Shah of Shahs by Ryszard Kapuscinski
A Godly Hero: The Life of William Jennings Bryan by Michael Kazin
Two excellent and very different books here. Kapuscinski’s story of revolutionary Iran is brilliantly put together. In part one, he sifts through his notes and photos to reconstruct the buildup of the Shah’s power over 70 years. In part two, he follows the actions of a few characters in the 1979 revolution. There’s some repetition in this latter section, but I won’t complain – I was glued to this book, finished it in two hours.
Kazin’s biography of the Democratic presidential contender/cartoon character is also well done – less dry and preachy than I expected from the author or the subject. The lion’s share of the story covers Bryan’s rise to prominence up to his failed 1908 presidential campaign. Bryan lived for another 17 years after that, serving as Secretary of State and arguing against evolution in the Scopes trial. The latter event has basically eclipsed Bryan’s reputation, but Kazin puts it in the context of a life devoted to well-meaning demogoguery and populism.