RaveThe Boston Globe... as inviting, compelling, comprehensive, and endearingly quirky as the volumes it celebrates and explains ... Borchert’s brilliant account of how Representative Martin Dies Jr., whose chairmanship of the House Un-American Affairs Committee won him historical opprobrium, took on — or more, precisely, attempted to take down — the project is a discordant coda to the surprise symphony of the American Guides series.
RaveThe Boston GlobeIt’s not every day — it’s not every year — that a book appears that upends all the guiding historical views of the age. Then again, Jon Grinspan’s The Age of Acrimony is that rare disturbance in the waters of the historiography of 19th-century America. It is an engaging, inviting, and ultimately disruptive story of what happened between the assassination of Lincoln and the sinking of the Lusitania, though neither really serves as a bookend to Grinspan’s argument ... Grinspan offers us two books crammed into one hardcover binding ... There are times when the Kelley story seems a digression, but then again there were historical digressions aplenty in that era. Suffice it to say that their passage serviceably illuminates the country’s — from blustery winds of partisanship to more gentle (and genteel) breezes of reform that in time define the country even as they upend the nature of what it is to be an American in a broad half-century period ... Overall, Grinspan delivers a compelling look at America in this period, devoid of the clichés and cloying generalizations of textbook history.
Patrick Radden Keefe
RaveThe Boston GlobeWritten with novelistic family-dynasty and family-dynamic sweep, Empire of Pain is a pharmaceutical Forsythe Saga, a book that in its way is addictive, with a page-turning forward momentum. We see the Sacklers moving from marketing to entrepreneurship to art collecting to philanthropy to ignominy. It is an American story, and an American tragedy—and travesty ... thanks in large part to Keefe, the anonymity of the principals behind OxyContin not only is shattered, the fog that has shrouded the entire sad episode also has been stripped away.
RaveThe Boston Globe... a gripping adventure tale that deserves an honored place in the long bookshelf of volumes dealing with arctic shipwrecks, winter ordeals, and survival struggles ... On the (icy) surface, the Barents voyages possessed all the virtues of romance a sail into hostile waters on three-masted ships and on a dream of discovery. But like most stories of arctic adventure, there is a more prosaic aspect ... Pitzer sets out an ominous tone as Barents’s first mission sets out. On page after page the crew’s adventures and survival ordeals are beautifully rendered[.]
PositiveThe Boston GlobeReaders might expect that a book such as this would be a compendium of murder, mayhem, malfeasance, and misanthropic behavior, and they will not be disappointed in the fast-moving pages of this volume. But what they might not anticipate—and what separates this book from the many others that examine tyrants and tyranny—is the analysis that puts this phenomenon in perspective ... particularly strong on Mussolini and Franco ... Many readers can well live without Ben-Ghiat’s explicit disclosure that Mussolini and Gaddafi each had sex addictions, though even the prudes among us might find it intriguing to learn that Mussolini fathered about 20 children, that his first wife ended up in a mental institution, and that he had a son he caused to be murdered by lethal injection ... But whew: There is light amid the darkness here, for in the end tyrannies often come to an end.
RaveThe Boston Globe\'Brown was a first martyr in the war that freed the slaves, Lincoln one of the last,\' Brands writes in a tale told by a master storyteller, with a momentum and a power appropriate to the subject. In these pages we have the hare (Brown) and the tortoise (Lincoln). In these pages it is no fable, but instead one of the greatest, but surely the bloodiest, American stories.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalMr. Callahan offers up memorable moments and great-athlete portraits as he looks back on a life of sportswriting ... An episodic memoir, Gods at Play”has no long narrative arc. It does provide a few life lessons—but mostly of the kind that sportswriters have, such as it is good to overcome adversity and very good for ballplayers to answer reporters’ questions in the locker room. And yet this volume—written by one of the \'knights of the keyboard\' (as Ted Williams called sports reporters) and not by one of the sports hawkers on the tube—may be one of the last of its kind, given how endangered our daily newspapers are today. It has a beguiling charm, reminding us of the portraiture that was a recurrent feature in the work of the great keyboard-knights of the past: Axthelm, Murphy, Smith, Povich ... The deeper one reads into Gods at Play, the more one sees how much the world of sportswriters resembles the one that political writers occupy: seeing the world up close, knowing the boldface names, assuming that the rest of the country knows them too.
RaveThe Boston Globe... this book is very good ... Fredrik Logevall breaks little new ground; there are, to be sure, fresh details about his youthful romance with Inga Arvad, a perceptive portrait of Kennedy’s complicated but in some ways disrespectful relationship with Jackie, an intriguing insight about the sinews of character of brother Bobby. But the virtue of this volume, which stretches all the way to the failed Kennedy campaign for the Democratic vice presidential nomination in 1956, and presumably the value of the volume that follows, which will take readers to his Dallas assassination and American legacy, is that it plows much of the Kennedy ground with such dexterity and such wisdom. Misty-eyed Kennedy acolytes of a certain age will read it and weep. Modern, less romantic readers will read it and reap the benefit of Logevall’s acuity.
PositiveThe Boston Globe... a book that almost certainly will revive interest in a much-forgotten wrinkle of Jewish and Chinese history.
Jia Lynn Yang
PositiveThe Boston Globe... readable and at times enthralling ... the real energy of this volume comes from the drive for the comprehensive overhaul that was in large measure a redemption of the original American immigration dream ... Yang has written a captivating account, full of personality and drama — and significance. In our time, with fresh contention over immigration, it is worth reading to the last page.
RaveLos Angeles Times... a thoughtful look at the governor who shaped the state that has always reached the American future before the rest of the country ... Newton, who has published biographies of Dwight Eisenhower and Earl Warren, writes with verve, grace and the advantage over past Brown biographers of covering the finished product, rather than a work in progress ... He and his father, Gov. Pat Brown, had an affectionate but uneasy relationship that Newton sketches with skill, and in his comparisons between father and son he sets the younger Brown in sharp relief ... And there is plenty of commentary in these 448 pages, and people too ... Newton has produced a history of California as much as a biography of Brown ... In the end Newton calls Brown \'a gift to history.\' So is his book.
PositiveThe Boston Globe... affecting and affectionate ... Larson is unsparing in his description of Britain under those falling bombs ... a fresh angle on one of the most overwritten stories of modern times.
PositiveThe Boston GlobeThere are now dozens, perhaps scores, of Trump-inspired and Trump-infused books on the market. Most are screeds, tales of scandal and infidelity, with tax evasion and crudity mixed in. They comprise a modern genre. American Oligarchs occupies this space, to be sure, but Bernstein’s account is written with more grace than its cousins, and more care — sometimes even caution ... Early in Bernstein’s tale we encounter the modern origins of the Kushners, their Polish shtetl roots and the slaughter of many of them at the hands of the Nazis. It is an affecting, poignant story, told well and without the facile irony — struggling family in merciless mid-century war turns into crooked family in late-century New Jersey —that a less accomplished writer might employ ... Bernstein displays deep understanding of these two families, and how the progeny had social status the parents lacked but coveted ... The irony of books like this one — and books defending the president, even the one by his own son — is that they reinforce views rather than reshape them. Then again, that is what contemporary media, and contemporary conversation, do every day. In the end, American Oligarchs is the American conversation in hardcover.
RaveThe Boston GlobeThroughout this volume are vivid descriptions of the American landscape ... But Inskeep’s most powerful descriptions are of the man at the center of his story ... astute ... Steve Inskeep has performed a great service—to the Frémonts, and to history.
PositiveThe Boston GlobePick up Fred Kaplan’s The Bomb with caution, and as a cautionary tale. The caution is required because of the fear this book will relieve. The cautionary tale is the effect this book should have ... It is astonishing today to learn how much planning went into first strike options, how gratuitously Chinese targets were included in Pentagon plans to react to a crisis in Berlin, how quickly escalation of a military confrontation could reach a critical stage ... By the end of The Bomb the reader will be glad we are all around to discuss this history, which Kaplan put together with newly available documents. The reader also will say that we are damn lucky the nuclear genie remains in its fragile bottle.
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal... captivating ... It is good to have the stories of these men between hard covers, for their heroics occurred three-quarters of a century ago and are in danger of disappearing ... These figures come alive in these pages.
RaveThe Boston GlobeNicholas Shaxson’s The Finance Curse may seem radical — and indeed some elements do have more than a whiff of the far left — but in fact his arguments are at base an expression of, and a plea for, moderation ... The thesis at the heart of this volume is simple, artfully presented, easily digested. It is not a jeremiad against capitalism or commerce. It is an argument for restraint. It preaches what the top business schools preach but that many of their students defy: that finance can been a force for good, not greed ... t is a helpful, useful argument. But the great virtue of this book isn’t in the conclusion so much as it is in the elucidation of it, for this is an anecdote-filled, approachable history of (big) business. It is an engaging read ... By tracing the effect of tax havens, offshore banking, and what he calls stateless hot money, Shaxson sets out a conspiracy, mostly of silence, that enriches the rich and impoverishes the poor, through the unregulated machinations of financial institutions whose creepy credo he sets out crisply: \'You can trust us not to steal your money, but if you want to steal someone else’s money then you can also trust us to turn a blind eye.\' Maybe the best line of the year on an economic topic.
PositiveThe Boston Globe... perhaps the most imaginative book to emerge from the Senate since Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts produced Profiles in Courage ... This volume examines both the lives and passions of Brown’s seat predecessors but provides a peek, too, at the struggles earlier progressives undertook to redeem their creed ... These portraits are brisk brush strokes that bring light and color to all their subjects ... There are some enduring truths in these pages, none so great and powerful as the notion that two political figures sharing the same enemies share \'the strongest bond two politicians can have.\'
PositiveThe Boston Globe[Maddow] tells this tale deliberately and methodically, building her case not as a cable commentator, but as a Rhodes Scholar academic ... Maddow builds a case of cross-cultural corruption that is marred only by the occasional informality of her prose and her sometimes-distracting wise-guy rhetoric...Even so, she displays a deep understanding of what makes Russia work in the age of Putin.
RaveThe Boston Globe...a lively, though engagingly idiosyncratic, look at the forces that shape nations and the way leaders behave when faced with the inevitable consequences of those forces. And before he’s finished he focuses on the United States and the challenges of our time. Spoiler alert: He’s more optimistic than readers may expect in the face of climate change, political paralysis, public incivility, and low voter turnout ... The great pleasure of this volume is the random intriguing insights peppered throughout these cases ...
Some readers may regard Diamond as a chronic worrier—he deplores barriers to voting, the high cost of elections, social and financial inequality, decreased economic mobility, the decline in investment in education, and huge variations in educational opportunities across the states, races, and classes. But no. He’s actually an optimist, though of a curmudgeonly sort.
RaveThe Boston GlobeApproachable, dramatic, even riveting, Wineapple’s volume is both guidebook and cautionary tale for our times ... the portrait of [President Andrew] Johnson that emerges from Wineapple’s pages isn’t pleasant ... And yet Wineapple tells us that Johnson was more complicated than the villainous cardboard character that has been passed down in history for generations ... Above all he was a portrait of contradictions, a slaveholder dedicated to the preservation of the Union.
RaveThe Boston Globe... by the end of the second page, maybe the third, you will be hooked. You’ll come to understand that the author, New Yorker writer George Packer, understood Holbrooke, understood power, understood America in its eclipse at the end of the 20th century and into the 21st ... you’ll realize that Holbrooke, who died nine years ago, was central to what was central to much of postwar American life, and that in a terrifying way his story is America’s story ... there seldom has been a book quite like this—sweeping and sentimental, beguiling and brutal, catty and critical, much like the man himself ... [an] undercurrent of poignancy that runs throughout ... this book screams a lesson about the perils of substituting ambition for the true distilled idealism of youth. It is a treatise of loyalties abandoned, chances squandered, promise wasted.
PositiveThe Boston GlobeBrinkley’s story is a gripping one, matching the passion and idealism of the New Frontier with the technological, engineering, and physics challenges inherent in converting rudimentary rockets into space boosters for Project Mercury and then, with an eye on the main prize, developing the giant Saturn V rocket and concocting the notion of sending a lunar-excursion module to the lunar surface while a command module orbited above the moon waiting to ferry the astronauts (and their cache of moon rocks) home to a breathless Earth ... Brinkley writes with an eye to the main narrative but with ample digressions to explain the political and, often, technical challenges Kennedy faced. And as someone who was only 2 years old when Kennedy was assassinated, Brinkley’s vision is fresh, not affected by, nor infected with, the lost-promise romanticism dating to Nov. 22, 1963, that so many writers of that period possess.
George Howe Colt
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalSports fans will never agree about which college football game was the greatest ever. But there can be no disagreement about the greatest headline ever printed in a college newspaper. It was \'Harvard Beats Yale, 29-29,\' and it appeared in the Harvard Crimson after the Harvard-Yale game of 1968 ... The Game, by George HoweColt, is the rare sports book that lives up to the claim of so many entrants in this genre: It is, in its way, the portrait of an era.
RaveThe Wall Street JournalThe story is vividly told ... Tigerland is...only partially about those shimmery twin championship seasons at East High in Columbus. It is also the tale of a city in the heart of the heart of the country at a troubled time and an account of young black men struggling to make their way in a nation that was sending combatants 8,000 miles away to keep a foreign land free even as an eighth of its own citizens had yet to taste fully the sweet fruits of freedom. Behind the beauty and artistry of the East High Tigers are the harsh home conditions of many of the athletes, some of them sons of maids with no savings, some living literally on the wrong side of the railroad tracks. It is those sorts of juxtapositions that make Tigerland a haunting, unforgettable book.
PositiveThe Boston Globe...Let’s stipulate that John F. Kerry is up against the odds with Every Day is Extra. It weighs in at around 600 pages and is, by any measure, weighty. It has lengthy accounts of the negotiations for the Iran nuclear treaty and the Paris climate-change pact. There’s a lot about Pakistan. Also about Syria, God help us. But in truth there is much to commend Kerry’s memoir ... Kerry shows remarkable honesty, depth, even spirituality ... There are, moreover, charming moments, especially his recollections of the old Senate, with drinks always on offer, cigar smoke in the cloakroom air, raw stories on his baronial colleagues’ lips, even — hard to believe today — moderates in the Republican Party. The only thing that doesn’t ring quite true are the repeated accounts of his chummy relationship with Senator Edward M. Kennedy ... Still, Kerry displays remarkable honesty. He speaks with refreshing forthrightness about faith and friendships, including his with Senator John McCain, the former Hanoi Hilton prisoner of war: \'What John didn’t and couldn’t know then was how difficult the journey to being against the war was for so many of us,\' he wrote.
Doris Kearns Goodwin
PositiveThe Boston Globe\"What is clear is that Goodwin likes these four. There is no snarling Richard Nixon, no bumbling James Buchanan, not even the halting but worthy William Howard Taft, who shared the spotlight with TR in her last book... In another\'s hands this might be a shortcoming. In Goodwin’s it is an irrelevancy. This is a celebration of leadership, not ideology ... Goodwin’s volume deserves much praise — it is insightful, readable, compelling even — but the strongest compliment might be this: Her book arrives just in time.\
John McCain and Mark Salter
PositiveThe Boston Globe...[a] remarkable farewell ... McCain memoirs are a sturdy perennial on American bookshelves — his name appears on the spine of a handful — but this one is different, not least because both he and his outlook (once fairly conventional Republican fare but now described as “maverick’’ because those views no longer are conventional) are in rapid decline. This book is clearly intended to be his last testimony and last political will and testament. In truth, the words, thoughts, and impulses that comprise the McCain testimony once were well-worn cliches ... Today those words, and many others between the covers of The Restless Wave, are frontal challenges to the current zeitgeist.
RaveWall Street JournalBasketball: Great Writing About America’s Game is like an all-star game between hard covers. It is also a volume that can be easily dipped into—the way Wilt Chamberlain used to dip into his free-throw shots, though the reader’s efforts will be better rewarded ... The anthology makes it clear that basketball is often a sport played by people struggling for and eventually personifying (literally and otherwise) upward mobility.
It is also a sport of fluid motion and rhythmic grace and thus, at times, poetical.
RaveThe Boston GlobeChernow rewards the reader with considerable life-and-times background, clear-eyed perspective, sympathy that stops short of sycophancy, and gritty and intimate details ... Along with industrialization, continental expansion, and the rise of mass consumerism, the principal theme in this biography, as in the years of Grant’s life, is the role of the African-American in our history, culture, and economy. Here Chernow is unambiguous. Grant, who married into a slaveholding family and owned a slave for a time, regarded slavery as an irredeemable evil ... All of this has fresh relevancy for our time. In this era, when the meaning, impact, and statues of the Civil War-era are undergoing fresh evaluation, Grant very likely will emerge unscathed. The Chernow biography assures his place in the American pantheon for decades to come.
PositiveThe Boston GlobeMost of his book, to be sure, is a prosecutor’s case against the transgressions of fraternities — drunkenness, exclusion, sexual assault, sexism, racism, anti-Semitism, mindless stupidity. But before he closes he produces something of a reform manifesto: Heal thyselves. Recruit adult alums to help. Make fraternities a lifelong commitment and commit them to performing good works. In short: Grow up ... Hechinger’s book will be vilified by fraternity supporters, but it deserves serious consideration, for while fraternities are at base undemocratic institutions their defense is based on democratic values. The collision between the two raises important questions. Maybe they should be the topic for the next fraternity meeting. It’s a powder keg for the keg set.
RaveThe Boston GlobeThe 10th entry in the series, covering the United States during Reconstruction and the Gilded Age, may be the most erudite and sweeping of them all — as well as among the most timely, reminding during a time of turmoil that the divisive tensions of race and class inequities, economic upheaval, and regional schisms have deep, tangled roots ... a rich and breathtaking portrait of a country that, from Reconstruction on, really was under construction ... Above all this volume reminds us that the last third of the 19th century, populated by forgettable presidents, was no blank page in history ... This is a great and grand story, punctuated by debates over tariffs and taxes, pockmarked by corruption and congressional failures, and around it all swirled questions of race and the small dramas of farmers and miners, pioneers and politicians, suffragettes and suffering masses, railroads and reformers. It is a large bite White has assumed, and a major commitment for the reader, but its rewards and lessons, too, are great and grand.
RaveThe Boston GlobeIt is a story of courage and determination, revenge and redemption, grippingly told in a fast-moving narrative ... Based on interviews, oral histories, and many primary sources, this is a readable, almost novelistic undertaking that opens a window into a much-ignored aspect of the war. But it is a history with personality — and irony, the inevitable byproduct of war ... It is a magnificent story, one crying out to be told and one that is told very well.
Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy
RaveThe Boston Globe...a breathtaking tale ... the authors’ indefatigable work provides incomparable detail ... With each page the reader is more astonished that this band of angry, alienated but, in the end, foggy-eyed and feckless men pulled off a complex, deadly operation that shook the United States to its core ... The bulk of The Exile, however, is not Sept. 11. Instead it is about what came after, the story of bin Laden and al Qaeda on the run or, in many cases, just sitting. The book is fast-paced, and the reader is helped along with an especially useful 'cast list’ to help keep the immense number of characters straight, and in perspective.
PositiveThe Boston GlobeIt is not too much to say that the month launched the world on a trajectory it would follow for the rest of the 20th century, the very argument Will Englund successfully makes in this new fast-paced history ... This is a book full of haunting, unforgettable wartime images: shivering residents of dark Berlin picking through rail yards for pieces of coal. Zoo elephants enlisted to pull sledges through the snow. Russians getting lice in the subway after standing too close in crowded train cars to soldiers back from the front ... 'World War I gave rise to the idea that it was better to fight the enemy abroad than wait for him to attack at home,’ Englund writes in his last paragraph, a passage that alone justifies the 322 pages that precede it.
PositiveThe Boston GlobeKinzer portrays both men as patriots, thinkers, and, in many cases, self-promoters. But while Roosevelt saw colonialism as 'Christian Charity,' Twain saw Christendom as 'a majestic matron in flowing robes drenched with blood' ... Indeed, the Roosevelt who emerges from these pages, like the one increasingly portrayed in American letters, is less the philosopher than the pugilist ... There are many fine elements in this book, including the delicious detail that Secretary of State John Hay was having an affair with Lodge’s wife as the two men were conferring on the Philippines treaty.
RaveThe Boston GlobeThe story of how those waves of millions, and those groups who came before and after, cascaded upon American shores is told brilliantly, even unforgettably, in Tyler Anbinder’s City of Dreams ... Anbinder is particularly strong on the ocean passage of the Irish (unbearably difficult), the travails of the Irish (especially those of female domestic servants), and the barkeeps of the Irish.
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal...an evocative and enterprising look at the team and the town. It is a big book, at more than 400 pages, but in other terms a miniature, capturing major cultural shifts (and tensions) in a regional microcosm.
RaveThe Boston GlobeBen Macintyre [is] a master storyteller ... It is a thrilling saga, breathtakingly told, full of daring and heroes; imaginative, even audacious, tactics; evocative code names; nighttime raids; and explosions across two continents ... One of the many virtues of this volume, broken into two sections, is the surprising small asides tucked into these pages, tiny truths that give the book depth along with derring-do.
RaveThe Boston Globe...[a] gripping story masterfully told ... The great achievement of Lelyveld is in synthesizing vast amounts of primary and secondary material into wise passages that are equal parts narrative and description ... we know how FDR’s final months turned out — but now we have a heroic and poignant picture of how and why.
Jean Edward Smith
MixedThe Boston Globe[Contains] some of the harshest language of any biography prepared by a respected scholar ... the preponderance is negative, and the pace of that negativity is relentless. Much is on the mark; Smith is particularly good on the nuances of Bush’s character. But the overall tone is so critical that it clouds an otherwise carefully researched portrait.
PositiveThe Boston GlobeWilentz’s verdict, fortified by examples from Jefferson to Jefferson Davis, and from Grover Cleveland presumably through the conventions in July: Partisanship is not only good, it is also productive. Who knew? ... In the course of all this Wilentz sets forth a provocative idea that may provide vital perspective to the politics of this very year.
RaveThe Boston GlobePhilbrick brings vivid you-are-there writing to this volume, a balm for the many readers who resist battle accounts, which comprise most of this volume ... Philbrick’s historical argument is convincing: that Arnold’s treachery had as much, or more, power over American sentiment than Washington’s heroism, and that Arnold’s treason steeled Americans once and for all to fight for their freedom. It is very possible that, as Philbrick argues, a nation created in disloyalty required an act of loyalty to find unity — and victory.
PositiveThe Boston Globe...[A] searing and searching examination of the political and cultural history at the root of this powerfully evocative and inflammatory term...Some readers may leave this volume with the weary conclusion that the American version of the ghetto is the sad reflection of the nation’s failures regarding race. In some of these pages, Duneier shares that view, which bends toward hopelessness. But in his conclusion, he offers a heroic bow to the residents of these places, a salute to their valiant efforts and to their values.
PositiveThe Boston GlobeEgan is, in his occasional rhetorical excesses, a bit of a 'babler,' but above all he is a master storyteller.
William E. Leuchtenberg
RaveThe Boston GlobeOverall, this book is an inviting triumph: the erudition of a distinguished historian, the elan of a master craftsman, the accessibility of a popular writer.
PositiveThe Boston GlobeIn The End of the Cold War, a massive new study of the last days of the Soviet empire, British historian Robert Service examines newly released Politburo minutes, recently available unpublished diaries, and minutely detailed negotiation records.
PositiveThe Boston GlobeBeevor’s battle descriptions crackle with you-were-there authenticity.