Monday, October 16, 2017

Tom Hanks is well known because of his roles in some of the most memorable movies of the past three decades.  Those of us who are typewriter aficionados also know him as a kindred spirit—even fanatic—who proselytizes the values of these machines.  He had a prominent role in the recent limited-run documentary California Typewriter and his book Uncommon Type: Some Stories—which has a typewriter thread running through it—will be released tomorrow.

Hanks also is a reader.  We get a glimpse of his reading tastes in a “By the Book” interview in yesterday’s New York Times Book Review.  What struck me was his response to this question:  “If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?”  His response was William Manchester’s sweeping The Glory and the Dream: A Narrative History of America, 1932-1972.

Manchester is better known for his The Death of a President, the gripping chronicle of the assassination of President Kennedy and its immediate aftermath.  He also achieved wide acclaim for a two-volume biography of Winston Churchill (a third volume, which he began, was completed by Paul Reid).  He wrote other notable books, including a biography of Douglas MacArthur.

I purchased The Glory and the Dream when it was published in 1975 and its two volumes rest in a bookshelf across from my desk.  As with all of Manchester’s books, this work is filled with superb writing, extensive detail and brilliant scene setting.  It also tells the story of how the United States emerged as a world power and the challenges which confronted it in the post-war era. 

Had that interview question been posed to me, I’m not sure how I would have answered.  But Hanks’ recommendation was superb.  

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