I am definitely on a nonfiction jag these days — punctuated by bouts of mostly trashy fiction — and the current one is Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard. I’m a little over halfway through and it’s great so far — I’m fond of 19th century American history, especially about lesser known figures, and of historical true crime. This fits both categories. What I’ve learned so far is fascinating though heartbreaking: James Garfield, assassinated a few months into his unlikely presidency, was a good man who would have been a real asset to the nation in the middle of its Gilded Age excesses. And Charles Guiteau, the assassin, was even more of a wackjob than I realized after reading Sarah Vowell’s Assassination Vacation.
Anyway here’s the teaser:
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“To Americans in 1881, the principal danger their presidents faced was not physical attack but political corruption. With a determination that shocked even the most senior politicans, they turned their wrath on the spoils system, the political practice that had made Garfield the target of the delusional ambitions of a man like Guiteau.” — p. 249