Theodore Rex

Theodore Rex, by Edmund Morris, is the story of Theodore Roosevelt’s Presidency. Beginning at the assassination of President McKinley barely after he had taken office, Vice President Theodore Roosevelt rushes back to Washington D.C. from a hunting excursion in the wilderness to assume the Presidency. The 41-year-old Teddy Roosevelt then rocks his party by overhauling plans for a Nicauragan canal in favor of one across the Panama isthmus of Columbia, a plan which involves supporting Panamanian rebels and nearly going to war with Columbia. The new president then further bolsters his foreign policy credentials by negotiating an end to the bloody Russo-Japanese War, a conflict which saw thousands of death in the snowy battlefields of Manchuria and the utter destruction of both the Russian Pacific and Baltic fleets.

After winning re-election by a landslide, President Theodore Roosevelt rocks his fellow Republicans by taking on the monopolistic “fat cats,” led by John D. Rockefeller and J.P. Morgan, to ensure a more fair playing field. Theodore Roosevelt’s poor decision (in hindsight) to dishonorably discharge an entire battalion of African American cavalrymen after they were in a (alleged) dispute with the citizens of Brownsville, Texas is covered by the author in detail with a fair and balanced critique.

I listened to this work on audiobook and the narrator was excellent. I strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in American history,  particularly American history at the beginning of the 20th century, a time period that many Americans are ignorant of.

Dr. Leonardo Noto

Author: The Life of a Colonial Fugitive, Intrusive Memory, and The Cannabinoid Hypothesis (all available on Amazon — ).

Afghanistan: A Military History from Alexander the Great to the War Against the Taliban

I read this book nearly two years ago when I thought that I was headed to Afghanistan as a battalion surgeon (I ended up in Iraq instead). I was recently reminded of how great this book was by the discussion of our Afghanistan strategy that has been rekindled by the recent military sex scandal. Author Stephen Tanner explores the history of Afghanistan through a military lens, which unfortunately is really the only lens that makes the history of this ethnically complicated country comprehensible. The author begins with the invasion of Alexander the Great’s Greek army and then informs the reader of the incredible fact that a Greek kingdom actually existed in Afghanistan for approximately 300 years…truly incredible to realize once you get out the map and appreciate how far from Greece Afghanistan is, even with today’s modern roads and transportation networks.

Moving onward to the Mongol invasions, the Soviet invasion, and finally to the American war against the Taliban, the author poignantly impresses upon the reader the similarity between America’s current Afghanistan quagmire and the situation faced by the armies that preceeded us. The Afghan warrior ethos is both impressive and frightening, as are the ethnic divisions that leave huge doubt that a cohesive Afghanistan will ever exist.

If you want to know what America is facing in Afghanistan, this is the book for you. It is both highly informative and written in high quality prose that is easy to digest. I strongly recommend this book.

Dr. Leonardo Noto

Author: The Life of a Colonial Fugitive, Intrusive Memory, and The Cannabinoid Hypothesis.

The Conspirator

The Conspirator is a fairly new film (on DVD) that explores the trial of the men and the one woman who were accused of plotting to assassinate Abraham Lincoln. Directed by Robert Redford, this film has superb acting and a fast-moving plot that will shock most viewers who have only been exposed to the G-rated version of Civil War politics that is presented in high school. The story really examines the military “justice” system of tribunals as it existed at the time — having been intricately involved in multiple military justice cases during my time as a battalion surgeon, I personally was struck by how similar military justice is today to how it was then (in many ways…more than I would have cared to believe at the time). If you’re a history buff or interested in politics, including contemporary politics, give this film a shot and you won’t be disappointed.

Dr. Leonardo Noto

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Brotherhood of the Revolution

I stayed up last night past my bedtime finishing Brotherhood of the Revolution, by Joseph J. Ellis. This excellent course/audiobook details the relationships between the founding “brothers” who were largely at the helm during the first 25 years of American history including: Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Ben Franklin, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison. The Revolutionary War lectures taught me several things that I didn’t know (and I know a lot about this period), including that George Washington had several battles during which he had horses shot out from under him and his uniform riddled with bullet holes. I was aware that he had been a “leads from the front” commander during the French and Indian War, but I was unaware that he continued this during the Revolution.

A seventh character is introduced during the Revolutionary War chapters, Joseph Plum Martin, who was the only enlisted man to write a memoir about his experiences in the war, experiences which began during the 1775 fight in the Northeast and concluded at the Battle of Yorktown, a battle during which he served as a sapper (very dangerous). The backgrounds of the 5000 “core” members of the Colonial Army will surprise you and, without spoiling the book, let me assure you that the “minuteman” soldier is largely an historical fiction. In reality these guys were societies unwanted with limited prospects, and they fough in racially integrated units with 15% of the soldiers being African American.

The book concludes with the beginning of the two party political system, which in effect can be boiled down to–Hamilton (strong federal government) and Jefferson and Madison (States rights). The issue of slavery is discussed in detail and both the accomplishments of the founders and their failings are explored in a fair critique that both acknowledges the historical context of the debate whilst not letting the founders all the way off of the hook.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in learning the real history of the American Revolution, which, while not as pretty as the airbrushed version that is taught in schools, is far more interesting.

Dr. Leonardo Noto

Author: The Life of a Colonial Fugitive, Intrusive Memory, and The Cannabinoid Hypothesis (all available on in both print and electronic format).