On My Bookshelf: Vol II

January 26, 2018

Raise your hand if reading more was on your list of goals for 2018. You too? I try to read more every year and have been slowly increasing my reading list with each passing year. While I strive for consistency, I usually read best in bursts. On vacations, over the holidays, when I get a great book, etc.

First Women//Nine of Us: Growing Up Kennedy//Clementine: The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill

Today I am reviewing some books I have read recently that focused on women from political families and marriages.

Clementine: The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill by Sonia Purnell

Winston Churchill has been one of my heroes since I was 9 years old. Somewhere my mother has a photo (or blackmail material) of me wearing my father’s suit jacket with a pillow stuffed in it, pretending to be the great Prime Minister. Though I knew a great deal about Winston Churchill, I wanted to know more about his wife. Clementine Churchill is sadly overlooked by most biographers. I was delighted to find “Clementine: The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill” dedicated solely to this remarkable woman.  Did you know Clementine set up and ran canteens for servicemen and factory workers during WWI and then set a national record for fundraising during WWII, gathering funds and donations for besieged Russians? She would use her skills as a hostess to wear down the defenses of political opponents and win them over to Winston’s cause. She would brave bombing raids to visit shelters and made sure every letter she received was answered. Winston Churchill was not an easy man to live with, which is why she took frequent solo trips, but he could not have done half of what he did without “Clemmie”. She was his best friend, most trusted advisor, harshest critic, and greatest advocate. To understand who Winston Churchill was as a man, it is helpful to know who Clementine Churchill was as a woman.


Nine of Us: Growing Up Kennedy by Jean Kennedy Smith

The Kennedy’s are one of the most famous families in American history. While they had tragedy and shortcomings, this one family left a lasting mark on the world. How? I wondered how these future leaders were raised. You could fill a library with the books written about the Kennedy’s, but what about those overlooked years? The years that shaped them. Nine of Us: Growing Up Kennedy was written by the youngest Kennedy daughter, Jean, offers insight into the way the Kennedy house ran. When one of the nine got sick, Rose Kennedy would have them all play together so everyone got it at once and they weren’t running a sick bay for two months. Every morning Rose would quiz the children on the news of the day and ask them questions about history. Dinner was a chance for open discussion and Papa Joe asking the children “what would you do about that if you were President?”. Complaining was not allowed, neither was feeling sorry for yourself. They were taught to stick together and look out for each other. They may have been raised in another century, but those lessons are still worth teaching children today. Since this was written by a family member, it is not the most objective take, but still a quick and pleasent read.


First Women by Kate Anderson Brower

Presidents and their families have been fascinating to me ever since my grandfather taught me to recite the presidents at age 3. Yes, I was that nerdy little kid who loved history and wanted to listen to my grandparent’s friends tell stories rather than play with kids my own age. Kate Andersen Brower’s two books “First Women” and “The Residence” were some of my favorite reads last year! Her writing style is very engaging and she does extensive research so she is both knowledgeable and respectful of her subjects. In “First Women” she looks at modern First Ladies from Jacqueline Kennedy to Michelle Obama. Rather than focus on one First Lady per chapter, she examines the role of First Lady and how each of these women approached it. It is easy to think of a First Lady stereotype, but these women were all different and brought a unique approach to the role. Hillary Clinton famously had an office in the West Wing, while Michelle Obama wouldn’t let anything come before her children. Laura Bush rarely shared her private thoughts or life, while Betty Ford shared everything! This book was a fantastic look at how these women filled an important job that has no job description, leaving it up to them to decide what a First Lady should be.


Have you read a book you enjoyed recently? I am always looking for more suggestions!


Have a great weekend!



  1. Fascinating blog,especially thebookreviews.I want to real ALL ofyoursuggestions!
    My favorite recent read is actually a reread, The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway. I read it last year with my church book club. Decided I wanted to reread it but couldn’t find my copy….so I called our used bookstore and they had a copy on hand. I am now rereading the most memorable and moving book I have ever read, AND I have played his music on line! I send my love and prayers for you and your family. Just had a great talk with your Dad who gave again your blog.
    Gran Jan

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