Libro NA/52 :: James K. Polk by Walter Borneman



Sometimes you don’t pick the book… sometimes the book picks you.

I felt that vibe with this book.



Sometimes the book picks wrong.



James K. Polk jumped off the rack at me. Since I didn’t know a thing about the one-term President Polk, I was excited to dive in. And thanks to reading half this book I certainly know more, but you couldn’t pay me to finish the last 200 pages of this book.

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Borneman’s Polk is oddly straightforward – seemingly irrelevant details consume as much text as interesting stories involving the ambitious Tennessean. The author introduces darn-near anyone who ever crossed paths with Polk including distant cousins twice removed and his childhood butcher.


Borneman has an annoying tendency of overusing nicknames. He did this with Old Hickory when describing Polk’s mentor, Andrew Jackson. After 43 references to Old Hickory I was begging for a simple Jackson here or there. Borneman did the same thing with Zachary Taylor – Old Rough & Ready. After three dozen mentions of a 6-syllable nickname, call me Old Tired and Ticked Off.



I did learn a few interesting things about Polk….


  • Polk was an earnest Manifest Destiny man and he was itching for a war with Mexico. He scratched that itch – his smash & grab garnered a huge chunk of land in the Southwest plus California. The manner in which he led the US into war established Polk as the 1st President to bypass Congress in his commitment to warmongering. By publicly invoking fear and outrage, James Polk cornered Congress and they conceded to an unnecessary, yet fruitful war with Mexico.





  • Polk annexed Texas by working with his comrade from Tennessee, Sam Houston.



  • Like Nixon, Polk became President after losing the governor’s race in his home state. Polk actually lost two gubernatorial campaigns in Tennessee and then won the White House without carrying his home state or his birth state of North Carolina.



Bottom Line: Don’t read this unless you have to.



Bradley Hartmann is El Presidente at Red Angle ( He’s reading 52 books this year. This one did not help him advance toward his goal.



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LIBRO 52 Challenge YTD

1. Kennedy/Nixon by Chris Matthews

2. Poke the Box by Seth Godin

3. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn 

NA. Buy-In by John Kotter and Lorne Whitehead

4. Education of an Accidental CEO by David Novak

5. Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

6. Blood, Brains and Beer by David Ogilvy

7. Lyndon Johnson :: Master of the Senate by Robert Caro

8. 1776 by David McCullough

9. To Sell Is Human by Dan Pink

NA. Profiles In Courage by JFK*

10. Write It When I’m Gone by Tom DeFrank

11. FDR by Jean Edward Smith

12. The Cluetrain Manifesto by Locke, Searls, Weinberger + Levine

13. One Click by Richard Brandt

14. Persuasive Presentations by Nancy Duarte

NA. James K. Polk by Walter Borneman

Categories: Libro 52 Challenge

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25 replies

  1. LOL! I am loving this series, btw.


  1. Libro 15/52 :: The Greatest Generation by Tom Brokaw | redanglespanish
  2. Libro 16/52 :: The Illustrious Dead by Stephan Talty | redanglespanish
  3. Libro 17/52 :: The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk | redanglespanish
  4. Libro 18/52 :: The Adventures of Johnny Bunko by Dan Pink « the red angle
  5. Libro 19 + 20/52 :: Thunderstruck by Erik Larson + In Cold Blood by Truman Capote « the red angle
  6. Libro 21/52 :: Ctrl Alt Delete by Mitch Joel « the red angle
  7. Libro 22 + 23/52 :: Down & Dirty Pictures by Peter Biskind + Makers by Chris Anderson « the red angle
  8. Libro 24/52: Tales From Q School by John Feinstein « the red angle
  9. Libro 25/52: The Business of Belief by Tom Asacker « the red angle
  10. Libro 26/52: 18 Minutes by Peter Bregman « the red angle
  11. Libro 27/52: Drive by Dan Pink « the red angle
  12. Libro 28/52 :: Enough by John Bogle « the red angle
  13. Libro 29/52 :: Contagious by Jonah Berger « the red angle
  14. Libro 30/52 :: Lexicon by Max Barry « the red angle
  15. Libro 31 + 32/52 :: Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman + A Very Short Tour of the Mind by Michael Corballis « the red angle
  16. Libro 33/52 :: The No Asshole Rule by Robert Sutton « the red angle
  17. Libro 34 + 35/52 :: Choose Yourself by James Altucher + The Halo Effect by Phil Rosenzwieg. « the red angle
  18. Libro 36/52 :: Inside The Box by Drew Boyd and Jacob Goldenberg. « the red angle
  19. Libro 37 + 38/52 :: The Power of Less by Leo Babauta + Wild by Cheryl Strayed « the red angle
  20. Libro 39/52 :: Big Data by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger and Kenneth Cukier. « the red angle
  21. Libro 42/52 :: Black Irish by Stephan Talty « the red angle
  22. Libro 43/52 :: The Firm by Duff McDonald « the red angle
  23. Libros 44-50 :: The final chapter of the Libro 52* Challenge. « the red angle

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