MixedThe New York Time Book Review... a book that hopscotches breezily across continents and centuries while also displaying an impressive command of the latest research in a large number of specialized fields, among them medical history, epidemiology, probability theory, cliodynamics and network theory ... If the book’s vast temporal scope leads it to resemble histories written in earlier times, its drive to pronounce on events in cultures spanning the globe and its heavy reliance on cutting-edge theories makes Doom very much a product of our moment. It belongs on the shelf next to recent ambitious and eclectic books by authors like Jared Diamond, Nassim Nicholas Taleb and Steven Pinker. What unites these writers is their disregard for traditional disciplinary boundaries and a determination to reach for synoptic knowledge of stupefyingly complex subjects ... The result, in Ferguson’s case, is a book containing some genuine wisdom, but also some perplexing lacunae ... Ferguson’s own arguably irresponsible actions do not inform his analysis in any notable way ... Reading Doom, it’s hard to escape the impression that responding intelligently to pandemics depends on people in high office being smart enough to listen to Niall Ferguson so they will do a better job of disrupting the behavior of people like Niall Ferguson ... worthwhile points that promise to make a contribution to improving our management of future disasters ... Unfortunately, Ferguson raises doubts about his own judgment by seeming to wave away concerns about climate change — the most widely understood and anticipated catastrophe looming on the horizon ... It is this spirit of aloofness that gives Doom its boyish, winsome energy as it skips along from one historical episode and high-powered theory to the next. But it’s also the source of Ferguson’s unsuitably arch tone as he genially narrates the suffering and deaths of countless millions of souls down through the millenniums ... often insightful, productively provocative and downright brilliant. But it’s also a book very taken with its own polymathic virtuosity. That makes it an exemplary artifact of the culture in which it was written — very smart, but not quite as smart as it thinks it is.
MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewWith chapters telling different aspects of this story across numerous regions and historical eras, Mishra supplies readers with material to construct an alternative to the liberal Grand Narrative ... There’s enough truth in Mishra’s alternative history for it to stand as a useful corrective to the Grand Narrative that still maintains a firm grip on the imagination of many in the West. But that doesn’t mean Mishra’s counternarrative is anything close to sufficient ... Mishra detests liberalism and capitalism. That much is obvious from his unremittingly polemical prose. What is much less clear is what, specifically, he thinks would be preferable ... As a goad to liberal self-criticism, Mishra is well worth reading. But when it comes to a positive program, he has little to offer beyond airy talk of the need for greater justice and equality.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewLike many of the best memoirs of ideas, Boot’s story is one of conversion and de-conversion—of faith gained and then lost ... Clinton may have been a \'deeply flawed and seriously uncharismatic candidate,\' but unlike Trump, she was \'extremely knowledgeable, resolutely centrist and amply qualified\' to be president. So Boot bolted. It was a decision both understandable and admirable. And he does a very good job of telling the story of what led him to it ... One wonders how the book would have turned out had Boot taken a few more steps back from the fray, to place his lifelong ideological commitments in a wider frame. In that case, he might have seen that the principles and assumptions that first drew him to the Republican Party were not especially \'conservative\' at all ... Boot’s book aims to tell the story of a journey, but it’s far more a portrait of stasis.
Alvin S. Felzenberg
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review...a gracefully written and richly informative book, but it’s not a narrowly focused study of the relationships between one of the 20th century’s leading political commentators and a series of American presidents, which were not very significant ... Reading the book in light of events since Buckley’s death — including the Sarah Palin sensation of 2008, the Anybody but Romney procession during the Republican primaries of 2012, but most of all Donald Trump’s shockingly successful populist insurrection in 2016 — one realizes the passages that provide the most illumination are those in which Felzenberg highlights what Buckley himself described as his greatest achievement: purging the conservative movement of 'extremists, bigots, kooks, anti-Semites and racists' ... Felzenberg has produced an accomplished and admiring biography that paints a portrait of a man toiling joyfully to define and elevate a political movement. But the book also, perhaps unintentionally, vindicates a cluster of enduring truths taught by the wisest conservatives down through the ages — that elevated things are fragile, and that nothing lasts forever, or even as long as we may wish.
PanThe New York Times Book ReviewImagine a doctrinaire leftist writing a book on a group of conservative luminaries, then reverse the ideological polarity and that’s what we have here: a one-sided polemic against the New Left masquerading as a serious reckoning...If you’re a Sean Hannity fan who likes to put on airs at a Tea Party rally, Scruton’s book will tell you everything you need to know about the thinkers it so confidently dismisses. But those who seek genuine illumination about the characteristic insights and follies of the New Left will need to look elsewhere...
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewThankfully, these personal moral fixations, and the reckless judgment calls they sometimes inspired, make relatively few appearances in this volume...And Yet really does give us Hitchens at his best.