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.
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 (www.redanglespanish.com). He’s reading 52 books this year. This one did not help him advance toward his goal.
NA. James K. Polk by Walter Borneman
Categories: Libro 52 Challenge