PositiveThe Christian Science MonitorThe appeal of William K. Klingaman’s The Darkest Year: The American Homefront, 1941-1942, which uses contemporary sources to survey the national psyche in the tense months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, is in enabling readers to feel the immediacy of well-known historical events as they unfolded ... the author excels in bringing to life the day-to-day impact of shortages of everything from rubber and gasoline to sugar and coffee ... Klingaman has an eye for the interesting details of life during wartime ... The book’s pleasures are ample enough to compensate for the historian’s lack of commentary or analysis. Klingaman instead successfully evokes a sense of what life was like during an anxious time when the Allied victory was in no way assured. In contrast to the triumphalist World War II narratives taught in schools, America in 1942 was wracked by divisions of class, race, and gender and plagued by uncertainty.
PositiveBarnes & Noble Review\"Treuer presents a compelling narrative to challenge a familiar version of Native American history ... [Treuer] supports [his convictions] with a wide-ranging history, blending in reporting and memoir too, exploring how in response to each of the government’s tortuous and calamitous policies toward Native Americans, tribes showed resourcefulness, adaptability, and endurance ... Treuer doesn’t downplay their disastrous consequences — the first and foremost being the massive population loss that resulted from disease and warfare. But he does look beneath the depredations for the stories that are less often told ... Treuer is even-handed when assessing more recent developments.\
PositiveThe Christian Science MonitorMary’s story has been often told, but it has been interpreted differently through the generations. While some earlier historians viewed the queen as complicit in her rape and subsequent marriage, Williams analyzes events with a modern perspective, incorporating what we now know about the trauma of sexual assault. The author also stresses how the two queens, unlike kings who governed autocratically, were consistently forced to relinquish some of their power. In framing Mary’s story as being one about \'how we really think of women and their right to rule,\' Williams hints at its ongoing resonance.
David W Blight
RaveBarnes & Noble Review\"... massive and masterful ... The author, an American history professor at Yale and a Douglass scholar of many decades, manages the task beautifully, quoting liberally from his subject’s brilliant books, speeches, and articles... while providing context on his eventful times, his friendships and rivalries, and his enduring relevance ... In Blight’s able hands, its many lessons are brought, relevant and alive, into the 21st century.\
Steven R. Weisman
PositiveThe Christian Science MonitorThe Chosen Wars is peppered with colorful and important figures in the history of early American Judaism. One of the most interesting is Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise, a German immigrant who played a significant and polarizing role in the rise of Reform Judaism (he was at the center of the Albany Rosh Hashanah melee). His lifelong dream, which would prove impossible to realize, was to unite all American Jews under one distinctly American Jewish denomination ... As Weisman notes, that vision of unity couldn’t survive the late-19th-century influx of Russian and Eastern European immigrants, which saw two million Jews land on American shores between 1881 and 1914. Today’s Jewish community, about two percent of the US population, continues to be divided over issues related to assimilation and secularization; the fiercest disagreements among American Jews relate to the policies of Israel. In uncovering the conflicts of the past, Weisman deepens our understanding of the ongoing conflicts of the present.
MixedThe Christian Science MonitorIt’s a triumphant account with a resourceful, bold, and charismatic hero who eludes death time and again. Adding to its cinematic potential is the fact that The Tattooist of Auschwitz is chiefly a love story ... And yet, and yet: there is nevertheless something incongruous about this story of survival being framed as an Auschwitz romance ... Morris, in her debut, has created a fast-paced narrative, filled with drama and suspense, and there are passages that are genuinely moving. But one wonders what Lale’s story would have looked like as a work of biography or as a more complex work of literary fiction ... It is often said that words aren’t up to the task of conveying the horrors of atrocities like the Holocaust; at times, Morris’s prose, lapsing into cliche, doesn’t come close ... Some of the most complicated aspects of Lale’s years at Auschwitz are alluded to primarily in dialogue, leaving them largely unexamined ... In this well-intentioned but flawed work, she has succeeded in telling a remarkable story, if not in excavating its wrenching complexities.
RaveBarnes and Noble ReviewCombining her sharp journalistic skills with deep research, Macy dissects all of these causes and their ensuing disastrous effects, giving Dopesick ambitious scope ... While the statistics are jarring, it is in conveying the epidemic’s human toll that Macy excels. She spends hours with addicts, dealers, law enforcement agents, and grieving mothers ... Still, the conviction that Macy expresses at the outset—that \'until we understand how we reached this place, America will remain a country where getting addicted is far easier than securing treatment\'—lends the book its urgency ... Dopesick is compassionate and humane.
PositiveThe Christian Science MonitorThe disastrous daylong concert is often depicted as the symbolic end of the 1960s. But for Austerlitz, who opens the book with a visit to Hunter’s sister to learn about the brother she lost almost a half century before, Altamont is \'about the fundamental trauma of race. A black man had gone somewhere white men did not want him to be, and had never come home.\' The focus on Hunter is commendable. While it’s well known that the Rolling Stones headlined the free show on December 6, 1969, and that much of its violence was instigated by the Hells Angels, the biker gang that provided security, Hunter has remained a cipher ... The author strains to link Hunter to Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, and others whose deaths have galvanized the Black Lives Matter movement. Hunter’s case is complicated by the fact that he was on methamphetamines and was waving a gun—one he seemingly pulled in response to being assaulted by the Hells Angels. Still, it’s easy to agree with Austerlitz that Hunter’s \'punishment did not in any way match the crime.\'
PositiveThe Christian Science Monitor\"The gutsy author tells her life story in a chatty, confiding tone. She captures well the experience of growing up poor in a small rural village ... At nearly 400 pages, the book–overly long and occasionally repetitive–would have benefited from some trimming. Still, The Wind in My Hair movingly conveys not only the significance of its author’s activism but, given that she hasn’t been able to see her family in almost a decade, its considerable costs.\
PositiveChristian Science MonitorJournalist and humorist Henry Alford’s exploration of the world of dance, the author observes \'a blatant manifestation of snobbery\' in that world: the habit of referring to nonprofessional dancers simply as \'non-dancers\' ... Age is front and center...with Alford beginning a serious pursuit of dance at the comparatively youthful age of 50, he jokes that 50 \'in gay years is 350\' ...witty and touching ... an exploration of the world of dance.
Miles J. Unger
PositiveThe Christian Science MonitorUnger skillfully evokes a period when the stakes of art were so high that a painting had the power to destroy relationships. Picasso accepted the consequences. In an elegant metaphor, the author declares that 'those who had once shared [Picasso’s] vision and championed his cause were left behind on the platform while he sped off into the future.'
PositiveBarns & Noble Review\"Sarvas has created a gripping, twisty mystery that deftly tackles big questions — about the weight of history, the intricacies of identity, the often anguished love between parents and children — but its limited protagonist can only grasp at their answers.\
PositiveThe San Francisco ChronicleThe disconnect between what McGowan expected from the meeting [with Weinstein] and what she experienced is heartbreaking, and it resonates with our current national reckoning on workplace harassment and assault ... While McGowan can be sanctimonious and self-aggrandizing, young women, particularly the celebrity-obsessed, have much to gain by reading Brave.”
PositiveThe Christian Science MonitorKerrison makes a heroic effort to learn more about Harriet and find her descendants, but in order to succeed in passing, Kerrison writes, Harriet 'obliterated her historical tracks' ... Like all great histories do, Jefferson’s Daughters brings its period vividly to life, a credit to Kerrison’s exhaustive research, her passion for her subject, and her elegant writing. It is unfortunate that so much remains a mystery ... Still, how fascinating to contemplate that, as Kerrison observes, 'in expanding the boundaries of the life into which she had been born, she was spectacularly successful, arguably even more so than the privileged Jefferson … women had been.'
MixedThe Christian Science MonitorStillman’s writing can be beautiful and evocative, but there are some head-scratchers, too...She is also prone to dizzyingly long sentences, some of which clock in at 100 words. Finally, with most of the conversations between the protagonists lost to time, along with their thoughts, Stillman too often compensates with speculation, couching her points with ‘perhaps,’ ‘maybe,’ ‘may have said,’ ‘may have replied,’ and the like … While the book’s subtitle promises ‘the story of the strange friendship,’ we end up understanding less about the friendship — its meaning to the two men — than about its strangeness, tinged with tragedy.
RaveThe Barnes & Noble ReviewThe Doomsday Machine, as its subtitle suggests, has a confessional tone, as Ellsberg chronicles his involvement, as a onetime committed Cold Warrior, in drafting nuclear war plans during the administration of John F. Kennedy (The book also includes a condensed but enlightening history of modern warfare, tracing the shattering of the longstanding international norm of not targeting civilians) … At the end of this alarming, galvanizing, and brilliantly written book, Ellsberg calls on ‘patriotic and courageous whistleblowers’ to go public about nuclear dangers and urges readers to become more informed and engaged in order to pressure the government for change. He knows that the genie can’t be put back in the bottle, but he makes a strong argument that the purpose of nuclear weapons should be deterrence alone.
RaveThe Christian Science Monitor...smart and enjoyable … The years between feminism’s first wave...and its second, nearly five decades later, are often thought of as a dormant period in the struggle for women’s rights, particularly with the postwar pressure on women to retreat to the suburbs and embrace domesticity. But Scutts elegantly argues that Hillis was a trailblazer during this period … Scutts's affectionate portrait of Hillis helps draw a line from her subject’s cheerful independence to the choices we enjoy today.
RaveThe Barnes and Noble ReviewBaghdad, home to hundreds of thousands of refugees from neighboring Iraq, and figure out what the story is and how to gain access to it? The first answer, as Campbell explains in her gripping new book, A Disappearance in Damascus, is in locating a good fixer ... The book is Campbell’s account of her relationship with Ahlam and her efforts to find her during her months-long disappearance ...provides a fascinating look at how journalists work, an inside perspective that feels particularly useful at a time when the profession is under fire ... The depth of the friendship between two women from such different circumstances is both poignant and hopeful, even as the contrast between them is stark ... She devotes too many pages to the dissolution of that relationship when the one with Ahlam will be the most interesting to readers.
RaveThe Christian Science Monitor...a searching and searing book ... Hansen writes with both authority and humility and, occasionally, with sharp beauty ... Some of the book’s strongest passages involve her rigorous interrogation of the notion of American exceptionalism, of America as the pinnacle of a historical narrative of progress, which she realizes she has internalized ... Also fascinating is the author’s evolving understanding that despite her faith in her journalistic objectivity, the myths she has absorbed affect the way she tells stories from around the globe ... a testament to one journalist’s courage in digging deep within herself to understand the real story and to make sure she gets it right.
RaveThe Barnes & Noble ReviewKim Phillips-Fein’s excellent new book vividly depicts a period when New York was seen — not always positively — as an archetypal example of urban liberalism. Much of the emergency that defined New York’s mid-1970s character revolved around debt, accounting practices, and municipal bonds, but in Phillips-Fein’s hands it is not only exciting but extremely relevant, too ... Phillips-Fein, putting archival sources like meeting minutes to dramatic use, reveals all the last-minute machinations to forestall disaster.
RaveThe Christian Science Monitor...[a] irresistible new book ... He covers the triumphs and the low points, shares some gossip, airs grievances against those who criticized the project (the company’s unsuccessful effort to perform in North Korea generated controversy), and every now and then has an epiphany about the meaning of it all ... [Dromgoole] delves into the play’s history, grapples with its themes, and offers a passionate case for its enduring relevance ... The logistics of the world tour are themselves fascinating, from the difficulty of procuring visas to the caprices of air travel to the pressure of creating a portable production that could be mounted and taken down within a couple of hours.
PositiveThe Barnes & Noble Review...[an] unsettling but riveting book ... He convincingly argues that technology is increasingly engineered to be addictive, making all of us, but especially children, vulnerable to its dangers ... Unfortunately, after Alter sells us so convincingly on the idea that our immersive relationship to tech is hindering our human relationships and our overall quality of life, the solutions he offers hardly feel up to the task.
RaveThe Barnes & Noble Review...[a] delightful, elegant intellectual history ... Can a book still change the world? Right now a tweet would seem to have a better shot. But questions that are still asked today, and more urgently by some in recent months — whether history is a narrative of progress, whether the arc of the universe bends toward justice — have their beginnings in the heady times evoked in Fuller’s exhilarating book. He has made them immensely instructive and enjoyable to ponder.
MixedThe San Francisco ChronicleSome of the details are ghoulish: For instance, their 19-year-old daughter, Melissa, was forced to deal with the immediate fallout of Edgar’s suicide because Rivers was undergoing liposuction when his body was discovered. Because of Bennetts’ kitchen-sink approach, some parts of the book are more successful than others. The author conducted interviews with many of Rivers’ friends, colleagues and associates, and they do much of the talking, to mixed results ... Much more thoughtful are recollections by female comedians she inspired.
RaveThe Barnes & Noble Review...the rollicking yet tender Born a Crime, provides further indication that Noah’s is a necessary voice for these times. In addition to that, it’s a great read ... Throughout the memoir, Noah slyly illuminates the absurdities of a society built on racial hierarchy.
MixedThe Barnes & Noble ReviewThe author is explicit in his desire to convey the hurdles Jacobs faced as a woman and a mother, so one wishes he’d focused less on her appearance or at least consulted a thesaurus before describing her as 'fat and dumpy' ... Kanigel’s account of how Jacobs came to write Death and Life is so compelling that the biography suffers a loss of momentum afterward ... Eyes on the Street works because as cities evolve and face fresh crises – gentrification, soaring rents, and renewed segregation — those ideas continue to challenge as much as they fascinate.
Arlie Russell Hochschild
RaveThe Barnes & Noble Review...[an] important and compelling new book ... one reason Strangers in Their Own Land is so timely is that it explains the emotional release that Trump—who has disparaged Mexicans, Muslims, women, and the disabled and who had won the support of most of Hochschild’s subjects during the primaries—provides ... Despite the fact that her own political leanings are, well, what you’d expect a Berkeley sociologist’s to be, Hochschild treats her subjects with boundless compassion and affection.
PositiveThe San Francisco ChronicleBoggs is uninterested in creating suspense because her beautifully written, contemplative book — which blends memoir, journalism and cultural history — is about much more than her own costly and high-tech path to parenthood ... [Boggs] also reflects on the process of waiting itself, and she is at her most affecting when she ponders its agonies.
PositiveThe Barnes & Noble Review[A] clear-eyed and absorbing new biography ... Tye cuts through the gauzy nostalgia to create a perceptive account of a life rife with contradictions, unearthed via boxes of previously unseen family papers along with interviews with RFK’s widow, Ethel, his former aides, and many others who knew him ... [Tye] occasionally falls victim to the sentimental depiction of Kennedy that he has set out to dispel...these lapses are minor, though, in a book that demonstrates forcefully and convincingly that Kennedy underwent a genuine change to emerge on the right side of history.
PositiveThe Barnes & Noble Review...a remarkable new memoir ... as she attempts and often fails to understand her inscrutable father, the book becomes a rumination on larger questions of identity. 'is who you are what you make of yourself, the self you fashion into being,' Faludi wonders, 'or is it determined by your inheritance and all its fateful forces, genetic, familial, ethnic, religious, cultural, historical? In other words: is identity what you choose, or what you can’t escape?' ... By the end of In the Darkroom, it is genuinely moving that Faludi has achieved a hard-won closeness with her difficult parent. Still, so many of her questions, large and small, remain unanswered. Stefánie, who died last year, was dodging and masking to the end.
MixedBarnes and Noble ReviewIt’s unlikely that all of Duhigg’s eight concepts will resonate with any one reader; moreover, some of them have a familiar feel. Still, Duhigg has turned them into engaging reading by dramatizing each one, Malcolm Gladwell style, with stories that illustrate his larger point.
PositiveThe San Francisco ChronicleThe author reserves ample sympathy for himself. He is, as in his previous work, a captivating storyteller, but self-pity and bitterness, two pitfalls of the genre, occasionally creep into his memoir ... My Father, the Pornographer is at its best when Offutt pulls back from the everyday battles to express larger truths. He captures, in beautiful language, that parental loss is profound, regardless of how fraught the relationship with the parent.
PositiveThe Barnes & Noble ReviewChildren of Paradise comes most alive when Secor chronicles the harrowing experiences of the Iranian reformists she interviewed extensively for the book ... Secor’s material, riveting to begin with, is elevated by her insightful and elegant writing.
PositiveThe Barnes & Noble ReviewThe fun is in the stories, and Konnikova tells them well, in an engaging, genial tone; they feature ruinous Ponzi schemes, charismatic psychics, phony Nigerian princes, and more.