Your Place for Literary Conversations


This Week

Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution by Nathaniel Philbrick

From our partners at Booklist:

Philbrick (Bunker Hill, 2013) long ago established his narrative-nonfiction bona fides with such books as In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex (2000), winner of the National Book Award and which was recently made into a movie. His formidable storytelling skills are displayed anew in this riveting, perceptive account of the American Revolution as seen through a very defined lens: the growing strength of General Washington’s leadership qualities as he suppresses his propensity for anger and sharpens his ability to rise above the bickering of his staff and Congress to keep a focus on the bigger picture of securing independence, and on the growing frustration of one of his best generals, Benedict Arnold, over the slow pace of the war effort and Congress’ intrusive oversight. Granted, many pages of this unforgettable book are given over to troop activities in the field. But the beauty and wisdom of the narrative as a whole lie in its indelible picture of the troubles Washington went through to lead a successful revolution, and in isolating the personality traits and exterior forces that would lead to the name of Benedict Arnold becoming synonymous with treason. Bound to draw a good readership to libraries’ American-history stacks.— Brad Hooper

Next Week

Sometimes Brilliant: The Impossible Adventure of a Spiritual Seeker and Visionary Physician Who Helped Conquer the Worst Disease in History by Larry Brilliant

When a powerful mystic steps on the hand of a radical young hippie doctor from Detroit, it changes lives and the world. Sometimes Brilliant is the adventures of a philosopher, mystic, hippie, doctor, groundbreaking tech innovator, and key player in the eradication of one of the worst pandemics in human history. His story, of what happens when love, compassion and determination meet the right circumstances to effect positive change, is the kind that keeps hope and the sense of possibility alive.

After sitting at the feet of Martin Luther King at the University of Michigan in 1963, Larry Brilliant was swept up into the civil rights movement, marching and protesting across America and Europe. As a radical young doctor he followed the hippie trail from London over the Khyber Pass with his wife Girija, Wavy Gravy and the Hog Farm commune to India. There, he found himself in a Himalayan ashram wondering whether he had stumbled into a cult. Instead, one of India’s greatest spiritual teachers, Neem Karoli Baba, opened Larry’s heart and told him his destiny was to work for the World Health Organization to help eradicate killer smallpox. He would never have believed he would become a key player in eliminating a 10,000-year-old disease that killed more than half a billion people in the 20th century alone.

Brilliant’s unlikely trajectory, chronicled in Sometimes Brilliant, has brought him into close proximity with political leaders, spiritual masters, cultural heroes, and titans of technology around the world—from the Grateful Dead to Mikhail Gorbachev, from Ram Dass, the Dalai Lama, Lama Govinda, and Karmapa to Steve Jobs and the founders of Google, Salesforce, Facebook, Microsoft and eBay and Presidents Carter, Clinton, Bush and Obama. Anchored by the engrossing account of the heroic efforts of the extraordinary people involved in smallpox eradication in India, this is a riveting and fascinating epidemiological adventure, an honest reckoning of an entire generation, and a deeply moving spiritual memoir. It is a testament to faith, love, service, and what it means to engage with life’s most important questions in pursuit of a better, more brilliant existence.

Author Extra

This Week's Guest:

Nathaniel Philbrick

From the New York Times bestselling author of In The Heart of the Sea and Mayflower – Nathanial Philbrick - comes a surprising account of the middle years of the American Revolution, and the tragic relationship between George Washington and Benedict Arnold.  Valiant Ambition is a complex, controversial, and dramatic portrait of a people in crisis and the war that gave birth to a nation. 

Air Date:

Check local listings for your local PBS station or

World Channel:  Fri 6am/1pm EST and Sun 11:30am EST

Bookmarks by Mary Ann Gwinn

Nathaniel Philbrick Must Reads + Frenemy Finds Philbrick has written many fine books of American history. I’m going to mention those books but first, I’m going to give the nod to three books that look at our history from a different perspective – that of the British. get the full list >

Well Read Book Club

The Well READ Book Club is easy to join . . . and it's FREE!

Book Club members can take part in online discussions with authors and Terry and Mary Ann, share reviews and comments on the Well Read website, participate in a live online chats with authors, and even win free prizes, like autographed books!

This Month's Selection:
book club benefits:
Book Club Benefits:
  • Win Books and Prizes
  • Live Chats with Authors and Well Read Co-Hosts
  • Share Your Ratings, Reviews and Comments
  • Monthly Newsletter
  • …and More!
  • FREE to Join!
close  x
join Well read!
close  x
Update Profile

You can update your account below. All fields are required.

Sign In