Friday, November 23, 2018

Nonfiction Mini-Reviews: The (Not So) Political Edition

The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House by Kate Andersen Brower (2015)

What's it like to work in one of the most famous houses in the world?  The Residence introduces readers to the staff members that have served the first families, from the Kennedys to the Obamas, as they provide anecdotes and memories of their years in the White House.

I found this book to be a fascinating and engaging read.  Although at times it felt a bit scattered (it was organized thematically, so the various Presidents and families were kind of all jumbled together in each chapter), I thoroughly enjoyed the stories told.  Yes, some were embarrassing and unpleasant, but there were plenty of heartwarming stories, too.  There was a chapter on children in the White House, and the chapter that focused on the sorrow following President Kennedy's assassination and the chaos of 9/11 left me in tears many times.

I loved learning about the quick transition between first families on Inauguration Day (the staff only has 6 hours to get the residence ready!) and how for many workers, this isn't a typical 9-5 job.  It was interesting to see the balancing act performed by the staff members, who want to provide comfort and stability for the family while having to remain somewhat invisible.  And who knew that the President has to pay for his own groceries?  4.5 stars


From The Corner of the Oval by Beck Dorey-Stein (2018)

Beck Dorey-Stein lands herself a job as a stenographer taping and typing up President Obama's speeches, interviews, and conference calls.  She also delves into her personal life in the memoir, including her disastrous love life.

I enjoyed this book, although I probably wasn't as enamored as many others were by it.  I thought it was a quick and easy read from an interesting perspective.  Dorey-Stein was a relatively low-level employee, but she also had incredible access: she had some problems fitting into the staff hierarchy and often felt like it was an unfriendly or cliquey place to work, but she was able to make some friends and accompany the President on amazing trips all over the world.  I loved how much she admired and respected President Obama, and the way she incorporated global and domestic events that transpired during her years in the White House was nice.

However, I didn't really care for all the talk about her relationships.  It was a little bit eye roll-inducing to read about her back-and-forth affair with another staffer.  She had no willpower when it came to him and he came across as pretty despicable (he constantly cheated on his long-time girlfriend with Dorey-Stein and several other women).  I kept wishing she would gain a bigger sense of self-worth and finally open her eyes.  3.5 stars

18 comments:

  1. The Residence sounds pretty cool. A long time ago, I watched a TV show about how the Whitehouse gets ready for Christmas. It was interesting because they have a tight schedule and go all-out on the decorations and snacks. There were a lot of people running around, trying to get things done on time.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

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    1. Yes, and I think I read somewhere else that they actually start planning Christmas around Easter!

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  2. I really enjoyed The Residence when I listened to it a couple of years ago... so many interesting stories!

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  3. I'm putting The Residence on my to-read list; it sounds fascinating! And I had no idea the President had to pay for groceries; I always assumed food was part of the overall budget.

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  4. Oooh, The Residence sounds like such an interesting read! I've always been curious about what goes on behind closed doors there.

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    1. I know, right? It's such a public building, but still private in so many ways!

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  5. You're not wrong about From the Corner of the Oval -- the inside the White House stuff was fascinating, the relationship stuff was a little more meh. But I still really liked it, I think because I can remember being in my early 20s and being in a stupid, bad relationship like that.

    I also LOVED The Residence when I read it a few years ago, it was so interesting. I'm looking forward to reading her next couple of books, on First Ladies and Vice Presidents.

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    1. I agree about From the Corner of the Oval!

      Yes, I want to read the others, too!

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  6. Wow. The Residence sounds like an interesting read - I've always wondered what it's like working behind the scenes in the white house as most people don't pay attention to them. Love that there is a book about that!

    From the Corner of the Oval also sounds interesting, but it might be because I did take classes in stenography (we call it court reporting and captioning). 😅

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    1. My mom took steno classes a long time ago! I used to look at her notes sometimes and was all, wtf is this? LOL

      The Residence was such a good book!

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  7. The Residence sounds like something I would get into. I haven't read The Help or seen the movie but I do want to know what goes on behind the scenes of the WH. I love that it has humor and heartwarming stories. I don't think I want to hear all the horrible details of what goes on but some of the lighter stuff sounds like it would be great.

    Mary

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    1. Yeah, there were definitely some cringe-worthy stories, but a lot of nice ones, too!

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  8. I also really enjoyed The Residence! I thought the author did a great job bringing together fun details of daily life and historical context. I've not yet read From the Corner of the Oval Office, in part because I've been put off by the romance element.

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    1. I totally agree about The Residence!

      Yes, the romance was really off-putting in From the Corner; it was totally toxic and I just wanted to shake the author!

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I'm so glad you stopped by, and I would love to hear your thoughts! Comments are always greatly appreciated!