Friday, October 11, 2013

Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure by Matthew Algeo

On the plane on the way to New York, I finished reading Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure: The True Story of a Great American Road Trip by Matthew Algeo. I stumbled across the book while browsing on Amazon. I didn't realize until after I read it that it was written by the same author as The President is a Sick Man. This is part of my project to read books about all of the presidents.

In June of 1953, less than six monthes after he left the White House, Harry Truman and his wife Bess took a 2,500 mile road trip from their home in Independence, Missouri to New York City and back. The couple traveled alone; at this time in history, ex-presidents did not receive secret service protection. Truman created a quite stir wherever he showed up.

Matthew Algeo traces Trumans' route. Where possible, he stays in the same hotels and eats at the same diners. Even sixty years later, some of these places still exist. The author actually talks to some people who actually met Truman on the trip. Along the way, the book wanders off into topics such as the postwar American auto industry, McCarthyism, the nation’s highway system, and the decline of Main Street America.

I enjoyed the book as a lighter diversion after fighting my way through the third volume of the Picasso biography. Nevertheless, this is not a particularly tightly written book. It has a very casual first person style. It does provide an interesting look at Truman, as well as a simpler time in the recent history.

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