastronomy no less than in science, philosophy, and literature. The medieval Arab culinary empire was vast and varied: with trade and conquest came riches, abundance, new ingredients, and new ideas.
"The emergence of a luxurious cuisine in this period inspired an extensive body of literature: poets penned lyrics on the beauty of asparagus or the aroma of crushed almonds; nobles documented the dining customs obliged by etiquette and opulence; manuals prescribed meal plans to deepen the pleasure of eating and curtail digestive distress."
About the authors: Habeeb Salloum has written many books on Middle East, North African, and Arabian cooking. Muna Salloum and Leila Salloum Elias are co-authors of a book entitled The Sweets of Araby.
Falling Upwards -- How We Took to the Air by Richard Holmes, Pantheon '13, $35, 404 pages, ASIN #0307379663. Index, bibliography, notes, illustrations, three groupings of b&w glossy images.
From the front cover:
"In this heart-lifting chronicle, Richard Holmes, author of the best-selling The Age of Wonder, follows the pioneer generation of balloon aeronauts, the daring and enigmatic men and women who risked their lives to take to the air (or fall into the sky). Why they did it, what their contemporaries thought of them, and how their flights revealed the secrets of our planet is a compelling adventure that only Holmes could tell.
"His accounts of the early Anglo-French balloon rivalries, the crazy firework flights of the beautiful Sophie Blanchard, the long-distance voyages of the American entrepreneur John Wise and French photographer Felix Nadar are dramatic and exhilarating. Holmes documents as well the balloons used to observe the horrors of modern battle during the Civil War (including a flight taken by George Armstrong Custer); the legendary tale of at least 67 manned balloons that escaped from Paris (the first successful civilian airlift in history) during the Prussian siege of 1870-71; the high-altitude exploits of James Glaisher (who rose seven miles above the earth without oxygen, helping to establish the new science of meteorology); and how Mary Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe, and Jules Verne felt the imaginative impact of flight and allowed it to soar in their work."
Author Richard Holmes is the author of The Age of Wonder, which was short-listed for the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction and was one of the New York Times Book Review's Best Books of the Year in 2009. He has written numerous other books as well. He lives in England.