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Book reviews for "Gordon,_John_Steele" sorted by average review score:

Macmillan: The American Grain Family
Published in Hardcover by Afton Historical Society Press (1998)
Authors: W. Duncan Macmillan, Patricia Condon Johnston, and John Steele Gordon
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Great selection if you love biographies. Enjoyable reading
Great summer reading, especially if you love biographies. Tells all about the MacMillans starting in Scotland and up to the present. Another family like the Rockefellers or Kennedys but started much earlier and still going strong. Today one of the wealthiest families in the world. Most people have never heard of them.

The Great Game
Published in Hardcover by Texere Publishing Ltd. (2001)
Author: John Steele Gordon
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Interesting Overview of Wall Steet's History
John Steele Gordon is an engaging writer. Anyone familiar with his magazine articles in American Heritage knows he is adept at holding readers' attention over several thousand words.

This book reads like a collection of magazine articles. The chapters focus on different personalities or events that shaped (or epitomized) Wall Street over the last two centuries. While there are some attempts to link subjects to their past (notably in the development of rules and regulations), the book reads more like a collection from various time periods rather than a synthesized whole.

What the reader gets are interesting snapshots. And Gordon does make them interesting. Always an engaging writer, he mixes the right amount of fact and commentary to keep a credible story moving along at a nice pace. The author does justice to many fascinating personalities (Hamilton, Fisk, Gould, Vanderbilt, Morgan, Greene, Kennedy, Milkin and Boesky), and events (panics, depression, corners, theft, corruption, manipulation) that have shaped the American financial system since the dawn of our Republic. The chapters are just long enough to gain an appreciation for the subject at hand, but not too long as to bore.

This book is not a study or treatise on financial products or their development. These are mentioned in passing so as to give familiarity to the reader. But, do not expect to learn about how stocks, derivatives or mutual funds (etc., etc.) work in detail here.

While this is not an in depth study of the Street, it is an excellent and engaging survey that will interest the general reader.

It's a great investment.....
Even though I have another book on the history of Wall Street in my reading stack, I picked up a copy of the book just because John Steele Gordon wrote it. Many of you will recognize his voice on NPR and in American Heritage. In fact, Mr. Gordon's article is the first section I read when I receive the newest copy of American Heritage. Mr. Gordon always spins a surprising story each month and this book is no different.

Mr. Gordon covers 350 years of history in just 300 pages, however, don't let the title fool you, it really only covers Wall Street until about 1995, not 2000 (a minor quibble). The book contains many interesting stories along the way such as how Chase Manhattan started off as a water company and why Merrill Lynch was named after two brokers, not one (I didn't realize that).

As always no book on the history of Wall Street would be complete without the Erie Railroad, the "Scarlet Women of Wall Street." Mr. Gordon relives the Erie tale with relish! I could almost see Daniel Drew laughing as he printed additional shares of Erie stock as fast as Commodore Vanderbilt could buy them. The rest of the players of Wall Street take their turn in the book, including J.P. Morgan, Fisk and Gould, Joe Kennedy, Alexander Hamilton, and a few women such as Hetty Green also appear.

Gordon takes time to explain many concepts about how the stock market came to be today including stories on the first corner in Wall Street history to the most recent, the Hunt's brothers attempt to corner the silver market in 1980. Mr. Gordon also explains that each time a player uses the market to their advantage, the invisible hand of Adam Smith pushes the market to correct the "wrongs."

Though it is not one of Mr. Gordon's main points in the book, he does point out throughout the book that the "Robber Barons" of old had many friends/allies in government that turned a blind eye to their schemes.

This book is filled with the history of people of Wall Street, not numbers! Pick it up, you'll find that Mr. Gordon's cornered the market on the history of Wall Street!

Wall Street: Good and Bad, Start to Finish
Very few books manage to write a 300 year history of anything and stay lively and thought provoking from start to finish. Mr. Gordon's "The Great Game" does so in convincing fashion.

The book maintains a quick pace, touching on all of the major events, firms and people that have led to Wall Street's emergence as financier for the world. Yet despite its quick pace the treatment of each of these characters and defining moments is surprisingly deep. I was surprised by the accolades that Mr. Gordon gave to Alexander Hamilton, and how much he had to do with helping establish the US, and correspondingly Wall Street, as a financial powerhouse. (So impressed I read one of his biographies by McDonald.) The theme of the book is the increasing potency of this small street, how it goes from being the financial focus of New York City to New York State, to the Northeast, to the US and finally to the entire world. Wall Street no long represents a few hundred feet of not even water front property, it has come to represent the very essence of finance, not just in the US, but throughout the world. Mr. Gordon has done an excellent job of walking the reader through this fascinating story.

I highly recommend this book.

The Business of America
Published in Hardcover by Walker & Co (2001)
Author: John Steele Gordon
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Excellent prose and great examples of U.S. Econommic history
I rank this book as a solid four star book. I didn't rank the book with a five star rating because it didn't cause me to have a "paradigm shift" or see the world from a different perspective. However, those interested in American History or economic history should thoroughly enjoy this book. I loved reading the book because Mr. Gordon's work clearly shows his in-depth knowledge of American history and his excellent storytelling capabilities.

These 47 articles, gathered from Gordon's 10 years as an American Heritage columnist, cover the post-Revolutionary period through the 1950s. Each article is written, as the title portrays, from an American perspective. Mr. Gordon talks, for example, about the railroads and the characters behind them in the American boom but rarely does he specifically address who invented a product / technology, unless an American did. Additionally, I found that little attention was given to air conditioning, as it has impacted migration patterns dramatically in the U.S.


Economic history is educational and interesting
Ten years' worth of writing, these forty-seven essays capture illumuniating anecdotes about economic history, captured in the stories of people, ideas and moments in time. Booms and depressions, clever inventions and failed plans, tough competitors and grandoise government schemes all receive their due.

There is the story of King Cotton and how the gin made it profitable. Gordon reports on the California Gold Rush, the first television syndication (that's how Desi Arnaz earns a cover picture on an economic history book), war economies, the decision to build the World Trade towers (an eerie story to read today), steamboat races, railroad competition and more, each in pithy, five-page synopses of major historic studies or records. Brief as they are, there is not always a full story, but the histories leave the read impressed and engaged.

Gordon highlights well-known phrases, e.g., "The business of America is business," "The public be damned!" and explains how they came about (and the myths around same). Before we spoke of people "going postal", Gordon writes about the now-lapsed term, "postalization", another idea entirely.

In "The American Game" he shows how baseball is unique in that it was a business and not just a sport from its early years. A strange business, yes, where today "semiserfdom" of ballplayers has produced average annual salaries of $2.38 million and an industry prone to "work stoppages" and seemingly on the brink of disaster.

The better stories are of the visionaries who made and managed business in America, including the man who spent his personal fortune to make milk safe to drink for millions and the unsung heroes who saved businesses from failure. This is a good education for those who don't understand or who doubt the power of free markets, an idea whose time has come, or simply the American dream as it has been lived.

Deserves 10 Stars
I so enjoyed this book I didn't want it to end. Please, Mr. Gordon, write another. My normal read is gory mystery thrillers, so this was quite a departure. I saw Mr. Gordon on C-Span and thought "The Business Of America" might be interesting. This book went far beyond interesting; it made the history of dull finance be as exciting as my normal gory thrillers!

Hamilton's Blessing: The Extraordinary Life and Times of Our National Debt
Published in Paperback by Penguin USA (Paper) (1998)
Author: John Steele Gordon
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A Good Primer on the History of U.S. Fiscal Policy
Just two years ago, John Steele Gordon's book on the history of the U.S. federal debt would have seemed dated, even though it was published in 1997. After more than twenty consecutive years of operating in the red, the U.S. federal government had not only erased its annual deficits and began paying down the debt, but surpluses were projected over the next ten years.

This is no longer the case. A tax cut, the war on terrorism, and a slowdown in the economy have combined to push the U.S. government's outlays above its revenues. They have also made this book -- "Hamilton's Blessing" -- relevant again.

Gordon's book is two things: 1) a basic history describing the twists and turns of U.S. fiscal policy over the last two hundred-plus years and 2) a political tract condemning the latest turn U.S. fiscal policy has taken since the Great Society.

By combining the two, Gordon seeks to show that the most recent practice of U.S. fiscal policy -- that of habitually running deficits in peacetime -- is not only unprecedented in U.S. history, but also, more importantly, unsupported by any sound theory of economics.

"Hamilton's Blessing" is well-written and interesting. The book is only slightly marred by a lack of detail in some areas. How exactly does a large public debt hurt your average citizen and by how much? We never find out.

Gordon also should have kept his own political bent out of the book. Among other things, he spends three pages in a less than 200-page book detailing Jack Kemp's personal and political history, including his football career. All very interesting, but not really relevant to the history of the U.S. debt.

Good Background on the Origin of our Nation's Debt
This book is detailed, but easy to read, giving a good background on how our national debt came to be what it is today. Teh book also covers several of the more popular schools of thought on economics, specifically the teachings of John Maynard Keynes, the namesake of Keynesian Economics. I recommend this book to anyone who has ever questioned our government's inability to pay down the national debt as that debt is known as "Hamilton's Blessing."

Loses something towards the end
This book starts out very good with an insightful depiction of Hamilton's initial achievement, but gets progressively weaker as it advances into the present, as the author begins to lose interest in the historical importance of the debt and concentrates more on his polemic against the tax system. While he makes some very valid points about the Byzantine complexity of the revenue code, to me he did not draw a clear enough connection between this and the central topic. Although Gordon shows that the current debt is very different in origin from obligations of the past, his depiction of the events since World War II is altogether too skimpy. He also does not do enough to distinguish between the so-called "publicly held debt" and the debt held by other government accounts (such as Social Security), a relatively new cleavage with highly significant ramifications for fiscal policy. Finally, and this is certainly not the author's fault, the book has become just a bit dated with the projection of large surpluses and the current debate over their best use--perhaps a new edition is forthcoming. All in all, Hamilton's blessing will provide useful insights for those interested in fiscal policy, but the book could have been much better than it is.

The Scarlet Woman of Wall Street: Jay Gould, Jim Fisk, Cornelius Vanderbilt, the Erie Railway Wars, and the Birth of Wall Street
Published in Paperback by Grove Press (1990)
Author: John Steele Gordon
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very entertaining and informative
The presentation of colorful biographical background material and anecdote really makes a very dry subject come alive. One of the most interesting entities whose early life is sketched here is of NYC itself. If this book has any faults it is that is a little to close to its material, too dense, myopic and rambling. This can make teasing the thread of meaning out of it a bit painful at times. Anyway, it's a shmae this is out of print. It's really a great book, and of much wider interest than it's title would seem to impley.

A Thread Across the Ocean : The Heroic Story of the Transatlantic Cable
Published in Paperback by Harperperennial Library (01 July, 2003)
Author: John Steele Gordon
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A Breezy Historical Account
At a brief 215 pages of double-spaced narrative, "A Thread Across the Ocean" as a book stands in sharp contracst to the Herculean feat it resurrects for modern readers. We have come to take instant communications so much for granted that we tend to forget that prior to a mere century-and-a-half ago, it took news many weeks to cross the world's great oceans. Though dwarfed in memory by such other mammoth engineering feats such as the Panama Canal and the Brooklyn Bridge, the laying of the first Trans-Atlantic cable in 1866 was every bit important in the delvelopment of the modern world, if not more so.

Author John Steele Gordon tells the tale with easily readable prose and superb storytelling. Along the way, he enhances the historical memory of Cyrus Field, the visionary entreprenuer whose single-minded devotion to the project kept it going despit many setbacks. Field's project was the perfect marriage of private and public enterprize in an effort that greatly bennefitted both. Field's story is as interesting as that of the cable itself.

The one main drawback to the book is that its brevity doesn't seem befitting of its subject matter, even more so since Gordon throws in a number of anecdotes that are sidelights to the main story. He commits a major factual error with one of the side stories, stating inaccurately that General Zachary Taylor led the American Army to Mexico City during the Mexican War when in fact it was General Winfield Scott who accomplished that task.

Overall, despite a few flaws, "A Thread Across the Ocean" is a worthwhile read that will be of primary interest to history buffs.

2 Dixie Cups and a LOT of string.
A thread across the ocean is the story of one man with a dream and the Herculean efforts it took to make the Atlantic Ocean and the English-speaking peoples it divides a 'pond'. Laying the transatlantic cable for the first telegraph communications from Europe to North America was an epic feat and one that deserve to be told.

We take for granted the fact that when the Queen Mother dies or the stock market in Germany drops that Americas with TVs on will known sooner than Europeans who have the set off. We take it so much for granted the seeming necessity of the global communications that it is hard to believe how few people embraced this idea after the invention of the telegraph. It was the vision of one man to span the ocean and it took him twelve years to do it.

Short on technical details and long on profiles of the men involved in the project; this is a book for those who enjoy history more than those who enjoy technology. But both groups will come away with respect for those who dreamed big dreams and made them realities.

Tycoons and Inventors Start a Global Village
In these days of instant communication, when one can send an e-mail quickly and reliably to any part of the world, it might seem unnecessary to examine the laying of telegraph cables between Europe and America. But the delightful book, _A Thread Across the Ocean: The Heroic Story of the Transatlantic Cable_ (Walker) by John Steele Gordon, gives a lively history of an epochal achievement which was only eventually a success despite costly failures, calamities, and mistakes. It is good to be reminded of just how difficult this beginning of our communications technology was to achieve, for as the title mentions, the story is indeed heroic.

The hero is Cyrus Field, a man of enthusiasm, determination, and optimism who would not let his cable idea die. The appeal of the story is eventual success despite many heartbreaking failures, but as Gordon demonstrates, the failures were mined for lessons learned, and each subsequent attempt to lay the cable was a bit cleverer, a bit more comprehensive. There were broken cables, unexpected storms, and suspicion of sabotage in the different attempts. The public was wild with optimism and then wild with mockery when the cables failed. One laid in 1858 actually worked to send a message from Queen Victoria, but slowly, and then went forever dead. The final success in 1866 came in large part because of the gigantic ship _Great Eastern_, the final project of the brilliant engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel. The huge ship was a bit of a white elephant, but was the only vessel capable of carrying all that cable almost three thousand miles at 3,575 pounds per mile. The coiling it into different levels of the great ship without kinks was an engineering feat in itself. The ship also took advantage of the perfected paying-out machinery and brake, developed by a wealthy amateur tinkerer, a device so successful that it is still used in laying cable today.

There is no real suspense to this story, of course; Gordon has, however, written an exciting tribute to Field, the other entrepreneurs, and the technicians who put an exceedingly difficult project into action. The cable, after many attempts, many years, and many dollars, worked and became indispensable. Two weeks after the cable was open for business, for instance, the market quotations in New York and London became equalized, as they could act together. The _Great Eastern_ went on to lay five other cables, and by 1900 there were fifteen, with competition between the firms that ran them. Wireless telegraphy, radio, and satellite communication have not made the cables obsolete; most transoceanic communication is still by reliable strands of wire, or of fiber-optics, beneath the sea. _A Thread Across the Ocean_ vividly tells an important and overlooked story of perseverance and triumph.

Profitable Exporting
Published in Hardcover by John Wiley & Sons (1993)
Authors: John Steele Gordon and J. R. Tony Arnold
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Exporting to Canada: Documentation and Procedures: The Exporting to Canada Guide
Published in Paperback by Global Training Center, Inc. (1998)
Author: John Steele Gordon
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Overlanding : how to explore the world on four wheels
Published in Unknown Binding by Harper & Row ()
Author: John Steele Gordon
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Profitable Exporting: A Complete Guide to Marketing Your Products Abroad
Published in Hardcover by Smart Decisions, Inc. (1993)
Author: John Steele Gordon
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