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Sunday, August 7, 2011

Notes from the Road: 16 Months of Towns, Tales and Tenderloins by Mitch Daniels

A Hoosier's review of this unique book about the quest for the Hoosier governorship

Mitch Daniels' book Notes from the Road: 16 Months of Towns, Tales and Tenderloins chronicles his unique (and successful) campaign to become governor of Indiana.

Mitch created a catchy slogan ("My Man Mitch" - lots of alliteration helps), a consistent look to his products and than eschewed mass bombardment of the airwaves with television ads in order to go with a more personal approach. Inspired by complaints that candidates hadn't dropped in to visit some counties in decades, his campaign bought and Indiana-made RV, a scout-ahead mini-van and he hit the road with a couple of staffers, driving more than 50,000 miles and hitting every county (Indiana has 92 counties) at least 3 times in the 16 months prior to the general election. He did not spend a dime on hotels, nor did he sleep in the RV. Instead, he slept as a houseguest in extra bedrooms and fold-out couches. I can't think of a better way to get to know the people of Indiana.

Daniels chronicled his trip with a series of e-mails to subscribers from his webpage. This book collects those e-mails, some of his assorted speeches from the high points along the way (winning the primary, winning the general election, etc.) and lots and lots of pictures.

Essentially this book is a travelogue. Sure there's politics in the discussion, but it is kept mercifully vague. Most of the book deals with small town businessmen and women, local restaurants some of the unique Hoosiers Mitch meets along the way, including the 93 year old electrician, the Newton/Jasper community band (consisting entirely of senior citizens) and the bar owner in Bainbridge who has an extensive list of things that will get you banned from her bar, including "throwing a dead possum" in the back of her truck.

Positives:

The travelogue features of the book are top-notch and enjoyable.

Daniels' writing style is pleasant. It's not Steinbeck, but it's pretty good for a governor.

Lots of whimsical humor.

Good photographs.

Negatives:

The speeches. They are a small part of the overall text, but they offer little new. They tend to repeat something he has already written.

General product info: Paperback, roughly the size of a student's notebook. 106 pages of text plus a few pages of notes at the end.

In sum, this is a good book not counting the political stuff and its standing as an informal record of a unique political campaign will make it a collectible in the future.

I rate this book 4 stars out of 5.

Reviewed on March 21, 2008.

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