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Crime, Punishment & Presidential History

22 Nov

Fifty years ago today, I was a year, a month and a day away from being born. Growing up, I was like the kids I teach. When people asked  “Where were you when you heard the news” I had nothing to say. My 4th graders weren’t born in 2001, so they can’t answer the 9-11 version of that question. No one is left to answer the Lincoln version either.

Fortunately there are two non-fiction books that can help us understand presidential history a little better.

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The assassination of JFK was a pivotal moment in American history. In  The President Has Been Shot ,James L. Swanson does an excellent job of going through the background of the key players, expressing facts that really laid out the event from many perspectives. While maintaining historical accuracy, the story is woven together through the eyes of all involved. I found myself feeling Oswald’s tension, the secrets service’s hesitance, the President’s gentle joy, and most powerfully, Jackie’s heartbreak.The book has a lot of pictures to support the text, other supporting material at the back, source notes, a list for further reading and  an extensive bibliography that includes a list of conspiracy theory literature.

This is a well-researched book that I bet will appear on a non-fiction award list for 2013.

Although not about the assassination itself,  Lincoln’s Grave Robbers by Steve Sheinkin is another good read.

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The book tells an odd bit of history.Yes, a group did try to steal Abraham;s Lincoln’s body. In telling this bizarre tale, Sheinkin sheds light on counterfeiting, the Secret Service and 19th century body snatching. It reads like a thriller and is hard to put down

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