MixedThe Wall Street JournalLike all socialists, the author vastly underestimates both man’s inclination to increase his own wealth and his concomitant penchant for freeloading. But unlike the ordinary socialist, Mr. Sunkara writes with a self-effacing cheerfulness ... What distinguishes the manifesto of this 29-year-old Brooklyn-based editor of Jacobin magazine is its open admission that the future could go either way ... We should probably be encouraged to see socialists drop the conceit that the future is theirs and admit the reality that unhappiness awaits us no matter the size of our welfare state, but surely the allure of socialism was always its glorious inevitability. Without that, it’s left with aesthetics and attitude.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalWhen Mr. Muravchik’s book first appeared in 2002, it felt like an obituary. Now it has a new urgency ... Among the important themes featured in Heaven on Earth are the inherent contradictions between patriotism and the internationalist doctrines of socialism; the risible way in which socialist ideologues speak about future states of harmony that, conveniently, can’t be verified or assessed; and the enduring link between socialism and atheism. This latter point emerges with surprising force in Heaven on Earth.
Arthur C. Brooks
MixedThe Wall Street JournalThe book’s efficient discussion of Jonathan Haidt’s moral foundationism, expressed most fully in Mr. Haidt’s The Righteous Mind (2012), is valuable—though not, to my mind, totally persuasive ...These categories may help rightward- and leftward-leaning people show a little more patience with each other, but the categories are only about predispositions, not about morality itself, and are inevitably bound by time and place. Moreover, Mr. Haidt’s moral foundationism may work as a kind of thought experiment, but I suspect it holds little cogency for people worried about the destruction of their country’s best traditions ... the suggestion that we all treat each other nicely may seem rather thin. But Mr. Brooks embodies the charity and reasonableness he preaches—and leading by example is far from nothing.
Bret Easton Ellis
MixedThe Wall Street Journal\"This back-in-my-day generational grousing comes up again when Mr. Ellis complains about \'snowflakes\' and \'millennials\' who demand apologies for mean jokes. But it doesn’t work: Most of the entitled liberals in the news and entertainment industries he ridicules aren’t millennials but Generation Xers, as he is ... Mr. Ellis sometimes sounds like a bit of a snowflake himself. He writes at length on the hypersensitive reactions to his tweets, but it seems rather touchy to be complaining so much about one’s treatment on Twitter ... Mr. Ellis complains, rightly, that the cultural left elevates politics over art, but what conservative critic hasn’t said this in one form or another? ... Mr. Ellis will lose friends over this book, and perhaps he deserves credit for courage. But offending people is what he’s always done—and it’s worked for him rather well so far.\
MixedThe Wall Street Journal\"The life of a judge is rarely the stuff of gripping biography. In the life of a Supreme Court justice, there is that magical moment when the president phones, but after that it’s mainly a lot of cases and opinions. Evan Thomas’s First: Sandra Day O’Connor ... inevitably suffers from that limitation, and the author’s gushing veneration of his subject doesn’t help ... There are delightful moments ... The question of when \'practical\' becomes \'results oriented\'—when a judge becomes less like a judge and more like a policy maker—is the great jurisprudential question of the past half-century. Mr. Thomas prefers to sidestep it.\
MixedThe Wall Street Journal\"Ms. Biskupic, a legal analyst at CNN, is a skillful writer and a diligent scholar, and the John Roberts she presents here is a sympathetic and complex character ... But this biography advances a single argument throughout: that Chief Justice Roberts is torn between his conservative ideology and his concern for the high court’s legitimacy ... My guess is that liberals will find the book vaguely hopeful (might the chief justice begin \'swinging\' to the left more often?) and conservatives will find themselves, as I did, scrawling question marks in the margins ... The remarkable thing about Ms. Biskupic’s analysis is that she all but overtly praises him for issuing a convoluted decision because the outcome is one she favors.\
MixedThe Wall Street JournalThe book’s concise thesis notwithstanding, it’s unclear what Mr. Davies means to argue. Nervous State is written in the omniscient style of so many \'sweeping\' treatments these days, ranging haphazardly over four centuries of European history in the manner of Jürgen Habermas. The author jumps from one abstruse analysis to another, each chapter ending like a piece of atonal music, with no resolution or sense of closure ... Where Mr. Davies gives us a coherent argument, it’s often maddeningly tendentious.
MixedThe Wall Street JournalMr. Schultz’s recollections of youth would have made a fine memoir on their own ... It’s when he writes about his later career and tries to connect his experiences to the poor state of our politics—in other words, when he tries to tell us why he’d be a great president—that Mr. Schultz bores and exasperates. He strikes me as a brilliant entrepreneur but almost certainly a bad politician: a man bursting with ideas but bereft of coherent political principles.
PanThe Wall Street Journal\"The book’s purpose isn’t to tell a great story but to signal the author’s political viability ... Mr. Buttigieg... writes at length about the Bush administration’s response to 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq, and you wonder why he takes pains to explain views that were Democratic boilerplate from 2003 to 2008 ... The whole thing reaches the level of farce when the author explains why a photograph exists of him and Vice President Mike Pence, then Indiana’s governor...\
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal\"As in Mr. Mallon’s many other novels, the writing is crisp and witty, the central characters complex and sympathetic in surprising ways, the narrative structure tight. The constant use of italics, as if Mr. Mallon doesn’t trust his readers to know where to place the emphasis, is one mild annoyance in an otherwise superbly written novel ... This is a work of the imagination, and I have no firsthand knowledge of the 43rd president, but Mr. Mallon’s rendering is far more faithful to the evidence than the caricatures we read for a decade in the media.\
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal\"The best and most useful parts of Zucked, I find, are those that draw on Mr. McNamee’s lengthy experience as a Silicon Valley investor to explain exactly how and why today’s tech giants compile troves of detailed information on their users and what the political consequences of their frequently amoral efforts may be ... Facebook makes us more like what we already are and therefore less inclined to tolerate those ever-stranger beings on the other side. This isn’t an original insight, but Mr. McNamee expresses it fluently—he understands the business model from the inside.\
PanThe Wall Street Journal\"As in all campaign books, [Harris\'s] chief aim is to describe her career in a way that makes her appear presidential ... I was not impressed—as attorney general she tried to crack down on, of all things, school truancy—but readers of a leftward bent may feel differently. The really irritating thing about Ms. Harris’s book is her habit of introducing stories from her life only to shoehorn in some ostensibly related political issue.\
Kevin M Kruse
PanThe Wall Street JournalDoesn’t accomplish their goal. They recount lots of the headline-making events, but their narrative tells us only that Americans became increasingly divided and embittered, not why they did. History, and especially narrowly political history of the kind presented here, is not equipped to answer the question they put to it. Political controversies are mainly the manifestations of warring preconceptions and worldviews long in the making. Examining the controversies by themselves won’t tell you much about their origins or meaning ... One expects academic historians to lean leftward in their judgments...But Messrs. Kruse and Zelizer present themselves as uncommitted, objective historians even as they portray one dispute after another as if it were largely or wholly the result of the stupidity, bigotry or arrogance of Republican officeholders and their allies ... Messrs. Kruse and Zelizer miss perhaps the most relevant fault line of our time: the line between disdainful elites who equate reality with their own interpretations and everybody else.
MixedThe Wall Street JournalIn An Uncivil War: Taking Back Our Democracy in an Age of Trumpian Disinformation and Thunderdome Politics, Mr. Sargent offers a familiar list of left-liberal grievances: Mr. Trump’s lies and bigotry, Republican gerrymandering and voter suppression, Fox News ... Despite the book’s hackneyed title, there is very little here about civility. What ails American politics, Mr. Sargent seems to believe, is that his side hasn’t had its way. Perhaps he should read Mr. Sasse’s book (Them: Why We Hate Each Other—and How to Heal). And, come to think of it, perhaps the senator should read Mr. Sargent’s.
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal\"Mr. Sasse’s remedies are wise and well-expressed ... Mr. Sasse draws heavily on research by Richard Florida, Miller McPherson, Robert Putnam and others to make his case, but he does so in a literate and nuanced way: His treatment of these sociologists’ works suggests he actually read them, and his prose has a distinctively cheerful warmth throughout ... The book’s failure, if it has one, is that it sidesteps the deep-seated differences between progressives and conservatives.\
MixedThe Wall Street JournalMs. Solnit is a capable essayist, and there’s a powerful quality to her unconventional and abrasive style, but one often gets the feeling she’s writing for a small set of her San Francisco friends. She dishes out highly spurious claims with no indication that anybody would think twice about them ... anticipating counterarguments isn’t Ms. Solnit’s thing. Far easier to denounce the enemy and enjoy the knowing nods of your friends.
MixedThe Wall Street JournalMr. Fukuyama’s attempt to explain the theoretical basis of dignity is a bit of a mess ... Readers may wonder if the connections between Luther and Rousseau go any deeper than the simple notion of introspection, how Rousseau’s ideas jumped all the way to Burma and Iran, and how it was that the American civil-rights movement was inspired by the ideals of the French rather than the American Revolution. Mr. Fukuyama’s breezy account doesn’t stop long enough to ask these sorts of questions ... He does make a persuasive case that modern identity politics arose out of post-Freudian therapeutic worldviews of midcentury America ... Mr. Fukuyama displays an unaccountable need to sound as if he’s above ideology and faulting both sides for their excesses. That’s a tough sell on the topic of identity politics, which is overwhelmingly a creation of the left ... More interesting is his proposal of a mandatory-service program to require the young to work for common national goals. That may still fail to bring us together, but historically the only thing certain to accomplish the aim of national unity is large-scale war against an aggressor—and nobody wants that.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalThere are two good reasons for an American politician to write his memoirs. The first is that he was the president of the United States...The second reason is that the politician has something to say, some notable experience or insight that he can relay from his time in office. John Kerry fits snugly into the second category—he was a U.S. senator from Massachusetts, a secretary of state and in 2004 the Democratic presidential nominee—but he seems to think that he belongs in the first. With almost 600 pages of dense text and 24 pages of color photographs, Every Day Is Extra isn’t so much a memoir as a full autobiography.
Kwame Anthony Appiah
MixedThe Wall Street JournalWhat sounds at first like a direct challenge to our political culture’s obsession with identity turns out to be a series of highly literate but dilettantish \'explorations\'—discursive arguments that racial identities are sometimes based on obsolete science, national identities depend on fictions, religious identities have more to do with practice than with doctrinal belief, and so on. The difference between Mr. Appiah’s stated aim and the content of his claims is reflected on the book’s title page: Identities are outright \'lies\' in the title, but in the subtitle they don’t require debunking but a mere \'rethinking.\' He doesn’t so much argue that racial, class-based and national identities are false or fabricated as point out the ambiguities at their margins. But surely very few people need to be told that human identities lack the certainty of mathematical theorems.
PanThe Wall Street Journal\"[In]Beautiful Country Burn Again, Mr. Fountain’s series of rambling, denunciatory essays on the 2016 presidential campaign... Every assertion, every observation, is aflame with indignation ... [Fountain\'s] thesis that America requires dramatic ethical recalibration presupposes that we live in a madhouse of rank racism. If that’s true, it ought to be easy to prove with a few judicious quotes. For Mr. Fountain, though, it’s rarely about what people say but about what they’re really saying ... Yet in Mr. Fountain’s worldview a deleterious trend or culpable remark can only ever be the result of the foulest bigotry, and the public figures of whom he disapproves are by definition monsters. There is no room here for argument or nuance—only loathing and the hope of imminent fire.\
RaveThe Wall Street Journal\'I want to be quiet a little bit and not hear myself talk so darn much,\' Barack Obama said of his postpresidency plans during his final White House press conference, and for the most part he has lived up to that aspiration. But he hasn’t needed to say much. Every couple of months, it seems, one of his former staffers comes out with a book recalling the Obama years and defending the Obama legacy ... There was such energy and excitement in the White House from 2009 to 2017 that even Mr. Obama’s stenographer felt compelled to write a memoir ... but From the Corner of the Oval doesn’t engage in the prickly defensiveness of other Obama-era memoirs. Ms. Dorey-Stein is too good a writer to ruin her book with tendentious griping. She writes with wit and self-deprecating humor but is fully aware, too, of the pomposity and petty spite of official Washington. She’s at her best and funniest when recalling the physically unhealthy and vaguely ridiculous work of following the president wherever he goes. After an overnight flight on Air Force One, she writes, \'all the lights are on in the staff cabin, and everyone is quietly eating their huevos rancheros in their business casual\'.
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal\"I am not entirely sure how to interpret Andrew Shaffer’s deeply weird and very funny satirical novel Hope Never Dies, but it works well as a send-up of the Obama infatuation ... The story is told in the first person by Joe, and it has to be said that he sounds a lot like the former veep: \'I placed a hand on her shoulder. \"This has to be a shock.\" \' The book’s running gag is how reverentially inferior Joe feels in comparison with Barack. \'You’re allowed to have other friends,\' Joe tells his old boss at the end of the story. \'As long as I’m your best friend.\' \
Martha C. Nussbaum
PanThe Wall Street JournalThe book’s subtitle—\'A Philosopher Looks at Our Political Crisis\'—leads one to think that Ms. Nussbaum’s analysis of today’s volatile and uncertain politics will offer a needed element of precision. It doesn’t. The book is rife with sloppy arguments and arresting but unsubstantiated claims. Ms. Nussbaum doesn’t argue but merely states, for example, that monarchies are based on fear (hence the title), whereas democracies are based on trust ... The more interesting failure of The Monarchy of Fear is that it exhibits just the very uninformed fear it laments ... Unsupported generalizations abound ... Maybe she’s right—though, as she noted on the book’s first page, the fear she senses is probably her own.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalThe first chapter nicely captures the futility of assuming there to be a single genuinely \'Christian\' viewpoint on a phenomenon as complex and multifaceted as a national election ... Mr. Bowman’s book illuminates one contemporary mystery—at least for liberals in the Northeast and on the West Coast: the support of evangelical leaders for Donald Trump. How could people who care about personal faith and upright moral behavior plump for Trump? To them, Mr. Bowman writes, \'Trump’s belief or lack thereof in Christian orthodoxy mattered less than his commitment to Christian civilization as they imagined it.\'
MixedThe Wall Street JournalMr. LeDuff is a capable writer. His first-person, gonzo-style narration, full of profanity and asinine comments, is a bit of a shtick, but it’s often funny. The trouble with the book is that it’s just like a TV series—it never stays in one place long enough for us to learn anything ... The chapters are just long enough to include a madcap anecdote or two ... But he’s far too impatient to witness anything so complex as a nation’s unspooling.
PanThe Wall Street JournalIf I were a Democrat, I wouldn’t listen. For one thing, electoral politics is protean: What worked in 2008 and 2012 is almost guaranteed not to work in 2020. For another, Mr. Obama and his team surely bear some of the blame for the Democrats’ 2016 defeat. If he was truly the great leader his panegyrists claim, why couldn’t Mr. Obama’s chosen successor get herself elected against a seemingly unelectable agitator who spurned and ridiculed Mr. Obama at every opportunity? Mr. Pfeiffer has no interest in self-criticism. Instead he blames Fox News, the reporters who failed to treat the Obama administration with sufficient reverence, the media’s unfair treatment of Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump’s evil use of Twitter, and just about anything that doesn’t implicate the 44th president ... The next Democratic nominee could do everything Mr. Pfeiffer advises and still not win for the simple reason that he or she is not Barack Obama.
MixedThe Wall Street JournalHow Democracy Endsis not a doomsday warning but a clearly written thought experiment. But Mr. Runciman undersells the value of democracy. He rightly rejects what’s fashionably known as epistocracy—an updated version of mandarinism, or government by technocratic elite—as well as anarchism, which is more popular among young libertarians than you’d think. But his presentation of 21st-century authoritarianism is too rosy ... The problem arises, I think, from Mr. Runciman’s assumption that democracy’s chief strength is its ability to offer citizens \'dignity\' rather than its capacity to assure them of that dignity’s legitimacy—and thus provide both freedom and stability. Life for citizens in a democracy doesn’t always feel dignified, but it’s hard to conclude that your government is illegitimate when your friends and neighbors put it there.
Bill Clinton & James Patterson
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal\"Mr. Patterson (whom I take to be the primary fashioner of this book) uses short chapters to push the narrative relentlessly forward, withholds details until the moment of maximum dramatic effect and creates a few characters so tantalizingly strange that you can almost see them ... Mr. Patterson’s strength is pacing and suspense rather than style or subtlety—artless tough-guy vernacular is thick on the page ... But the plot resolves nicely and not in the way you’re likely to foresee. This is beach reading of a high order ... platitudinous interjections weigh the book down, even if they don’t ruin it. Mr. Clinton adds nothing to the book’s value as a thriller but much to its capacity for publicity.\
PanThe Wall Street JournalI still don’t know, however, what Mr. Carter means by the word \'faith.\' He seems to mean not a definably religious faith but any sort of belief or trust in other people. That allows him to speak of faith as a sort of American credo—something like Bellah’s civil religion—but you can’t help thinking he’s making it up as he goes ... if you were a liberal or a progressive in politics and you needed some faith-y rhetoric to bolster your outlook, it would do the job just fine. And indeed, in both the liberal and conservative varieties of Christian republicanism, you get the strong feeling that the \'Christian\' part of the formulation is an afterthought. What these religious combatants know best—and what they care about most—is their politics.
Cass R. Sunstein
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalAt least Can It Happen Here? Authoritarianism in America (Dey St., 481 pages, $17.99) frames the subject as a question rather than a conclusion. The book, edited by former Obama adviser Cass R. Sunstein, collects essays by scholars and journalists asking whether America may soon give up on democracy and plump for authoritarianism. Most entries are measured and civil in tone, although those that respond affirmatively concentrate almost exclusively on Mr. Trump’s statements rather than his actions.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalMr. Mounk proposes what he calls “inclusive patriotism,” which after many pages of description sounds like ordinary left-liberalism but with an admission that securing a nation’s borders isn’t a terrible idea.
MixedThe Wall Street JournalBefore getting to her points about contemporary American politics…[Chua] surveys a series of what she regards as American foreign-policy disasters—Vietnam, Afghanistan after 9/11, Iraq after the 2003 invasion, Venezuela—and contends that a fuller awareness of tribal loyalties would have saved the U.S. from costly mistakes. Many of her criticisms are valid … I’m not convinced, though, that mistakes in war and foreign policy can tell us a lot about domestic social and political cohesion. We are not trying to root out insurgents but simply to live together peaceably. Ms. Chua’s analysis isn’t helped, either, by her tendency to bolster her arguments with sloppy assertions … Ms. Chua has written a brisk and readable polemic in defense of common sense.
R. Marie Griffith
PanThe Wall Street JournalMoral Combat painstakingly documents what most of us know but would find hard to explain: that the culture wars of the 20th and early 21st centuries have been mainly about sex ...among other things, a vivid illustration of a principle that liberals understand well and that religious conservatives usually do not: Culture precedes politics ... Ms. Griffith, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis, writes with cold objectivity about her material, but the subject of sexual morality does not lend itself to cold objectivity. She has written a detailed history of the breakdown of American society’s broad Christian consensus on sexual behavior but says little about the consequences of this breakdown ... The overall effect strikes this admittedly conservative reviewer as incomplete or skewed, like a book on the changing technology of warfare that never mentions death tolls or actual wars.
MixedThe Wall Street JournalIn one sense, Fire and Fury is a typical piece of 'access journalism,' as it’s known, like many titles by Bob Woodward or, on the more gossipy side, like the Game Change books by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann. Mr. Wolff takes the genre to another level, and perhaps a lower level. If he has employed objective criteria for deciding what to include or exclude, it’s not clear what those criteria are ... maybe Mr. Wolff’s approach isn’t so unconventional. Much of his writing is sheer pronouncement—not the reporting of facts or the weighing of evidence but merely the stringing together of unverifiable assertions. These assertions are sometimes idiosyncratic, more often conventional; but almost always they are conjectural, no more provable or valuable than the crotchets of a barroom political junkie ... If Mr. Wolff had considered it his job to tell us what happened, and not merely to offer up his own clever interpretation of what happened, he might not have felt emboldened to repeat every unseemly tidbit he could extract from murmuring White House staffers. But then he wouldn’t have gotten rich.
Ed. by Bandy X. Lee and Robert Jay Lifton
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalMembers of the mental-health profession would like to remind us that this is their job, not ours. Consider The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President...advocates dismiss or sidestep the Goldwater rule on the grounds that mental-health professionals can and should 'warn' Americans about Mr. Trump’s mental unfitness for the presidency ... We learn from the essays collected here that these behaviors may be manifestations of various neuroses...the authors differ in their diagnoses does not give one great confidence in the field of psychiatry or, indeed, in the book’s value ... It’s striking, in any case, how many of these authors sound a little — how to say it nicely? — paranoid.
MixedThe Wall Street JournalIt’s tough to make your readers laugh when you feel all the characters in your story were basically decent, competent and basically admirable people. Instead of ridiculing his boss or his colleagues, he mostly ridicules himself—and that’s where he scores some laughs ... Mr. Litt is at his best chronicling the ludicrous mayhem of campaign life ... The author seems to realize that his admiration for Mr. Obama deprives his book of some of the satirical fun and narrative tension it might otherwise have, and he tries to solve the problem by recounting his disgust with the candidate after the first presidential debate of 2012, when Mr. Obama, clearly unprepared, was trounced by Mitt Romney. 'My days in Obamaworld weren’t finished,' he writes. 'But my days as an Obamabot were done.' That’s about all the displeasure with his boss he can muster, and to my mind it’s not enough. I wondered, too, why Mr. Litt felt it necessary in a memoir as funny as this one to put off half the audience by taking gratuitous shots at conservatives.
Hillary Rodham Clinton
PanThe Wall Street JournalMs. Clinton has always been a tough critic of her foes. Surely we were in for a scorcher. And yet it’s a snoozer—excruciatingly tedious ... What Happened is full of long, detailed explanations of why Ms. Clinton and her campaign were always well-meaning and principled but constantly disadvantaged and repeatedly sabotaged at crucial moments ... The author seems vaguely aware that the book’s chief hypothesis is improbable—was everybody really at fault except her and her senior campaign staff?—and so at various points she offers half-hearted declarations that she bears the ultimate blame. But how can she bear the blame if she never did anything wrong? This paradox haunts all three of her memoirs and deprives them of any genuine insight or interesting thought ... A memoirist no less than a politician must have some genuine awareness of his or her deficiencies and some ability to express that awareness. The trouble with What Happened is not that Ms. Clinton insists that she was right and that her adversaries were wrong and unfair in their criticisms. The trouble with her writing, and indeed with her whole political persona, is that she is obsessed with her own rectitude, and nobody else is.
PanThe Wall Street JournalMr. Lilla’s analysis seems to me quite untrue. Even granting its premise, though, his book fails to address certain basic questions. Are we really supposed to believe today’s culture of narcissism has its roots in the Reagan revolution rather than in the counterculture of the 1960s? If Reaganism really made no room for national solidarity, why are those parts of the country most sympathetic to Reaganism, namely the Deep South and South Atlantic states, also the most patriotic—as evidenced by, say, the number of military enlistments? ... The larger problem with Mr. Lilla’s analysis is that he thinks politics drives culture. The truth is the reverse ... To renounce identity politics would require liberals to loosen their hold on our cultural institutions, especially the universities. Somehow I think they’ll keep dancing with the one that brung ’em.
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal...a reader of Devil’s Bargain who knew nothing about American politics and didn’t catch Mr. Green’s subtle but thoroughly unsympathetic judgments of his subject might come away thinking Mr. Bannon was the book’s hero: Everyone roots for an irreverent upstart who outrages a self-satisfied establishment and turns the system upside down ... I suspect Mr. Trump was also impressed by Mr. Bannon’s career and accomplishments, engagingly recorded in Devil’s Bargain ... Mr. Green is a talented reporter and a gifted storyteller. The anecdotes he records from the chaotic 2016 Trump campaign are both well chosen (they’re there for thematic reasons, not as gratuitous gossip) and brilliantly told.
Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes
PanThe Wall Street JournalThe juicy quotes would mean more if they were on the record, but mostly it works: You can’t pinpoint the identity of any one 'top aide' or 'close Hillary ally,' but the authors’ language leads you to believe they include the most senior Clinton advisers—Mr. Podesta, longtime Clinton confidante Huma Abedin, campaign manager Robby Mook, speechwriter Dan Schwerin, policy adviser Jake Sullivan —and probably the candidate herself ... Such insights aside, Shattered is not a pleasure to read. The authors seem incapable of conveying a thought without the use of some tired metaphor or idiom, often two or three within the same sentence. Mrs. Clinton’s 'clear, dead aim was to box Biden out.' Bernie Sanders 'had flown in from off the political radar screen.' The book is also too long: 400 pages of Clintonian self-aggrandizement, campaign malpractice and passive-aggressive blame-shifting are more than any ordinary reader can bear.
RaveThe Wall Street JournalHere is what makes Fractured Republic so compelling. Though he is a conservative, Mr. Levin’s overarching proposal does not presuppose the reader’s conservatism. What he calls for, in essence, is a return to the proximate. Americans must find ways, he says, to strengthen our mediating institutions that stand between the individual and government, and especially the national government—families, churches, civic organizations and so on ... Yuval Levin has written an incisive and irenic critique of contemporary American society, together with a series of reflections that offer a way forward without trafficking in the false hope of 'solutions.' That he has done so in fewer than 250 pages of clear, well-organized prose ought to make the book famous for a generation.
RaveThe Wall Street JournalThe book is a masterpiece, its rather too clever title notwithstanding. In crisp, sometimes brilliant prose, Mr. Scruton considers scores of works in three languages, giving the reader an understanding of each thinker’s overarching aim and his place within the multifaceted movement known as the New Left. He neither ridicules nor abuses the writers he considers; he patiently deconstructs them, first explaining their work in terms they themselves would recognize and then laying bare their warped assumptions and empty pretensions.
PanThe Wall Street JournalYet for all the intermittent flashes of brilliance throughout the book, The Givenness of Things exhibits little evidence of her tireless work ethic. It is, alas, an essentially lazy production. The essays are frequently ambulatory to the point of aimlessness. Ms. Robinson’s chosen topics are highly abstruse and deserve clear reasoning, but she approaches them indirectly, often not making a memorable point at all.