“Finding moments to engage in contemplative thinking has always been a challenge, since we’re distractible,” said Nicholas Carr, author of “The Shallows.” “But now that we’re carrying these powerful media devices around with us all day long, those opportunities become even less frequent, for the simple reason that we have this ability to distract ourselves constantly.”
Do we need still another book about Sherlock Holmes or his creator, Arthur Conan Doyle? Yes — at least if it’s by that high-functioning bibliographer Mike Ashley. The dust jacket of “Adventures in the Strand” describes Ashley as “one of the foremost historians of popular fiction,” which verges on understatement: In fact, no one alive knows more about British magazines published between roughly 1880 and 1940, a period so rich in genre fiction that it is sometimes called “the age of the storytellers.”
Visiting Presteigne in 1867, George Borrow was told by one of the town’s inhabitants that he was neither in England nor Wales, but in Radnorshire. Tom Bullough, whose fourth novel is set in the south of that debatable county, clearly understands the point: he skirts abstract questions of national allegiance and identity, focusing instead on the land itself and on the interconnected lives of the families who wrest a living from it.
How does Obama do it? How can anyone combine such a brutally demanding job with being a good father? And what does each president’s fitness for parenthood reveal about his fitness to run our country?
Joshua Kendall tackles such questions in his anecdote-packed “First Dads: Parenting and Politics From George Washington to Barack Obama.” At his disposal are the fatherhood portfolios of every single president, as all 43 have been fathers — 38 of whom had children biologically, the other five by adoption.