PositiveHarvard MagazineHistorians are often cheerleaders or critics, but Lepore is less like Herodotus or Howard Zinn, and more like Hercule Poirot: sorting out what happened, but also why and how ... In These Truths there are no heroes or villains, only Americans. But the book is more than a collection of profiles in chronological order; Lepore considers ideas as much as individuals ... Jill Lepore is at her best when she is describing what has happened, not prescribing what should; the book’s weakest pages are the final ones, where she lapses into prediction, and gets lost in a strained metaphor about the ship of state righting itself. But the first step in self-help is to know thyself, and Lepore can certainly help with that. She has assembled evidence of an America that was better than some thought, worse than almost anyone imagined, and weirder than most serious history books ever convey. Armed with the facts of what happened before, we are better able to approach our collective task of figuring out what should happen now.
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewThe poems Wiman has chosen are almost all gorgeous, and he explicates them gorgeously. He doesn’t bother with the obligatory details of biography; we learn about the poets evocatively, from whatever odd angle they crossed his path ... His strengths aren’t as a theologian but as a critic, and he is expert at identifying the exact image or lines where a poet has wrestled eternity onto the page. It’s hard to sustain a series of \'moments\' like that for very long, but Wiman’s gratitude for them, and humility before them, makes this brief book strangely powerful ... the real joy is how beautifully it melds intellectual labor with humane fellowship, refusing to forget the flesh that made the words. Even the most transcendent art arrives via the transient vessels known as artists, and Wiman knows how to bring both to life on the page.
Zora Neale Hurston
RaveThe New YorkerShe renders Kossola’s story as he told it, not only linguistically, in his dialect, but narratively, in his own wandering way—sending readers into sad silences and on distracted errands of the sort she’d shared with him, closing the garden gate on them the way he’d closed it on her. Barracoon does not so much shape Kossola’s story as transcribe it ... [Alice] Walker has written a foreword, in which she speculates that resistance to the book over time has stemmed from what Hurston herself found shocking: Kossola’s frank account of \'the atrocities African peoples inflicted on each other, long before shackled Africans, traumatized, ill, disoriented, starved, arrived on ships as ‘black cargo’ in the hellish West.\' One of the virtues of Barracoon, then, is that it may help teach us to live with uncomfortable truths, not only about the complicated and terrible story it records but also about the complicated and tremendous author who recorded it.
RaveThe New RepublicPriestdaddy is about what life is like for any pastor’s kid, but this one has a genuine gift for words ... there is a jellyfish quality to Lockwood’s narration. It is easy to be distracted and delighted by her strange, phosphorescent prose, but the wisp of an idea brushes against you, and before you know it, there’s a welt ... She looks back with longing at the faith she left as soon as she could, and the family she never will, telling the kind of stories that humiliate and humanize both. Priestdaddy proves over and over that Christianity isn’t as dull as you’ve been led to believe, and that religion isn’t our age’s only absurdity.
MixedThe New RepublicThat the most popular faith in America is so precariously positioned—structurally omnipresent, but substantially obscure—is what makes a book like Macy Halford’s so fascinating ... Too often just when you wish she’d tell us more about [Oswald Chambers] or the faith his work has nurtured in her, she turns away, telling us instead about a book party in Manhattan or midnight philosophizing on Parisian roofs. Halford wants to defend Chambers, but she ends up devoting much of her memoir to distancing herself from his other admirers, evangelicals whose politics she doesn’t share.
PositiveThe New RepublicRobinson’s handiwork is capacious and serious, but also mysterious and wondrous; like the night sky, it deserves our attention.