Monday, March 15, 2010

Review: Lesser-Known Giants of the 20th Century by Charles M. Aulino

Wonderful life stories quickly fade from collective memory, so that the lessons and inspiration they offer are lost to future generations. Every age has produced people who accomplished great things in life and became celebrities as a result, but whose stars have grown faint over time. Here are 11 stories that form a mosaic of 20th century history. Two of the subjects, though not Americans themselves, identify closely with the American experience of the 20th Century. All the others were either people of long-standing American heritage or the descendants of more recent immigrants. They were Polish, Italian, Jewish, German, African-American and Palestinian. They include figures from professional sports, politics, journalism, entertainment, academe and banking. Diversity, however, was a happy byproduct. The objective was to find stories that amaze, inspire and warm the heart. People of great achievement seem to attract and cross paths with the most powerful, talented, wealthy, glamorous and famous. Biographical vignettes are sprinkled throughout these stories. Among the many historical figures encountered are Bernard Shaw, Mark Twain, Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Babe Ruth, Will Rogers, Wild Bill Donovan, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Jesse Owens, Jimmy Braddock, Damon Runyon, Red Barber, Fiorello LaGuardia, Joseph McCarthy, Herb Block, Thomas Dewey, Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Marie Curie, Claude Pepper, Sam Ervin, Christiaan Barnard, Henry Heimlich, Ralph Nader and Daniel Barenboim. The primary objective of this work is to inspire a sense of amazement. The achievements of the main subjects, their portrayal within the American century, and their inter-actions with other sleeping giants are the results.

Received from the publicist for review.

This was a fat book at 445 pages that profiles eleven fascinating individuals. Each profile contained quite a bit of background information, making each profile almost a novella onto itself. These lengthy profiles could be a bit overwhelming and read rather like a textbook. The profiles also focused rather too much on racial and religious accomplishments.

This one gets three stars. It was not my favorite, but was still a solid work. If you can manage to wade through the lengthy profiles the material presented is interesting, as are the choices of individuals profiled. It is certainly not light reading though. History buffs should find it intriguing.

★★☆☆ = Liked It


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