PositiveThe Wall Street JournalClear-eyed and tender ... Ms. Potts is well-positioned to explain her insular birthplace to outsiders ... People there trust her and speak to her candidly ... Readers might feel that the solution to the riddle of why one girl grew up to succeed and one to fail is hiding in plain sight: Ms. Potts, though poor like Ms. Brawner, came from a relatively stable family that prioritized education.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalCompelling and insistent ... Paved Paradise is less about psychology than policy, most of it bad ... Mr. Grabar runs through the deleterious environmental consequences—not only of cars but of paving so much land to store them—but he’s more focused on what these policies have meant for urban life.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalThe author uses Cooper’s chilling case to explore larger issues of justice, retribution and forgiveness ... Seventy Times Seven is a bit overcrowded with characters. Many are compelling ... But Ms. Mar is needlessly detailed about others ... Overall, the author chronicles Cooper’s case with sensitivity and addresses challenges of juvenile punishment with insight. She recognizes the primal desire for retribution after violent crimes. But she weighs this impulse against the possibility of rehabilitation for juveniles.
RaveChristian Science MonitorZernike tells this story masterfully ... The Exceptions... brings the discrimination to the fore, but in describing the tenacity of Hopkins and her peers, it ends up being just as inspirational.
Kerri K. Greenidge
PositiveChristian Science MonitorGripping ... All told, there are many characters to keep track of, and, while always compelling, the book’s first half jumps around among them ... The author’s affecting account of Nana’s tragic life demonstrates that these traumas are not so easily overcome.
RaveThe Wall Street JournalWe are fortunate that historian Malcolm Gaskill immersed himself in this remarkable and, until now, largely neglected document. Archived at the New York Public Library, it grounds his enthralling book on a 17th-century witch hunt that, in the author’s deft hands, fascinates as much as the more notorious one that gripped Salem decades later.
PositiveThe Christian Science Monitor... a lively group biography ... Kleiman describes their technical accomplishments in clear language easy for the computer layperson to follow ... This engaging book is the culmination of her efforts to raise their profile.
PositiveThe Christian Science Monitor... compelling ... fast-paced, cinematic prose ... Baker’s courage and commitment are indisputable, but in Lewis’ hands she comes off too saintly, making for a somewhat one-dimensional portrayal. (Previous biographers have sketched a more complex portrait of the star.) In addition, the author’s language can be overwrought ... These shortcomings are perhaps related to the fact that Baker’s own feelings about her wartime service remain inscrutable; she didn’t publicly reveal much about this period before her death in 1975. Even so, the facts alone make for an extraordinary tale.
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal... entertaining and edifying ... Ms. White, a writer and editor at online travel magazine Atlas Obscura, benefits from the period’s fascination with the would-be divorcees, quoting liberally from lurid tabloid reports of their travails. She acknowledges that most of the Dakota divorces were quiet, mutual proceedings, but her book ends up being skewed toward the salacious cases. While they might not be representative, they surely make for more enjoyable reading.
David S Brown
RaveChristian Science MonitorDavid S. Brown\'s compelling new biography of a former American president depicts a man who was imperious and sensitive to slights and and collected enemies throughout his career...He ran for the presidency as a populist who condemned elites and convinced voters that he could turn back the clock in a changing America...Many denounced him for his autocratic tendencies, but the criticisms did little to slow his rise...While this description carries echoes of recent history, the presidency of Brown’s subject commenced nearly 200 years ago...In The First Populist: The Defiant Life of Andrew Jackson, the author covers the early years, military service, and political career of the seventh president, the most significant leader between the eras of Jefferson and Lincoln...Brown, a historian and author of biographies of Henry Adams and F. Scott Fitzgerald, succeeds in placing his subject in the context of his fraught times...By assessing the frequent comparisons between Jackson and Donald Trump, Brown is positioning his reexamination of Jackson as a particularly timely one...The hope is that a fresh understanding of the divisive times of \'the country’s original anti-establishment president\' might shed light on our own.
Cristina de Stefano, tr. Gregory Conti
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal... compelling ... Ms. De Stefano charts Montessori’s remarkable life in short chapters and in a somewhat breathless present tense. The author is supportive of her subject’s cause and indulgent of her flaws ... concludes squarely with its fascinating subject’s 1952 death. One wishes Ms. De Stefano had gone a bit further, offering perspective on Montessori’s enduring influence on early-childhood education and on the state of Montessori education today...Finally, it’s impossible not to wonder how those four perfect test subjects, the Montessori grandchildren, turned out.
Nell McShane Wulfhart
RaveThe Wall Street Journal... exhilarating ... Ms. Wulfhart is a vivid storyteller who writes with energy and style, and the experiences of Patt and Tommie, passionately pushing both the airline and the union to catch up with the changing times, lend her account poignancy.
PositiveThe Christian Science Monitor... describes how Mufleh herself \'learned America.\' She writes vividly about her childhood in Jordan, noting the influence of “artifacts from the West” like Motown records and Archie comics. Most influential of all, however, was the movie \'9 to 5,\' whose depiction of unapologetically strong women inspired her. Decades later, Mufleh herself is an inspiration.
RaveThe Christian Science Monitor... entertaining and erudite ... The distinction between the more interpretive subject index and the more objective word index remains important throughout Duncan’s book. There’s more fun to be had with the subject index, naturally, and his wide-ranging narrative seeks it out ... Bringing the point to life, in an inspired move, Duncan includes two indexes to Index, A History of: one computer-generated and one by Paula Clarke Bain, a \'professional indexer and a human being.\' The computer-generated index is boring and occasionally nonsensical. Bain’s, on the other hand, is helpful and includes some of her own witty surprises. In an unexpectedly high-spirited book on indexes, the fun continues to the very last page.
RaveThe Christian Science MonitorThe gripping and affecting book tells several stories, and Raines deftly weaves them into a tight, propulsive narrative ... Raines’ narrative shines as the story reaches the present day ... The book feels especially timely when Raines assesses the controversies that continue to surround the Clotilda.
RaveThe Christian Science MonitorRobert Gottlieb’s new biography, Garbo, helps elucidate the mystery of why his subject removed herself from the world. Happily, too, the book is great fun to read (and, with more than 250 photographs, gorgeous to look at). Gottlieb...has an easygoing command of the material and describes Garbo’s films, and the business behind them, with insight and wit ... Given the mystique surrounding Garbo, it’s unsurprising that Gottlieb occasionally finds himself relating stories that remain unconfirmed ... In the end the many unreliable accounts don’t detract from the forcefulness of the author’s portrayal.
PositiveThe Christian Science Monitor... it is above all the courage and tenacity of Mackrell’s subjects that impresses ... The six journalists profiled in The Correspondents deserve credit for their pioneering work. Fortunately for us, their life stories make for vivid and fascinating reading, too.
PositiveThe Christian Science MonitorVindman’s writing is direct and unadorned. One wishes he’d quoted more from the hearings to make his account more dramatic. But Here, Right Matters is still a compelling read. It’s interesting to gain his perspective on these events now that time has passed ... It’s heartening that Vindman’s patriotism remains intact, even if he became collateral damage as the system did its work.
PositiveWall Street Journal[A] provocative and appealing book ... Mr. Burkeman’s diagnosis of the problem is more compelling than his proffered solution ... Mr. Burkeman could have streamlined his advice on how to make our lives count ... Still, Mr. Burkeman is funny and engaging, and Four Thousand Weeks is an enjoyable, insightful, and occasionally profound book, one well worth your extremely limited time.
Niloofar Rahmani with Adam Sikes
PositiveThe Christian Science Monitor... [a] compelling account ... extraordinary events make for gripping reading, but the book is often hampered by repetition and cliché. But the story comes alive when Rahmani includes specific details ... it’s impossible not to admire Rahmani and marvel at her courage.
RaveThe Christian Science Monitor... vivid and compelling ... Flavell offers many examples of how Caroline, the de facto leader of 10 siblings after first-born brother Scrope died in childhood, exerted her influence ... It is affecting to read of Caroline’s preoccupation with how the winds were blowing, so desperate was she to receive word of her beloved siblings in America ... Combining military analysis with an effective use of heretofore ignored sources, [Flavell] brings together the domestic sphere and the military sphere to form an original and more complete picture of a fascinating family.
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal... vigorous, provocative ... compelling, bold and stylishly written. But in his epilogue, Mr. Whyte overplays his hand. He compares the regulation of auto makers to current attempts to hold pharmaceutical companies responsible for the opioid epidemic.
PositiveThe Christian Science Monitor... delightful ... McHugh’s conclusions can be too pat, and her analysis occasionally lacks rigor ... Still, due in no small part to the appeal of its premise, Americanon is an edifying read, one that might lead readers to reconsider their own dog-eared American classics.
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal... captivating ... spirited ... Despite the field’s ups and downs, Ms. Dreilinger maintains an upbeat tone ... Ms. Dreilinger charmed me with her account of home ec’s fascinating past. She didn’t quite sell me on the need for its future.
Akhil Reed Amar
PositiveThe Christian Science MonitorAmar’s fresh and fascinating history...elevates the importance of dialogue and debate in cementing American identity ... Amar covers familiar events in the run-up to the Revolution, including Colonial resistance to the 1764 Sugar Act and the 1765 Stamp Act. But he begins his narrative with a less well-known episode, tracing the ideological origins of the war to Paxton’s Case ... particularly timely.
RaveThe Wall Street Journal... \'eugenics is everywhere and nowhere at the same time\'; Ms. Catte’s determination to pin it down propels the narrative ... Pure America is a slim but capacious volume. Ms. Catte, the author of 2018’s \'What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia,\' a forceful rebuttal to J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy centers the narrative around Western State, but she also tells the wrenching story of Carrie Buck, the young plaintiff in Buck v. Bell, and of the removal in the 1930s of hundreds of mountain families labeled as defective to make way for the creation of Shenandoah National Park. The book is tightly argued and impatient ... One reason to face up to the past is that it has a way of infringing on the present whether or not we want it to. Echoes of eugenicist thought have appeared in arguments, made throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, that expendable members of society should be sacrificed to preserve the economy. As for the inn, its morbid history asserts itself in a more physical way. An intrepid guest exploring the grounds could come upon a neglected cemetery with the remains of several thousand unidentified patients. This smart, scrupulous book might lead readers to wonder what their own surroundings would reveal, were they to investigate them.
RaveThe Christian Science MonitorZimmerman combines the stories of the monsters with episodes from her own life and with sharp cultural criticism ... The collection’s mashup of ancient archetypes, memoir, and cultural critique works because Zimmerman is such a great writer. She’s fierce, funny, and erudite. Whether she’s offering painful reminiscences of her life, breaking down each frame of Aerosmith’s 1994 \'Crazy\' video, or synthesizing social science research on differing perceptions of ambition in women and men, her prose is incredibly engaging ... It’s likely that many readers will feel the truth of this book in their bones as Zimmerman dissects the mythologies that still constrain women.
PositiveThe Christian Science MonitorMuch of Cooke’s engaging narrative focuses on the unheralded role of these women during the Vietnam War ... The book culminates with a gripping account of the women’s involvement in Operation Babylift, which, at the war’s end, evacuated several thousand Vietnamese orphans from Saigon to the U.S.
PositiveThe Christian Science MonitorBren elegantly weaves interviews with former residents and archival research with context on the social and political conditions that limited midcentury women. She devotes attention both to those glamorous residents who made it big, including Joan Crawford and Grace Kelly, and those who tried and failed to live autonomously.
Anna Malaika Tubbs
PositiveThe Christian Science Monitor... illuminating ... presents sketches of their lives rather than full accounts ... Tubbs effectively argues that each woman had a particular impact on her son ... The tone of Tubbs’ book is celebratory.
RaveThe Christian Science Monitor... wonderful ... In Harris’ hands, both the highs and the lows make for fascinating reading ... Harris is in top form here. His command of the theater world and the film industry and his smart and engaging writing make the book a pleasure to read ... It is Harris’ 250 interviews, however, that make the biography definitive.
RaveThe Christian Science Monitor... riveting ... The emotional heft of American Baby comes from Margaret’s wrenching story, which Glaser tells with compassion. The author also does an excellent job charting the social forces that collided to shape her experience ... [an] indelible narrative[.]
RaveThe Christian Science MonitorCultural historian Rachel Holmes describes Pankhurst’s all-consuming activism – which resulted in multiple imprisonments, during which she endured brutal forced feedings – in her excellent and admiring new biography, Sylvia Pankhurst: Natural Born Rebel ... To capture Pankhurst’s life, Holmes plumbs her subject’s published writings and private correspondence, while also benefiting from the work of other historians and access to newly available archival material. The book is long – nearly 1,000 pages ... But [Holmes\'] command of the material [...] is impressive. The author vividly portrays both the sweep of events and her subject’s inner conflicts. Indeed, Holmes excels in showing how Pankhurst\'s mental turmoil both shaped and drove her, leading to a remarkably forward-thinking understanding of the connections between gender, class, and race.
PositiveThe Christian Science MonitorAlfred Hitchcock once remarked that likability was not something actors could fake. According to author Scott Eyman, the director added that there was \'only one actor in the world so formidably skilled that he could fake a charm he did not in fact possess.\' The star Hitchcock had in mind is the subject of Eyman’s richly entertaining new biography, Cary Grant: A Brilliant Disguise. The book offers ample evidence that many who knew Grant were convinced his charms were genuine. But Hitchcock’s piercing assessment jibes with Eyman’s thesis that the legendary leading man was, even more than most Hollywood stars, a pure invention. The actor admitted as much himself: \'He’s a completely made up character and I’m playing a part.\'
PositiveThe Christian Science MonitorIn The Zealot and the Emancipator, Brands foregrounds the central irony that while Brown embraced violence as a means to end slavery and Lincoln condemned it, Lincoln’s eventual path resulted in carnage beyond what Brown, who was executed in 1859, could have imagined. Brands is an adroit storyteller and captures both Brown’s intensity and zeal and Lincoln’s pragmatism and wit ... In the end, Brands writes, \'Brown was a first martyr in the war that freed the slaves, Lincoln one of the last.\'
David S. Reynolds
PositiveThe Christian Science MonitorDavid S. Reynolds begins Abe: Abraham Lincoln in His Times by noting that Jesus Christ is the only historical figure who’s been the subject of more books than the 16th president of the United States. Reynolds’ is one of two impressive recent biographies of Lincoln ... Abe presents a fascinating primer on everyday life in Lincoln’s time ... The author offers up a riot of influences, beginning with Lincoln’s frontier childhood, which featured events like logrollings and house-raisings, bringing together settlers of all classes to help clear land and build homes. He writes admiringly of Lincoln’s voracious interests, which ran from Shakespeare to bawdy humor to Euclidean geometry ... Reynolds compellingly argues that the president drew upon and assimilated these varied cultural strands in order to foster national unity.
PositiveThe Christian Science Monitor... compelling ... There is no single reason that liberal democracy is in such a precarious state, Applebaum notes. In crisp, elegant prose, she explores several explanations, some of which readers may find familiar.
PositiveThe Christian Science MonitorBregman is not naive; he grounds his arguments in reassessments of historical events and in studies from the sciences and social sciences, observing that the preponderance of evidence demonstrates that people are much more inclined toward good than toward evil. He debunks a number of long-held beliefs ... Bregman presents his findings in a chatty, engaging style that evokes Malcolm Gladwell. As in Gladwell’s work, there is a cherry-picked quality to the information he presents. There is also a fair amount of generalization and oversimplification ... Additionally, Bregman tosses off some claims that seem unfounded ... Despite its flaws, Humankind is an enjoyable and thought-provoking read, one whose bold argument has potentially far-reaching implications for how we run our governments, workplaces, schools, and correctional facilities.
RaveThe Christian Science Monitor... sharp, lively ... With deft political analysis, the author charts Pelosi’s rise in the ranks, her relationships with George W. Bush, Obama, and Trump, and her record – her opposition to the Iraq war and her roles in the 2008 bailout, the passage of the Affordable Care Act, and Trump’s impeachment – all receive extended treatment ... Pelosi, who successfully staved off challenges to her leadership in 2016 and 2018, is an intensely private woman, and Ball, who interviewed the speaker several times, found her \'impenetrable.\' While this biography doesn’t reveal much about her inner life, one suspects that the speaker would wonder why anyone would care about that anyway, that what matters is what she gets done for the people she serves.
PositiveThe Christian Science Monitor...compelling and timely ... In Deep...aims to determine whether in fact a deep state exists. The author’s short answer is that no, the United States’ intelligence and military apparatus is not plotting a coup against a duly elected president ... While any one of these short chapters could be the subject of a shelf of books, together they sketch the broad outlines of the power struggles within recent administrations ... It is perhaps unknowable the extent to which Trump believes in the deep state or simply understands the term’s political usefulness. Whichever the case, the issues raised by In Deep are particularly urgent.
Nelson D. Schwartz
PositiveThe Christian Science Monitor... eye-opening – and at times, outrage-inducing ... Schwartz’s examples are wide-ranging ... The author not only tells fascinating, readable stories, but he explains why they matter, especially now, when our politics and culture seem more polarized than ever ... Perhaps in a discouraging sign of how intractable these caste conditions have become, Schwartz is less effective when it comes to proffering solutions for the problems he so forcefully describes ... these laudatory examples come off strictly as outliers, not as representatives of a growing trend. Reading this enthralling book is not a downer, but its inescapable implication – that we’re fast becoming an even more divided society with an irreparably frayed social fabric – sure is.
Ed. by Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman
RaveThe Christian Science MonitorSome of the essays are cerebral and analytical; others are meditative and achingly personal. All of the entries are compelling, and the overall strength of the collection—never a given in anthologies with dozens of contributors—is a credit to the A-list roster that Chabon and Waldman have gathered[.]
L. S Fauber
PositiveThe Christian Science Monitor...readers ought to continue on to the footnotes to get a full sense of how much the author, who translated many of the original sources, enjoys this material ...Fauber’s chronicling of these four astronomers’ scientific advances and their surrounding intrigues is lively and unfailingly fascinating, down to the footnotes.
Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
PositiveThe Christian Science Monitor[Kristof] and WuDunn write about [Yamhill\'s] residents—many of whom are their friends—with affection and empathy ... The stories they tell are almost unbearably bleak ... It is at times wrenching to read. But Kristof and WuDunn, in addition to peppering the narrative with heroic individuals around the country making a difference in their communities, offer a range of sensible policy suggestions ... the authors—compassionate, solutions-oriented, and ultimately optimistic—offer a path forward.
Kate Winkler Dawson
PositiveChristian Science MonitorAmerican Sherlock delves deeply into Heinrich’s methods as he investigates various crimes; these sections are the fascinating meat of the book. (Readers should be aware that several of the forensics photographs included in the book are gruesome.) Dawson is less successful in her depiction of the criminalist as an insecure and somewhat fusty perfectionist, forever fretting over his finances ... Dawson establishes that Heinrich was a true pioneer in his field.
PositiveThe Christian Science MonitorHolly George-Warren’s revealing biography of America’s first female rock star, Janis: Her Life and Music, makes clear that despite her outsize talent and her outward bravado, much of her tragically short life was driven by a deep loneliness and need for love that her incredible success could not allay ... George-Warren’s book benefits both from new interviews with people who knew Joplin personally and professionally and from the access Laura Joplin granted the author to Janis’s scrapbooks and letters home. As a music writer...George-Warren is also adept at describing Joplin’s singular blues-rock vocal...and her exhilarating stage presence.
RaveThe Christian Science MonitorMitchell’s lucid, clear-eyed account of the state of AI—spanning its history, current status, and future prospects—returns again and again to the idea that computers simply aren’t like you and me ... Many of the challenges of creating fully intelligent machines come down to the paradox, popular in AI research, that \'easy things are hard ... These big themes are fascinating, and Mitchell conveys them clearly and lucidly. Along the way, she describes specific AI programs in technical language that can be challenging for the layperson (the many charts and illustrations are helpful). She lightens the book, though, with an affable tone ... She also writes with admirable frankness.
MixedThe Christian Science MonitorAs in Gladwell’s previous books...the best-selling author and New Yorker writer puts a distinctive and provocative spin on his topic, bringing it to life by populating the book with riveting, headline-grabbing scandals (Amanda Knox, Jerry Sandusky, and Bernie Madoff are among his extended case studies) and drawing on psychological research and social science to support his claims. The book is consistently intriguing and compelling, if at times a bit scattershot ... [the] either/or conclusion doesn’t feel satisfactory given the damage the author has detailed in previous chapters ... It’s surprising, too, that Gladwell doesn’t address fraud and deception on the Internet, today’s primary meeting place for strangers. Does the virtual world require its own set of tools? Gladwell is better at telling us what’s wrong with our current strategies to deal with strangers than at offering up newer, more relevant ones.
Jason De Parle
RaveThe Christian Science MonitorAt times, [DeParle] goes beyond being a journalistic observer ... he deftly alternates between their compelling saga and the broader issues surrounding migration ... DeParle also captures the intense loneliness experienced by migrants, particularly those separated for long stretches from their children ... He forcefully makes the point that there is a difference between the politics of immigration, which are broken, and immigration itself, which is successful in ways that are rarely acknowledged ... In addition to being intelligent and compassionate, A Good Provider is evocatively written ... DeParle...captures so much about global migration: the necessity, the pride, the heartbreak.
RaveThe Christian Science Monitor...Packer’s mesmerizing biography is an elegy not just for his subject but for the vision of American power that he represented ... Packer...establishes Holbrooke as metaphor from the outset ... [an] insightful and beautifully written book[.]
Ed. by Michele Filgate
PositiveBarnes and Noble Review...many of the contributors, like Filgate, write courageously about these formative and often fraught relationships ... One fascinating thread throughout the book involves the contributors’ mothers gaining insight into their children, and the topics they avoid, by reading their words.
RaveChristian Science MonitorIn her rigorous, compassionate, and vital book, Charged: The New Movement to Transform American Prosecution and End Mass Incarceration, [Bazelon] shines light on a critical but under-examined feature of the criminal justice system: the role of prosecutors in America’s crisis-level incarceration rates ... Mass incarceration is such an intractable American problem, but one gets the feeling that Charged could be a game-changer, giving voice and momentum to a growing desire for reform. (The lengthy appendix, which lays out concrete steps to fix the broken system, will surely help) ... To ensure that meaningful criminal justice reform is enacted, as this important and powerful book urges, citizens must begin by paying attention.
Robert A. Caro
RaveThe Barnes & Noble Review\"... a slim volume, but when readers come to the end, they might wish it had gone on as long as the colossal masterworks for which the historian is celebrated ... delightful ... While stories of Caro’s investigative achievements are astonishing, the nuts-and-bolts details of his research and writing process are charming ... The humility, the tenacity, the ardent desire to make his readers truly understand a subject, the decades spent taking care to produce something masterful and meaningful—all of it stands in stark contrast to the more punishing aspects of our information cycle. We might not deserve Robert Caro, but we’re certainly lucky to have him.\
William K Klingaman
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 MonitorThe book’s brief chapters alternate between the compelling story of Shapiro’s discovery – and her cautiously unfolding relationship with her biological father – and a moving reconsideration of a childhood ... Shapiro constructs an elegant metaphor likening her biological father to her native country.
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.