RaveLos Angeles TimesThe serial mistruths, mistakes and misperceptions about Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction and alleged support for Al Qaeda are laid out in devastating detail in Robert Draper’s authoritative new book ... This is well-trod history, but Draper mines newly declassified documents and tracks down previously unavailable CIA and Defense officials to flesh out the sordid story of the run-up to the March 2003 invasion, the start of a grinding conflict that would last eight years and claim nearly 4,500 American lives ... Draper has written a compelling narrative of just how calamitous an ideology-first approach to fact-finding can be in the White House, and why Americans were so badly deluded ... Draper has written the most comprehensive account yet of that smoldering wreck of foreign policy, one that haunts us today.
PositiveLos Angeles TimesAnna Fifield’s The Great Successor: The Divinely Perfect Destiny of Brilliant Comrade Kim Jong Un is required reading to fully appreciate Trump’s bizarre bromance with the young tyrant ... a macabre portrait of a ruling dynasty that has inexplicably survived for seven decades ... If the prose sometimes lags, the reporting is groundbreaking due to Fifield’s dozen or so visits to North Korea and her dogged ability to track down Kim’s childhood playmates, relatives and others around the globe.
James M. Scott
RaveThe Los Angeles TimesIt is powerful narrative history, one almost too painful to read in places but impossible to put down ... Although some of those stories are familiar, he adds a heart-rending portrayal of the brutal life they endured. But Scott breaks new ground by mining war crimes records, after-action military reports and other primary sources for the agonizing testimony of Philippine survivors and witnesses of more than two dozen major Japanese atrocities during the battle—and the ferocious American response ... Those still fascinated by World War II will find much new to ponder in Rampage.
Nelson Mandela, Ed. by Sahm Venter
PositiveThe Los Angeles Times[The Prison Letters of Nelson Mandela] articulate his thinking and feelings in real time, they provide a new lens to view his personal and political growth. Most of all, they help explain how Mandela survived his grueling incarceration with his passions and integrity intact.
PositiveThe Los Angeles TimesTo understand why, Mark Bowden’s searing Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam takes us deep into the bloodiest single battle of that bitter conflict, tracking Americans and Vietnamese as they fought house by house for a city that came to symbolize the folly of the war ... Bowden revisits the historic battle with the same character-driven, grunt-level reporting style that made Black Hawk Down a bestseller. He lends a sympathetic ear to surviving soldiers on both sides, as well as guerrillas and civilians, and gives a vivid account of courage and cowardice, heroism and slaughter ...doesn’t pull punches about the cruelty on both sides ... This book leans heavily on American accounts of the fighting.
PositiveThe Los Angeles Times[Twomey] has mined the copious testimony, memoirs, oral histories and other evidence to produce a riveting narrative of the American misjudgments and mistakes that contributed to a day rivaled in U.S. history only by Sept. 11, 2001. It’s not revisionist history so much as a poignant retelling of a familiar story ... There was plenty of blame to go around but Twomey wisely focuses on a handful of key Americans. He writes sympathetically of their struggles to understand the growing danger ... Despite repetitions, Twomey manages to maintain suspense as the tragedy builds to its inevitable finale. He disappoints only by devoting so little — six pages total — to the attack itself.
MixedThe Los Angeles Times...[a] highly readable take on the clash of two titanic figures in a period of hair-trigger nuclear tensions ... Brands is a skilled historian and he mines letters, memoirs and transcripts to give gripping blow-by-blow accounts of internal debates. But it’s difficult to discern much new here ... Still, history offers few antagonists with such dramatic contrasts, and Brands brings these two to life ... Brands surprisingly ignores scholarship that shows he and his aides discounted or dismissed multiple reports of a Chinese military buildup in the area.
PositiveThe Los Angeles TimesWarrick has written a brilliant biography of Zarqawi and a gripping account of the officials in Jordan, Washington and elsewhere who tracked his career and ultimately chased him down. It is less convincing at explaining the subsequent 'rise of ISIS,' as the title promises ... Various reasons are offered to explain the group's success — the multi-sided civil war in Syria, Sunni fury at the Shiite-led government in Baghdad, Iraqi army officers who switched sides, sophisticated use of social media and so on. All are factors, but none is fully satisfying. Alas, there's time to search for an answer. As this seminal book makes alarmingly clear, Zarqawi's appalling legacy won't fade any time soon.
RaveThe Los Angeles TimesThe tragic story of the Americans in the doomed Lincoln Brigade — who bore some of the toughest fighting and heaviest casualties of any unit — comes vividly to life in Adam Hochschild's compelling Spain in Our Hearts, a long-overdue book that explores this long-overlooked conflict.