Thursday, January 08, 2009

Two Fer Review: Andrew Jackson Bio and Kindle

This is a two-for-one review.

I got a Kindle for Christmas and decided that Jon Meacham's new biography of Andrew Jackson, American Lion, would be the first book I would read on it. So I'm reviewing both the message and the medium.

First, a review of American Lion. This is a superb and fascinating history of the two terms of one of America's greatest Presidents, warts and all. Although Meacham sketches in Andrew Jackson's life before and after becoming president, this is not a full biography of Jackson. The book focuses on the the eight years of his presidency--and a full eight years it was!

Meacham makes the case that Jackson's successful fight against the Bank of the United States set the stage for the country's later economic success and that despite the fact that Jackson was an unrepentant slaveowner (unlike many other prominent men of the day he did not free his slaves in his will), his firm opposition to the early secessionist moves in the southern slaveholding states shored up unionist sentiment in advance of the later Civil War.

Jackson was the first president to see himself as accountable to the will of the people. This caused him to become the focus of much censure and accusations by the political and social elites of the day that he was trying to grow the power of the office into a virtual monarchy. But Jackson persisted, and today's modern presidency owes much to his vision.

And, by the way, lest we forget, the political rancor between foes and fans of Jackson was so appalling that it makes modern-day partisan almost seem like a Kum Ba Yah Fest.

The book reads almost like a work of fiction. It is well-written and fast paced. Of course Meacham had a great subject, but he also writes very well.

And now, I'll turn to my experience reading in on a Kindle, instead of a hard-copy.

It took a couple of hours of reading to learn how to keep from inadvertently turning the page before I was ready to. But once I learned how to position my hands to prevent that, I found the Kindle easy to use. The print is quite easy on the eye and I loved the fact that I could easily adjust the size of the type, depending on whether or not I was using my reading glasses!

I had not expected to be able to view the photos that are in the hard copy of the book, but they were included and showed up very well. The Kindle doesn't show color, but since all the graphics were black and white old pictures and etchings, that was not a problem. One annoyance was that if the image was large, the description appeared on the succeeding page.

All in all, I love my Kindle! I liked that when I turned it off, it automatically bookmarked where I stopped reading and opened to that page when I turned it on again. I'm happy not to continue stockpiling books all over the house, too. The downside is I can't easily share a good book with someone else if it's in Kindle format, but on the other hand, it's a lot cheaper.

I've now downloaded several more books and plan to keep Kindling.


RevDi said...

Almost 20 yrs ago I was on the Alumni/ae Board at then UTS in VA. A new library was in the works and when the Librarian told us that eventually the library would be filled with "electronic books" -- we ALL rolled our eyes and voiced the equivalent of "Yeah, Sure!" And lo and behold.....

Anonymous said...

is there a way to do the electronic equivilent of underlining and making notes in the margins with a kindle? If you can do that is it user friendly

Mac said...

Thanks for the review of American Lion. It is in the stack on my night stand--I may have to move it up to number 2, right after A Dawn Like Thunder (the story of Torpedo Squadron 8 at Midway).

Quotidian Grace said...

To Anonymous--

You can save clips on the Kindle but not highlight or make notes in the margins.

At this point in its development, Kindle is best used for books that you don't plan to keep for reference or need to make notes in. You can put PDF files on it with your computer and get newspaper and magazine subscriptions.

Maybe the next version will have the capability for putting your notes in the text.

Anonymous said...

That's helpful to know. That confirms my decsion to not get a kindle. Unless I am reading fiction for the fun of it I almost always have a pen or pencil nearby

Hope you will keep us posted on how much you continue to like the kindle

I'll look forward to future versions

Songbird said...

Actually, I just downloaded the updated software for mine, and I could swear I saw a "highlight" option. I'll look into it and let you know.

Quotidian Grace said...

Thanks, Songbird.

I just discovered those functions on my Kindle. The highlighting function creates a box around the text and you can add your own notes, using the Kindle keyboard. I haven't tried it.