counter create hit American Sketches: Great Leaders, Creative Thinkers, and Heroes of a Hurricane - Download Free eBook
Hot Best Seller

American Sketches: Great Leaders, Creative Thinkers, and Heroes of a Hurricane

Availability: Ready to download

What are the roots of creativity? What makes for great leadership? How do influential people end up rippling the surface of history? In this collection of essays, Walter Isaacson reflects on the lessons to be learned from Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Henry Kissinger, Ronald Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev, Hillary and Bill Clinton, and various other interesting What are the roots of creativity? What makes for great leadership? How do influential people end up rippling the surface of history? In this collection of essays, Walter Isaacson reflects on the lessons to be learned from Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Henry Kissinger, Ronald Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev, Hillary and Bill Clinton, and various other interesting characters he has chronicled as a biographer and journalist. The people he writes about have an awesome intelligence, in most cases, but that is not the secret of their success. They had qualities that were even more rare, such as imagination and true curiosity. Isaacson reflects on how he became a writer, the lessons he learned from various people he met, and the challenges he sees for journalism in the digital age. He also offers loving tributes to his hometown of New Orleans, which both before and after Hurricane Katrina offered many of the ingredients for a creative culture, and to the Louisiana novelist Walker Percy, who was an early mentor. In an anecdotal and personal way, Isaacson describes the joys of the "so-called writing life" and the way that tales about the lives of fascinating people can enlighten our own lives. RUNNING TIME ➼ 9hrs. and 26mins. ©2009 Walter Isaacson (P)2009 Simon & Schuster, Inc.


Compare

What are the roots of creativity? What makes for great leadership? How do influential people end up rippling the surface of history? In this collection of essays, Walter Isaacson reflects on the lessons to be learned from Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Henry Kissinger, Ronald Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev, Hillary and Bill Clinton, and various other interesting What are the roots of creativity? What makes for great leadership? How do influential people end up rippling the surface of history? In this collection of essays, Walter Isaacson reflects on the lessons to be learned from Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Henry Kissinger, Ronald Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev, Hillary and Bill Clinton, and various other interesting characters he has chronicled as a biographer and journalist. The people he writes about have an awesome intelligence, in most cases, but that is not the secret of their success. They had qualities that were even more rare, such as imagination and true curiosity. Isaacson reflects on how he became a writer, the lessons he learned from various people he met, and the challenges he sees for journalism in the digital age. He also offers loving tributes to his hometown of New Orleans, which both before and after Hurricane Katrina offered many of the ingredients for a creative culture, and to the Louisiana novelist Walker Percy, who was an early mentor. In an anecdotal and personal way, Isaacson describes the joys of the "so-called writing life" and the way that tales about the lives of fascinating people can enlighten our own lives. RUNNING TIME ➼ 9hrs. and 26mins. ©2009 Walter Isaacson (P)2009 Simon & Schuster, Inc.

30 review for American Sketches: Great Leaders, Creative Thinkers, and Heroes of a Hurricane

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jay Connor

    I loved the last chapter ... which made the whole effort truly rewarding. Now I am not a usual fan of the "cut-n-paste" nonfiction genre where we get a journalist's "best" articles or columns repurposed as a stand alone book. This dislike has its roots in my disappointment at "Boss," Mike Royko's Pulitzer Prize winning 1972 book on Mayor Richard J. Daley (the father of the present hizzonor). Not only had I read most of the columns, but viewed together -- rather than over a significant span of tim I loved the last chapter ... which made the whole effort truly rewarding. Now I am not a usual fan of the "cut-n-paste" nonfiction genre where we get a journalist's "best" articles or columns repurposed as a stand alone book. This dislike has its roots in my disappointment at "Boss," Mike Royko's Pulitzer Prize winning 1972 book on Mayor Richard J. Daley (the father of the present hizzonor). Not only had I read most of the columns, but viewed together -- rather than over a significant span of time -- I saw how repetitive and "small" they were. Walter Isaacon's "American Sketches" on one level fails in a very similar way. BUT, in the last chapter, almost as an editorial afterthought, the entire effort is enobled and sanctified. The true beauty of this book is not the sketches of the famous (the Woody Allen column should have never been repeated) but the portrait of New Orleans pre and post Katrina. The central problem with the chapters of the famous -- the one on Bill Gates is a pleasant exception -- is that we begin to see the scaffolding of Isaacson's "style" and begin to see how he repeats himself figuratively (George Plimpton and Benjamin Franklin seem mass produced) and literally (by my count, the thought experiment Einstein uses to explain Relativity appears four times). BUT all is saved and enriched as Issacon offers loving tributes to his hometown of New Orleans. In an anecdotal and personal way he moves from the lower Ninth Ward to Louis Armstrong to the community leadership of Scott Cowen the President of Tulane to rebuilding the public school system in a new-old juxtaposition that is as rich and spicy as gumbo and as mournful as a blues musician's funeral. At one point, Isaacon explodes the imagination and deftly brings logic to a chaos of emotions that New Orleans has always triggered for me by using a word (perhaps best recognized as the title of Lillian Hellman's autobiography): pentimento. Pentimento refers to the reappearance in painting of an underlying image that has been painted over. For me, my first experience with this effect was on a field trip to the Art Institute of Chicago and on first seeing Pablo Picasso's The Old Guitarist. Far more powerful for me than the slightly deformed looking man was the mysterious image of a woman painted underneath. I always placed more faith in the artist's intent as being more than simply recycling a cheap panel ... her haunting eyes visible just above the line formed by the guitarist's arthritic neck gave power and rebirth to this bent man. The new and transcendent was in fact the old and transitorily covered. Like The Old Guitarist, in Issacson's passion, New Orleans is our cultural pentimento where rich and textured will never be covered by safe and homogeneity. In remaking itself, New Orleans is as it was and never will be. I think this dualism of never and always is best described in one of my favorite poems. There is no doubt Wallace Stevens was ruminating on Picasso when he wrote "Man with the Blue Guitar." Here is the opening stanza which in many ways is why I see the work I do in communities -- not unlike New Orleans -- as "my blue guitar!" The Man With the Blue Guitar Wallace Stevens The man bent over his guitar, A shearsman of sorts. The day was green. They said, “You have a blue guitar, You do not play things as they are.” The man replied, “Things as they are Are changed upon the blue guitar.” And they said to him, “But play, you must, A tune beyond us, yet ourselves...,

  2. 5 out of 5

    Gil Bradshaw

    If you are like me, and your idea of a good Friday night is googling old Walter Isaacson columns from Time Magazine then this book is a dream come true. This is his greatest hits. There must be plenty of people like me or this book would not have been published. This book saves so much time by compiling his greatest biographical narratives (which is what he is truly good at) into one succinct place. The part that surprised me the most about my own reaction to this book was that the most difficult If you are like me, and your idea of a good Friday night is googling old Walter Isaacson columns from Time Magazine then this book is a dream come true. This is his greatest hits. There must be plenty of people like me or this book would not have been published. This book saves so much time by compiling his greatest biographical narratives (which is what he is truly good at) into one succinct place. The part that surprised me the most about my own reaction to this book was that the most difficult part of reading this book was emotional for me. Think about it: reading about the greatest Americans in history written by someone who happens to also be one of the most influential Americans can make your own life feel insignificant in comparison. It was very humbling to read this book. Was this self-reflection the only emotional reaction I had? No. Here is a list of other reactions I felt after reading this book: 1. I actually considered quitting my job as a lawyer and looking for unpaid journalism internships; 2. I now feel compelled to create a startup biotechnology firm; 3. I endured hours of mental self-flagellation about dropping the course "The Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics" the day of the add/drop deadline during my undergraduate days; 4. I appreciated Isaacson's analysis of biographical writing. It reminded me of my senior thesis which consisted of original archival research on Senator Dennis Chavez and his fight against McCarthyism. I decided while writing this book that I'm going to finally publish it. Watch out New Mexico Historical Quarterly (or its equivalent) here comes Gil Bradshaw.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Labmom

    I guess Isaacson had to call this book "American" sketches because "Fawning Portraits of Rich White Men" wouldn't sell as well. Oh, there's a review of Hilary Clinton's autobiography thrown in for diversity, but as with most things written about her, it's mostly about her husband. Even the day-in-the-life sketch of Madeline Albright is mostly about Bill Clinton. The intro is 20 pages of Isaacson trying to convince us that, despite being a Harvard white man and a Rhodes Scholar who wrote for the I guess Isaacson had to call this book "American" sketches because "Fawning Portraits of Rich White Men" wouldn't sell as well. Oh, there's a review of Hilary Clinton's autobiography thrown in for diversity, but as with most things written about her, it's mostly about her husband. Even the day-in-the-life sketch of Madeline Albright is mostly about Bill Clinton. The intro is 20 pages of Isaacson trying to convince us that, despite being a Harvard white man and a Rhodes Scholar who wrote for the New York Times, The Washington Post and Time, where he was later editor, he's really just a Nawlins' good ole boy. Isaacson is just as clubby as his pal George Plimton, whose Harvard eulogy is included, and just as superficial. I really enjoyed Isaacson's bio of Ben Franklin, which I read a few years ago, because he's got a journalist's talent for uncovering the interesting facts without dwelling too much on the minutae or attempting to over-analyze his subject. And the parts of this book that I enjoyed were exerpts from his biographies (Franklin, Einstein, Kissinger). It's kind of a cop out to fill a new book with stuff from previous books, like a greatest hits cd, but the essays here (also previously published in other forms) were nauseating. The interviews with Bill Gates and Woody Allen just confirmed how nasty and creepy they are, respectively, and demonstrated how lame Isaacson is as a journalist. Isaacson seems to permanently wear rose-colored glasses, because his attitude is bascically aw-shucks, everything is great in the good ol U S of A, we just have to remember how far our idealism got us and keep on keepin' on. Which is really irritating after a while and makes me wonder if he's been paying attention or if he really an out of touch elitist. I understand treating the founding fathers with a fawning reverance, it's tradtional patriotic bullshit even though it's incorrect and a diservice to history (Jefferson raped his slaves, Franklin was a horrible husband and father). It's almost as if he doesn't want to acknowledge, much less cricize, those forces and individuals who got us in the condition we are today. Maybe because he's a part of it and he's buddies with the major players? Which makes him a terrible journalist and an untrustworthy writer. He includes a article from the late 90s about how technology is making us all rich, employed and smarter, which is now outdated and just insulting.

  4. 5 out of 5

    sunspot

    Most of these pieces were written while Isaacson was an editor with Time magazine. I found most of the pieces well written and was left wanting to know more. I have read his book on Steve Jobs and Benjamin Franklin. Isaacson writes in a clear and precise fashion. I can see that he works very hard to write in the idiom of the day and is not far from his natural oral presentation. I highly recommend hime for a quick sense for any topic - he seems to be well balanced and attempts to present the fac Most of these pieces were written while Isaacson was an editor with Time magazine. I found most of the pieces well written and was left wanting to know more. I have read his book on Steve Jobs and Benjamin Franklin. Isaacson writes in a clear and precise fashion. I can see that he works very hard to write in the idiom of the day and is not far from his natural oral presentation. I highly recommend hime for a quick sense for any topic - he seems to be well balanced and attempts to present the facts minus the ideology or where he does bring in iideology he shows it as such.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    Little disappointed in this. I know it's common to reuse pieces in books like this, but *all* of them are old. This wasn't so bothersome in the pieces on, say, Gandhi, Franklin and Einstein. But the Bill Gates and Woody Allen bits were hilariously out of date. The Bill Gates piece made me LOL by referencing Netscape. OH GEE I WONDER WHAT WILL HAPPEN THAR. Could at least add an update at the end. Ha. Little disappointed in this. I know it's common to reuse pieces in books like this, but *all* of them are old. This wasn't so bothersome in the pieces on, say, Gandhi, Franklin and Einstein. But the Bill Gates and Woody Allen bits were hilariously out of date. The Bill Gates piece made me LOL by referencing Netscape. OH GEE I WONDER WHAT WILL HAPPEN THAR. Could at least add an update at the end. Ha.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Julianabadescu

    so well written...and what an array of fascinating people this man has had the good fortune to be able to study and interview...

  7. 5 out of 5

    Travis

    It actually pains me to have to give this 2 stars. I guess essays aren't my cup of tea. I don't know why I even bothered to finish it. It actually pains me to have to give this 2 stars. I guess essays aren't my cup of tea. I don't know why I even bothered to finish it.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Patrick

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I think Isaacson is lucky in finding his calling early in life in that he wanted to be some sort of writer. Although his interest in people did not make him a stellar reporter, it did allow him to be CEO of CNN and the Aspen group because of his knack with people. I think he saw the future when the Berlin wall came down that totalitarian regimes cannot survive the information age. But at the same time it is interesting how he is both threatened and senses an opportunity in how technology will eff I think Isaacson is lucky in finding his calling early in life in that he wanted to be some sort of writer. Although his interest in people did not make him a stellar reporter, it did allow him to be CEO of CNN and the Aspen group because of his knack with people. I think he saw the future when the Berlin wall came down that totalitarian regimes cannot survive the information age. But at the same time it is interesting how he is both threatened and senses an opportunity in how technology will effect the media. Chap. 1 Franklin and the founding fathers: 1) Franklin enjoyed the diversity of ideas, people, and religious people around him thus he was a great diplomat and consensus builder. He was pragmatic by nature. Isaacson compares Franklin to Obama in both seeks to hear all sides of the argument before coming to a decision. Isaacson points out both Franklin and Jefferson were Deist who believed that God did not interfere in people's lives. Contrary to what the Christian Right believes the founding fathers were children of the enlightenment and thus believed in the separation of church and state not because they thought church was a bad thing but in order to preserve religious freedom for all of the US citizens. I think this is the best case for governmental institutions to remain an impartial system so that religious freedom can be had by all. I would prefer our leaders to be religious but the system in which they lead to be secular. Whereas Franklin was pragmatic, John Adams was puritanical, stubborn, rigid, and independent in thought which made him really bad at politics. Although Isaacson generally praises compromises, he rightly states that some compromises were an evil necessity such as the one that gave slave states the right to count slaves as 3/5 to a person and allowing them to be property of white people. While it may have been necessary to create the United States, it was an evil that has haunted us until today. Chapter 2: Statesmen Bund is an intellectual who created the office of the NSA and the important role it plays in today's politics. I generally believe in Colin Powell's policy of the use of force in that it has to be definable objective with clear entrance and exit strategy and to have enough troops to do the job right. Powell shared this realpolitik view of war with Kissinger who had a sixth sense on how international relations would flow as well as James Baker III. Kissinger was a brilliant diplomat with a sixth sense that emphasize diplomacy with balance of power and only do diplomacy when it is in our national interests and to discard American idealism in the realm of foreign policy. He decries America as the only nation on earth that builds its foreign policy on altruistic terms. I think this is an inevitable outgrowth of America as a nation built on idealism as well as the fact we do not have any enemies at our borders so we are able to export our ideas instead of constantly think about diplomacy of our neighbors. While I tend to agree with Kissinger in terms of his thinking of our military use of power, I disagree with him in terms diplomacy and our use of American soft power. I tend to think that America should use its soft power to promote our values abroad since I believe it is universal values but I disagree with the neoconservative view of using military might to do it. For example, I have no doubt in my mind that American soft power help brought about the Arab Spring. Even if it is indirect in the case of Egypt and perhaps Tunisia, it was still American technology companies who helped these people bring the downfall of these regimes. In Libya, it was American military technology that helped turn the tide of war and it was the State Dept active engagement that helped create a coalition that brought the end of Quadaffi. While I generally disagree with war of choice a la Iraq, Clinton and Albright at least knew how to conduct a war of choice by getting regional allies to back the war and ensure success even after we leave by getting regional stakeholders the diplomatic push to see it succeed. Reagan and Gorbachev, Reagan was an ideologue in his absolute opposition to communism that stemmed from his sunny optimism and faith in the promise of the God- given individual. Reagan hated bureaucrats but compromised when he wanted a policy pushed forward. He did this with the Soviet arms control deal when he saw Gorbachev was really ready to draw down his troops. He also did this with raising taxes in order to get legislation that he wanted passed to pass. The problem with today's Republican's is their rigidity with their ideology that borders on obstructionism that gridlocks the government. Reagan's impulse into having America as the beacon of hope to world of humanities best values is correct because America will never be invaded directly to wholesale disrupt our way of life we have the luxury and the obligation to promote universal ideals abroad. Due to the internal pressures of a crumbling economy, Gorbachev had to seek an arms control summit thus refocusing resources into internal development. Gorbachev disengaged from Eastern Europe was inevitable result from internal pressure from the Catholic Church in Poland and being bankrupt from trying to keep up with the US arms race. CLINTONS: Clinton created the 3rd way policies that triangulated between the left and the right with forceful engagement abroad combined with fiscal responsibility at home. The Clinton's were co-equals in policy development. This is the reason, I think Hilary would be a good president if she got elected. Like many people, I think Clinton's potential to be really great was wasted away because although he had both a high EQ and high IQ, he failed to use that to be truly transformative leader. Despite Republicans hatred of him, I look at his era as a golden era in American history. I think the reason that people generally look favorably upon the Clinton presidency despite his fibbing and sex scandals is due to Republican overreach. Ken Starr and later impeachment trial of Clinton seemed vindictive to the majority of the American people and I consider a gross mismanagement of government funds toward a stagnant government. What the Republicans should have done was to let Clinton hang himself via the media and public opinion. But no, they had to stop the important work of government to go after him. It was distastefully vindictive and America rightly felt that the government was not doing its job. Ironically despite the deep hatred that Republicans have for Clinton, he is their proto-type for president minus the sex-scandal. Clinton was engaged with the world while balancing the budget and getting out of the way of innovative entrepreneurs who created the new economy under Clinton. How did Clinton manage to due humanitarian military missions while balancing the budget? It was to work with Republican Congress while raising taxes. EINSTEIN: As a child Einstein had difficulty with language and was rebellious against authority. Once he learned the principles of science and math, he began to distrust religious dogma and thus all dogma. His relation to religion was that of a mystic who sought to discover God's laws through science and sought to explain it through mathematics. He was deterministic in his belief choosing to see science as God's ultimate masterpiece in which he was simply discoverer of the principles that is already there. He was a true Deist in that he thought God created the universe and everything in it and thus set into motion events that He already knows what is going to happen. Because of his rebellious nonconformist nature, Einstein was against any hierarchy and was an avid pacifist. Einstein's theory includes time being relative to a person in motion; thus people who are flying at the speed of light can have time virtually stop in place. He received most of his insights while day dreaming including his famous equation E=mc2 that was the theoretical basis for the atomic age. I think it is ironic that the Nazi's kicked out or killed the very people who could have helped them win the war through technological advances. Again, this lesson goes to show how a positive immigration policy that cherry-picks immigrants with talent is to the US advantage. I think a positive immigration policy is the reason the US among developed countries is still the most dynamic in the world. THE AGE OF TECHNOLOGY: Bill Gates was a guy with Aspergers who has mellowed out with age and now uses his superior analytic skills to help the world be better. He has a mix of brilliance, competitiveness, personal drive and intensity that is now reflected in the Microsoft company and the people they hire. He things that conflict is a good thing and thus there is no hierarchy in Microsoft. His competitiveness also makes him want to annihilate the competition. Despite his Aspergers, Gates realized that people he had to trust people if he was to succeed. So along with Allen, Ballmer, he trust Melinda too. The thing I like about Gates is that he realizes part of the reason that he was a success is because he had the opportunity to be successful by being exposed at an early age to computers before PC were a household item. Because he realizes that part of his success was due to being exposed, he and Buffet have dedicated their considerable fortunes to US education reform. I like that he is just going to give his kids $10 million each rich enough for them to create their own lives but not too much that they do not have to work if they want to live their current lifestyle. Technological advances really create new advances in economic niche. I think this is the reason American R&D should be left in tact together with education to upgrade the workers of tomorrow. It is also the only way to increase employment while dampening inflation due to cheaper production mechanisms. Technological innovation combined with the Big Sort has made sure that the era of centralized government is over in favor of decentralized and personalized government. Intel's Grove and Einstein are the proto-types in how American positive immigration policy has enriched America over other countries and thus should continue. The 20th century is the American century because freedom and capitalism won out over totalitarian regimes and command and control economies. Because America does not have to worry about invasion, it should mix realpolitik with idealism in its foreign policy. After all, we are the only country in the world that has the luxury and thus the responsiblity of mixing idealism in our foreign policy initiatives. Issacson chose FDR as the politician of the 20th century for the hope he gave Americans and giving future Americans a safety net so they can consume more. I wonder if without Social Security, Americans would still be a consumerist society? Also, he had the courage to knock out Nazism from Europe forever. He choose Ghandi as ushering the Era of nonviolent Civil Rights. I think it is ironic that it is an Indian Hindu who had to teach Christians how to use nonviolence as a tool for social change when Jesus was the one who did it all those years ago. I guess we do not get to choose who the Holy Spirit influences. He choose Einstein as the person of the century for his innovation in challenging dogma in both the scientific and societal realm. With Einstein, the idea of one size fits all mass-production gives way to the true idea of the individual. Journalism: Luce conceived of Time as his own propaganda machine for Christian anti-communist views that focused on personalities of the era. For Isaacson, Time magazine seeks to broaden once views outside one parochial interests. As counter to internet blogging and 24 news cycle that caters to parochial concerns and leaves out the broader interests. Isaacsons cites Time values are: 1)Engage American values of liberty in the context of the wider world. 2) Interest in what is new and the context of the story not just punditry 3) Focus on the personalities that drive the story Grunwald was another Jewish immigrant who along with Einstien, Albright, and Kissinger were new to this country. He became the editor of Time and was both conservative in his values but liked new things thus giving him intellectual vigor. In the end, he became ambassador to Austria under Bush Sr. Lesson here, is that immigrants do not take America's freedom for granted. George Plimpton is a writer reporter who enjoys people watching and being a social butterfly having friends from different backgrounds. Protecting journalistic IP should be done either with pay-as-you go or subscription aside from the ads. Woody Allen's affair with Soon Yi is absolutely hilarious. In his case, life really does reflect his heart. New Orleans: Reconstruction Apparently Isaacson grew up in a diverse neighborhood which was mixed. Thus, he was always at ease with black people. I think that if you become friends with people who are not your race and see how much they are like you---racism would be a thing of the past. Because of the destruction of the housing and school system, New Orleans is now the seat of innovation in school systems and housing development. It is now the seat of innovation in the US. According to Isaacson Teach for America government system churn out educational activist and entrepreneurs that our country so badly needs. He hopes that narrative reporting as embodied of Time magazine helps America become less parochial in its tribalism and embrace multiculturalism more fully.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    I have read and really liked several of Isaacson's bios (Franklin, Einstein, and I have Kissinger and Steve Jobs in the TBR pile), but this essay collection didn't do much for me. Like many of the other reviewers here, I agree that essay collections can reveal writers' weaknesses and unflattering tics. It is 2021. This book was published in 2009, and many of the essays are pre-2000. Isaacson does a great job when he's writing history, but these simply felt dated. Knowing what we all know now, re I have read and really liked several of Isaacson's bios (Franklin, Einstein, and I have Kissinger and Steve Jobs in the TBR pile), but this essay collection didn't do much for me. Like many of the other reviewers here, I agree that essay collections can reveal writers' weaknesses and unflattering tics. It is 2021. This book was published in 2009, and many of the essays are pre-2000. Isaacson does a great job when he's writing history, but these simply felt dated. Knowing what we all know now, regarding the Clintons, Woody Allen, various tech folks, after living through the last decade - I had a hard time with a lot of this. Isaacson is old school, and I don't really want this to be as negative as it sounds - because I'm quite sure if I read something current by him (he's no Trump fan), I'd agree with it in principle - but these not only feel factually dated, they feel like beliefs from a distant time that no longer exists. Isaacson constantly references America's "values" and "ideals." If those values and ideals ever existed to the extent that Isaacson believes, they most certainly have taken a beating in the last decade. In the essay called "Our Century" he reviews the dark horrors of the 20th century, and somehow leaves off any horror that was committed by the American people or government, while listing the rest of the worlds nightmares. No mention of dropped atomic bombs, slavery, trail of tears/ethnic cleansing of native Indians, or Japanese internment camps. (p.200) After that oversight, he goes on to argue that it was the American Century because of our values. Well, we did good if you leave out everything we did wrong. In the same essay (p.203) he talks hopefully of the information age, and the "cacophony that comes from freedom of information." He's optimistically seeing it as a good thing, and says that "We don't balkanize because of it." He spoke too soon. We did, do, and are balkanizing our political selves to death. Another blast from the past, (circa 2009, p. 109), Isaacson notes George Conway as a "forgettable bit player." Wonder if he was married to Kellyanne then? Thanks google, they were married in 2001, and, sadly, neither of them are forgettable any more. In his final chapter, regarding the re-building of New Orleans (his home town) after hurricane Katrina, Isaacson took a position on the Louisiana Recovery Board, and talks about the challenges of that, and the work they tried to do. In fairness, perhaps this essay was written too early for him to know how the "Road Home" program to help those that lost their homes recover was going to work out in real life. Read "The Yellow House" to get a first hand memoir of a family home destroyed by Katrina, and the family's attempts to move forward. Let's just say the government programs were not as successful as Isaacson hoped.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Dongmei Luo

    American Sketches and parallels of time American sketches is a collection of American biographer Walter Isaacson’s writing of great people and great ideas of the Americans. I was intrigued by his sketches of idealistic Regan; the brilliant communicating Bill Clinton; the genius Albert Einstein and his elegant way of integrating religious beliefs and logistical principle of science; the brainy, highly competitive and somewhat aloof Bill Gates and various movers and shakes of our highest time. The American Sketches and parallels of time American sketches is a collection of American biographer Walter Isaacson’s writing of great people and great ideas of the Americans. I was intrigued by his sketches of idealistic Regan; the brilliant communicating Bill Clinton; the genius Albert Einstein and his elegant way of integrating religious beliefs and logistical principle of science; the brainy, highly competitive and somewhat aloof Bill Gates and various movers and shakes of our highest time. The sketch of Kissinger reveals a relatively dark side of American politics. Isaacson also portrayed an interesting guest of American Sketches, Regan’s compelling challenger- Russian’s visionary leader Gorbachev. At the juncture of US and China trade war era, a refresh from Regan-Gorbachev time is making me contemplating a wishful thinking: what if we live in an alternate reality with a possibility of transposing the historic vision and passion of past time and past wiser into our current trying time? Wouldn’t it be nice if we can end backwardness and unknowing suffering of innocent unknowns in a quicker manner. What a liberating thought! One section of the book outlined significance of our century. It brought another parallel of past to current affairs. Within chapter of the person of the century, author profiled one of the greatest of this century Gandhi and his non-violence civil disobedience movement. The social media has powered another platform of civil disobedience of the highly wired and digitalized world. However between wired and disconnected, there is vast disparity of truth and untruth. How sad that in the morning of AI and rolling along of the big data, widely connected cameras of highly sophisticated face and voice recognition technology, we still see deeply unconnected mass believe in the unthinkable rubbish and acting in backward ways on behalf of manipulators. On a second thought, are they also manipulators of manipulators? Do they truly know the price they are paying on both manipulating front.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lon Cohen

    Walter Isaacson is one of my favorite biographers. I’ve read his Einstein, Jobs and Franklin bios. I’m currently reading Da Vinci. He has a clear way of presenting his subjects and delves deep not only into life details but the things about the person that proves his thesis: genius is not just about intelligence but about creative thinking. He picks out examples and situations that led the subject to make a mental leap that no one else did (or possibly could) and that is what makes these histori Walter Isaacson is one of my favorite biographers. I’ve read his Einstein, Jobs and Franklin bios. I’m currently reading Da Vinci. He has a clear way of presenting his subjects and delves deep not only into life details but the things about the person that proves his thesis: genius is not just about intelligence but about creative thinking. He picks out examples and situations that led the subject to make a mental leap that no one else did (or possibly could) and that is what makes these historical figures stand out. This book is a compilation of studies-character sketches if you will-of the many historical figures that Isaacson wrote about in his job as Time editor. They are fascinating to read and provides in short what you get from his longer biographies. I’d have given this 5 stars but I found the pieces included here that were not biographical a little tedious. The intros to Time’s thematic magazine features (like Person of the Century) made me feel like it was the required reading to preface the longer form pieces (which they were) and not interesting enough to stand alone. That’s just my opinion. Otherwise it was a joy and an informative read. One that took me through recent history by highlighting the historical figures who were there at the turning points through the mind of a great biographer. Isaacson brings not just the research of his subjects to bear but places them within the context of history. A history he has studied and written about for many decades.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Anu

    A collection of profiles written by Walter Isaacson of famous Americans - ranges from entertaining to archaic, while being mildly repetitive. Isaacson's own reflections on journalism and post-Katrina New Orleans were probably the two best chapters. The book was worth reading for those 2 chapters. Walter Isaacson's treatment is decidedly judgmental and he does not even notice that nearly all the leaders/thinkers/heroes he covers are men. Indeed, while arguing who should be named "man of the 20th A collection of profiles written by Walter Isaacson of famous Americans - ranges from entertaining to archaic, while being mildly repetitive. Isaacson's own reflections on journalism and post-Katrina New Orleans were probably the two best chapters. The book was worth reading for those 2 chapters. Walter Isaacson's treatment is decidedly judgmental and he does not even notice that nearly all the leaders/thinkers/heroes he covers are men. Indeed, while arguing who should be named "man of the 20th century" he brings up 2 oppositions to making Watson & Crick joint recipients of said title, neither of which are their blatant omission of giving credit to Rosalind Franklin. Also, his disappointment of the nuanced approach to tricky subjects of policy by many people in power instead of taking a more polarized, sharp approach comes across as ironic in our current times.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kenneth

    Very soothing and relaxing to listen too as you are driving. Cotter Smith does a wonderful job in the narration. He reads with such warmth and conviction that it would be easy to mistake him as the author himself! This book is more of a collection of essays, where Walter Isaacson reflects on lessons to be learned from Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Henry Kissinger, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton, and others he has written about earlier both Very soothing and relaxing to listen too as you are driving. Cotter Smith does a wonderful job in the narration. He reads with such warmth and conviction that it would be easy to mistake him as the author himself! This book is more of a collection of essays, where Walter Isaacson reflects on lessons to be learned from Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Henry Kissinger, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton, and others he has written about earlier both as biographer and journalist. He writes also about how he became a writer, the challenges for journalism in the digital age, and offers loving tributes to his hometown of New Orleans

  14. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    I was appalled at the inability of the author to separate his political ideology from the historical work that he normally does in his books. That inability to separate the two is what true journalism is, what good historical writing is. This book is neither good journalism, nor a good work of history. I am a bit shocked, because I've read some of his other work, and didn't find them so tainted. Perhaps I misunderstood, and this book is more of a commentary than an offering of history. Honestly, I was appalled at the inability of the author to separate his political ideology from the historical work that he normally does in his books. That inability to separate the two is what true journalism is, what good historical writing is. This book is neither good journalism, nor a good work of history. I am a bit shocked, because I've read some of his other work, and didn't find them so tainted. Perhaps I misunderstood, and this book is more of a commentary than an offering of history. Honestly, if you lean to the Left, you may very well enjoy this book. As a true conservative, I find his bent perspective to be unenlightened, poorly thought out, and historically vapid.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Raheel Syed

    Brilliant writing by Isaacson, as always. Most collections are top shelf, the New Orleans epilogue, finding Bill Gates, Einstein’s God, everything on Ben Franklin, to name a few. Other topics that I thought would be really interesting and was excited to read (Regan/Gorbachev, Journalism) did not appear to have the same level of storytelling or the intellectual depth. Really enjoyable read overall. Isaacson really holds up, and now I want to visit New Orleans, stay by the river and dine at Tiptin Brilliant writing by Isaacson, as always. Most collections are top shelf, the New Orleans epilogue, finding Bill Gates, Einstein’s God, everything on Ben Franklin, to name a few. Other topics that I thought would be really interesting and was excited to read (Regan/Gorbachev, Journalism) did not appear to have the same level of storytelling or the intellectual depth. Really enjoyable read overall. Isaacson really holds up, and now I want to visit New Orleans, stay by the river and dine at Tiptinas

  16. 5 out of 5

    Shelly

    I listened to this book and it was more like sitting down with someone at the kitchen table and having a really intellectual conversation rather than just listening to a book. The author is a great storyteller and his writing is humorous and thoughtful and his life experiences are varied and interesting. He has interviewed so many interesting people and written about so many more, I will definitely be reading more of his work.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Leif Erik

    Another 3 1/2 star read (really would like half star gradients). Mostly a b-sides and outtakes kind of compilation, but readable. There is more than a little sense of ‘contractual obligation’ to it as well. The tech and democracy optimism are of a flavor of Fukuyama style kool-aid that didn’t age well. And if you get that joke then you’ll probably get something out of reading it. Which is my primary criteria for non-fiction.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Fernando Rodriguez-Villa

    Mostly good - quite self-congratulatory. Felt like a money grab on Isaacson's part - hastily bundled together essays / articles, few of which got particularly deep into the subject matter. All the Kissinger selections were repetitive. Separate note - These types of collections need to clearly show the date the article/essay was initially published. That context is essential to reading the various pieces. Mostly good - quite self-congratulatory. Felt like a money grab on Isaacson's part - hastily bundled together essays / articles, few of which got particularly deep into the subject matter. All the Kissinger selections were repetitive. Separate note - These types of collections need to clearly show the date the article/essay was initially published. That context is essential to reading the various pieces.

  19. 5 out of 5

    J-R-J

    Mr Isaacson is for me an inspiring journalist and writer. This book is an overview of his articles in Time magazine or speaches on various occasions. Some parts of the book are more US oriented and less understandable for the Europians in a full context, but most of the chapters present a spectacular reading about major personas of 20th century, their values and beliefs and their impact on our lives. Nice and pleasant reading for long winter evenings:)

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kimberly Boenig

    When the book was good, it was really good (loved the stuff on Gates, Einstein, and Allen), but there were quite a few parts that were either super dated (always a risk when putting a collection of essays together, especially topical ones) or failed to get me interested( I skipped all the essays on journalism). Great complex views though.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    This is like reading Time magazine for 10 hours. A NY Times Op-ed writer masquerading as a historian. Too much opinion writing and not enough facts. His articles on Bill Gates and Einstein were pretty good, though.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Phillip

    4.25 / 5.0 Very nice collection of essays. Isaacson writes well and distills valuable insights out of small details. Interesting reading character portraits 10 - 20 years after the fact. Found Bill Gates profile particularly engaging.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Catherine

    Sketches of supposedly interesting people that left me wanting less. Like going to a cocktail party and finding all the hors d’oeuvres are from Costco.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kirk

    I really like some of his books on famous people but this was not good

  25. 5 out of 5

    Pegi Ferrell

    While I have thoroughly enjoyed Isaacson's other books, this felt like a way to make money: print old articles with a few introductory comments. While I have thoroughly enjoyed Isaacson's other books, this felt like a way to make money: print old articles with a few introductory comments.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    An enjoyable collection of Walter Isaacson, now one of my favourite authors.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Marie

    A compilation of pieces Isascson has written through his journalistic career, and some reflections to tie them together.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Bradley Roth

    Much better than I was expecting.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Christian Berclaz

    This is not a book about American characters, it is rather a book about Isaacson, what he wrote, where he was right. Pretentious work.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ernest Wolfe

    The most forgettable and halfhearted of Isaacson's biographies by a mile. Not essential reading for him, but he's still a great biographer and writer. The most forgettable and halfhearted of Isaacson's biographies by a mile. Not essential reading for him, but he's still a great biographer and writer.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.