PositiveUSA Today... [an] entertaining and enlightening romp through interpersonal presidential relationships ... Unfortunately, the book is organized chronologically, so the first pairing is Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, founding friends whose relationship manages to be the least interesting of the lot. The author, being a journalist, should have known better than to lead with such a relatively dull duo. For compelling peculiarity, skip to Richard Nixon and Charles \'Bebe\' Rebozo.
RaveUSA TodayThis fast-paced opus would be a rollicking fun read, a beach book even, if it weren’t so doggone real—and if it wasn’t so reminiscent of recent machinations in our nation’s capital. But fun or not, this is an important book at this moment in our tortured political history ... Nixon’s second term increasingly would be consumed by the metastasizing scandal. Dobbs masterfully captures the great unraveling in his vivid and illuminating narrative.
RaveUSA TodayIn The Crooked Path to Abolition, Oakes delineates early on the many things that Lincoln was not: \'He never called for the immediate emancipation of the slaves… he never denounced slaveholders as sinners and never endorsed the civil or political equality of Blacks and whites… He never opened his home to fugitive slaves… he endorsed voluntary colonization of free Blacks… He certainly spoke at colonization meetings… but never at an abolitionist meeting.\' Oakes ably guides the reader through the Byzantine legal labyrinth of slavery American style – perhaps Gordian Knot is a better metaphor. If the author’s narrative occasionally waxes repetitive and academic, all is forgiven: Most often Oakes brings clarity and insight to a political conundrum of bewildering complexity.
Thomas E. Ricks
PositiveUSA TodayRicks masterfully documents how examples of city states like Athens and the Roman Republic (before Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon) informed the four aforementioned Founding Fathers and their fellow travelers ... engaging.
PositiveUSA TodayThe larger slices of Southern life are the most welcome (the reader often is still hungry when the tidbits end) ... Without even trying, Bragg explains why it is humans came to believe in miracles.
RaveUSA TodayAt a time when solid facts and reasoned arguments are in retreat, Daniel Yergin rides to the rescue. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author and energy savant is armed to the teeth with enough telling statistics to sink an oil tanker ... Yergin provides an engaging survey course on the lifeblood of modern civilization – where the world has been and where it is likely headed. By the final page, the reader will feel like an energy expert herself ... This book is worth reading for its marvelous statistics alone ... If there is a complaint to be made about this thorough and valuable opus, it is that the reader yearns for Yergin to bust loose and pontificate. What would the smartest man in the room do in the face of the momentous challenge we and our descendants face?
MixedUSA TodayThis is a timely book. It covers another period when America sought to confront its past and make amends for centuries of oppression of African-Americans ... To compensate throughout — and he freely confesses to this — the author supposes, surmises, imagines, suspects, and substitutes surrogate sources to fill in the gaping holes in the historical record of his family four generations back. This comes off as forced and unsatisfying. The ongoing assumption is if something bad happened in New Orleans way back when, Polycarp was in the middle of it ... To compound matters, Ball’s prose is relentlessly truncated: short declarative sentences that leave the reader longing for a subordinate clause, a compound sentence, or even a dangling participle ... At no point does the author describe his relative straight-forwardly as \'my great-great-grandfather\' — an omission the publisher’s publicity material does not repeat — while at times he refers to Polycarp inexplicably as \'my grandfather\' ... Despite the book’s flaws, Ball has done substantial research and paints an intimate, eye-opening picture of New Orleans during Reconstruction.
PositiveUSA TodayThese often poignant missives are balanced by correspondence already in the public record between Yamamoto, who was married with children, and his longtime mistress, who was a geisha. The author artfully weaves this compelling human element into the narrative.
PositiveUSA TodayJohnson salvages his subject from the dustbin of history and puts his brief swashbuckling career in the context of the era’s historical currents. It is the perfect book to cozy up to during a pandemic ... In addition to providing captivating \'yo ho ho and a bottle of rum\' action, the author examines the geopolitical and cultural implications of Every’s spasm of violence ... Johnson skillfully ushers the reader into the peculiar world of Every and his crew...The author ably documents the radical egalitarianism of pirate culture.
PositiveUSA Today[Brokaw] doesn’t overplay the parallels between now and then. He doesn’t need to ... an engaging account of a nation in turmoil. It is a breezy, often gossipy and at times surprising memoir that encompasses more than Watergate ... The author takes the reader not only inside a beleaguered White House, but also into tony Georgetown salons where the political and cultural glitterati mingled with journalists and ruminated on the scandal du jour ... A note of caution is warranted. While this slim book leaves the reader wanting more pages, it also suffers from choppy prose and lax editing in places. Often dates and pertinent details are left out, such as the year and month when the Arab oil embargo began ... That said, this book should be required reading inside the Beltway, and beyond.
PositiveThe Christian Science MonitorIf there is a soupçon of difference in drama between the flesh-and-blood hero and the literary version, it is vanishingly slim ... Reiss has written a remarkable and almost compulsively researched account of a man who played a critical, if largely overlooked, role in the French Revolution ... The context of Dumas’ phenomenal career path is painted in rich detail ... If nitpicking such a diligent and engaging effort must be made, it is that the context sometimes is a bit too much, distracting from the narrative here and there, noteworthy perhaps only because the reader wants to get back to the rattling good tale ... The Black Count is no longer languishing in the shrouded corners of fickle history.
PositiveUSA TodayThe author, a professor at Georgetown University, succeeds in bringing Mead and her fellow travelers into sharp focus as they pioneered a new field and documented mankind’s many-splendored diversity in a positive, rather than a divisive, light.
PositiveUSA TodayJon Gertner makes a compelling case that it’s time to start thinking seriously about Greenland and its growing relevance to our lives, and those of our descendants ... Gertner...does not wax polemic. That would be overkill when the facts on the ground (or on the ice) largely speak for themselves. Most of his book consists of engaging accounts of the explorers and scientists who have been drawn to Greenland’s hinterlands, among them the Norwegian Fridtjof Nansen and the American Robert Peary.
PositiveUSA Today... make no mistake: the gifted athlete is not a natural author ... But let it go. Joe has stories to tell, and with the aid of Sean Mortimer and Don Yaeger, he does better than a passable job. His (their?) prose has a certain appeal ... The book deals cursorily with such substantive issues, leaving the reader hanging at times ... The reviewer, however, doth protest too much. Even casual sports fans will find this an enthralling read. For all his flaws – and the author does not hide them – Namath is a likable and lively raconteur. What’s more, his is a remarkable life.
RaveThe Christian Science MonitorK: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches uses an ingenious microscope through which to scrutinize baseball (K is scorekeeping shorthand for a strikeout). The author elevates trivia and manages to make it consequential ... Looking at baseball pitch by pitch cleverly conjures the wonders of the game and how it has changed ... Kepner’s book...captures both the glory and vagaries of the sport he loves, past and present.
PositiveUSA Today\"Sonia Purnell resurrects the compelling saga of a remarkable woman whose persistence was honed early on by her battles against low gender expectations and later on by her disability: she had a wooden leg ... Purnell’s research is thorough, and she ably places Hall in the context of her times: women risking their lives in battle would remain controversial for more than a half century after her exploits. There is much high drama...\
PositiveThe Christian Science MonitorIt is a lively, vivid, and thoroughly researched account of a time when discord gripped the nation and wouldn’t let go. Through it all, this trio managed to agree and disagree civilly. Brand quotes his subjects liberally, as is their due ... Brands mentions that Calhoun is a Yale graduate, but he neglects to include the controversy surrounding the renaming of Calhoun College in February 2017, one of the university’s residential colleges. The author, however, does document the reasons that protesters found the school’s honoring of Calhoun so appalling. Calhoun was not simply a slaveowner and advocate for the right of rebellion: He argued that slavery...was a \'positive good\' for the enslaved as well as their owners.
PositiveThe Christian Science Monitor\"... a richly detailed, thought-provoking and compelling chronicle ... Andrew Delbanco... has written an engaging and most valuable account of America’s original sin.\
RaveThe Christian Science Monitor[A] modest-sized opus ... In straightforward but evocative prose, Grann captures the drama and sheer audacity of his subject’s forays into forbidding places – where one of the many ways to die is simply to get wet ... For all of its page-turning appeal, the book studiously avoids psychological speculation on what compels its subject to repeatedly to place himself in harm’s way. Grann doesn’t openly address the possibility of inner demons, but he drops hints here and there...Fascinating.
PositiveThe Christian Science MonitorIt may be the exception that proves the rule in these partisan times, but the transformational tale of Derek Black is powerful and riveting all the same ... Eli Saslow, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist at The Washington Post, has written an eye-opening account of one man’s ideological metamorphosis. Rising out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist is at once disturbing and uplifting.
PositiveThe Christian Science Monitor...religiously researched ... The author’s prose can wax academic and he bandies about terms like hemipenes and cloaca without explanation, as if he is lecturing to an advanced university class. The reader may read more about the internal organs of birds – the testes of green woodpeckers, for example – than he or she cares to ... That said, this biography makes an important contribution to a fuller understanding of Mr. Willughby’s pioneering career ... Perhaps as important, this book reaffirms in a very dramatic and specific way the vital role of science in the advancement of human understanding and welfare.
RaveUSA Today\"He ably synthesizes centuries of attitudes and beliefs about selfhood, primarily in western thought, from Aristotle, John Calvin and Freud, to Sartre, Ayn Rand and Steve Jobs. His straightforward prose and personal anecdotes make all of it eminently digestible ... So who are we, after all? Storr can cut through the swirl of intellectual theorizing and cultural pressures in one sentence ... If Storr can rattle on a bit, as he does in covering the rise of the self-esteem movement, his chronicle generally is crisp and compelling.\
PositiveThe Christian Science Monitor[Moorehead] portrays the trials and intrigues of the Rosselli clan in intimate detail: the invisible ink, jailbreaks, coded correspondence, and spies galore. In places, the book reads like a gripping thriller. Elsewhere, the author occasionally can get lost in the weeds and assume the reader is fluent in Italian ... In the main, however, Moorehead hits the mark, bringing creeping fascism, and its impact on average citizens, into sharp focus at a time when its abysmal track record is worth remembering.
PositiveThe Christian Science MonitorIn Stanton: Lincoln’s War Secretary, Walter Stahr, who wrote a biography of Lincoln’s secretary of state, William Seward, brings Edwin Stanton out of the historical shadows and presents him as arguably the third-most-important figure in the outcome of the Civil War, after General Ulysses S. Grant and Lincoln ... But make no mistake, this is an important book about perhaps the most consequential decade in American history ... author presents his subject in his all his many-splendored complexity – flaws and all, of which he had many ... One wishes Stahr had waxed more analytical throughout. He is better at the 'what, where and when' of history than the 'why,' and there are places where a bit more context would be welcome.
RaveThe Christian Science MonitorDespite its grim subject matter, The Orphan Master’s Son is a wonderfully written and gripping, rich in symbolism, and replete with quirky characters, from the Dear One (leader Kim Jong-il, who died last year) to the latest apple of his eye, a naked American nighttime rower … Besides translating the political anathema that is North Korea into the personal realm, Johnson has penned a ripping good thriller, full of surprises and derring-do, blood and guts, cowardice and heroics. If the action is not always entirely plausible, all is forgiven. The reader wouldn’t have it any other way; and heck, North Korea is so strange, so remote from our experience, who knows what might be possible there.
MixedUSA Today\"As with prospecting in the Yukon, diaries tend to produce more gravel than gold...But this is Sedaris, who can be wickedly funny as well as deliciously insightful about modern mores — so the nuggets are big and shiny and well worth panning for … Sedaris assiduously turns over the rocks that litter the human landscape and unflinchingly records what comes creepy-crawling out: whether racism, homophobia or just plain weirdness. The things he observes at IHOP challenge Darwin’s theory … Sedaris periodically shares favorite recipes and odd jokes that strike his fancy. Again, some are right on the edge — and quite amusing.\
Anders Rydell, trans. by Henning Koch
MixedThe Christian Science MonitorThis often dense account is not easy sledding. The translation frequently doesn’t extend to long German names for places, entities, or currency. The litany of books, libraries, and human beings that were ravished is numbing, while the author concedes repeatedly that the chances of finding rightful owners 75 years after the crime are increasingly small ... Quibbles aside, this is a most valuable book.
RaveUSA TodayThompson has written a wonderful book full of such wonderings. He wonders all over the place, as befits a man who likes Shakespeare as well as the movie Dumb and Dumber ... Thompson tackles this mystery with solid research, ready wit and catchy aphorisms ... Thompson shows how the melding of innovation with familiarity, as well as exposure of various kinds, applies to other successful creations.
PositiveUSA TodayAs lost city reportage goes — and despite occasional hyperbole and the obligatory over-the-top title — The Lost City of the Monkey God is a well-documented and engaging read ... The author’s narrative is rife with jungle derring-do and the myriad dangers of the chase, highlighted by the deadly fer-de-lance, a snake so scary it would give Indiana Jones pause ... The author dutifully devotes space as well to the controversy in academic circles about this well-hyped archaeological sortie. One complaint is the splashy language used to describe its findings — with the book’s title being exhibit A.
PositiveThe Christian Science MonitorPartlow’s valuable new book enables its readers to understand Afghanistan better – or, at least as well as the author does. It also offers a compelling portrait of former Afghan President Hamid Karzai ... Partlow may not succeed in answering all the questions surrounding the Karzai family, but he at least offers a nuanced understanding of this very intriguing clan and their deeds.
RaveThe Christian Science Monitor...an engaging, richly detailed account of a remarkable man. That Van Cliburn has faded so from our collective memory is almost as astonishing as this improbable tale itself ... The book is not all politics, of course. Cliff deftly places his subject in the context of the evolving musical culture of the past two centuries.
MixedUSA Today...a breezy and very personal remembrance of her life and loves, and her ups and downs ... Cohen provides proper context for Ephron’s times and trials, and he writes engagingly when he isn’t being too clever by half. The reader grows weary of learning, for example, how Ephron and her posse dined on truffle sandwiches in Nice.
Andrew Scott Cooper
PositiveUSA TodayAndrew Scott Cooper brings the Shah, along with his colorful retinue and turbulent times, back to life. It is revisionist history in parts — and mostly sympathetic to the king and his queen Farah. She was among the many people the author interviewed for this thoroughly researched and richly detailed account.
RaveThe Christian Science MonitorThese unsettling tales, elegantly written and wonderfully reported, are like black-and-white snapshots from the national photo album. They depict a society in flux but also stubbornly unmoved through the decades when it comes to many aspects of race relations ... Jackson, 1964 records an important, albeit shameful, chapter of American history. The grace Trillin brings to his job makes his stories all the more poignant.
RaveThe Christian Science MonitorFriedman, a journalist and author of The Aleppo Codex, writes with great feeling and insight about the teenagers who died, were maimed, or were changed in profound ways while defending a patch of earth that the Israelis dubbed 'Pumpkin'...The author’s account of military life transcends the particulars of this tale.
PositiveThe Christian Science MonitorAlmost as gripping as his subject’s adventures is the author’s historical treasure hunt. Tigay does battle with the fog of time and comes to question many assumptions posing as settled historical fact. Along the way he encounters other 'Shapiramaniacs,' including one Yoram Sabo (there could hardly be more than one), a filmmaker who had already been on the case for 30 years. This may not be the greatest story ever told, but it's a pretty darned good one.
RaveThe Christian Science MonitorPatricia Bell-Scott, professor emerita at the University of Georgia, has done a yeomanlike job of bringing both of her subjects and their careers into sharp focus, especially where the strands of their lives intersect. A wonderful touch is the reprinting in full of many of the letters that the two women exchanged.
MixedThe Christian Science MonitorIf they belabor their main thesis at times, authors Harold Holtzer, a Lincoln historian, and Norton Garfinkle, an economist, succeed in presenting a thought-provoking case, quoting Lincoln extensively to buttress their analysis.
MixedThe Christian Science MonitorThis book is both thoughtful and largely even-handed. It also provides an important eyewitness account of the history it analyses. It would be fair, however, to expect the author to do what he censures others for not doing: learn lessons from the results of policy decisions that achieve unexpected (and unfortunate) results.