RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewThe evenhanded approach of Louis Menand, who won a Pulitzer Prize for The Metaphysical Club, is like a breath of fresh air. The Free World sparkles. Fully original, beautifully written, it covers the interchange of arts and ideas between the United States and Europe in the decades following World War II. Menand is no cheerleader; his assessment of America’s failures can be withering. But his larger point, backed by a mountain of research and reams of thoughtful commentary, is that American culture ascended in this era for the right reasons ... Authors are free to choose their characters, of course, and Menand, with 727 pages of text, is freer than most. There are finely tuned capsule biographies of Elvis, the Beatles, James Baldwin, Susan Sontag, Betty Friedan and Tom Hayden, along with a host of public intellectuals whose occupation no longer exists. Hundreds of names are mentioned, making it difficult at times to connect the dots. And there are some curious omissions ... One hopes Menand has a sequel in mind. The bar is set very high.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewFor some unexplained reason, Morris decided to write this saga in reverse, beginning with Edison’s final years and working backward to his birth in small-town Ohio in 1847. It’s the biographical equivalent of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, though Fitzgerald had the good sense to make it a short story, while Morris’s Edison” comes in at just under 800 pages, including footnotes ... This leads to a lot of flipping back and forth through the chapters, with a heavy reliance on the index to keep things straight ... Few biographers, however, possess the narrative talents of Edmund Morris. His ability to set a scene, the words aligned in sweet rhythmic cadence, is damn near intoxicating ... For all his quirks, Morris reminds us, Edison never lost sight of the future. And that, perhaps, is the key takeaway from this elegant, loosely crafted, idiosyncratic book. No inventor did more to nudge the world toward modernity, and few had a better feel for what the next generation of inventors might pursue.
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review... massive and masterly ... Based on more than a thousand interviews, written in broad imaginative strokes, this book, at 622 pages, is something of an anomaly in today’s shrinking world of nonfiction publishing: a narrative epic rigorous enough to impress all but the crankiest of scholars, yet so immensely readable as to land the author a future place on Oprah’s couch ... The book is not without problems, however. One is repetition...Another is omission ... Wilkerson has little to say about the following generation or its problems beyond a cheerful listing of politicians, athletes, musicians, writers and film stars ... Some historians, moreover, may question Wilkerson’s approach to her subject. She tends to privilege the migrants’ personal feelings over structural influences like the coming of the mechanical cotton picker, which pushed untold thousands of Southern blacks from the fields, or the intense demand for wartime factory labor, which pulled thousands more to manufacturing cities in the North. Wilkerson is well aware of these push-pull factors. She has simply chosen to treat them in a way that makes the most sense to her. What bound these migrants together, she explains, was both their need to escape the violent, humiliating confines of the segregationist South and their \'hopeful search for something better, any place but where they were. They did what human beings looking for freedom, throughout history, have often done. They left.\'
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewToo violent, too soft, too nationalistic, too unpatriotic—is pro football in trouble? There was a day, writes The New York Times Magazine’s chief national correspondent, Mark Leibovich, in Big Game, a gossipy, insightful and wickedly entertaining journey through the N.F.L. sausage factory, when the league could make sticky problems disappear. Not anymore ... Reading Big Game—a sparkling narrative—one gets the sense that, \'dangerous times\' aside, the N.F.L. will survive on the magnetism of the sport it so clumsily represents. Forget the greedy owners, the controversies, the Trumpian eruptions. Think instead of the last two Super Bowls—the historic Patriots comeback followed by the upset of mighty New England by the storybook Philadelphia Eagles, a perennial doormat. Pro football, minus the baggage, can be electrifying and redemptive. It’s September, time for kickoff.
MixedThe New York Review of Books...a searing account of good intentions gone awry ... Horn offers no solutions; she is a storyteller, and a good one. The problem is that her often riveting account rarely connects Blackwell’s to the outside world. There is little about the waves of immigration that transformed New York City, or the professionalization of its police force, or the advances in medicine and public health during a century of revolutionary change. As such, we never quite get off the island.
RaveThe New York Times Book Review\"God Save Texas is his most personal work yet, an elegant mixture of autobiography and long-form journalism, remarkably free of elitist bias on the one hand, and pithy guidebook pronouncements on the other. For those seeking the joys of line-dancing or the 10 best rib joints in Waco, this is not your book.\
PositiveThe Washington Post...a massive and masterly account of America’s political and economic transformation between 1830 and 1910 ... Hahn paints the latter half of the 19th century as an era of unchecked corporate expansion and imperial conquest ... In portraying this era as a struggle between the haves and have-nots, Hahn leaves some key questions unanswered. While providing superb capsule summaries of individual reformers and collective protests against the new capitalist order, he doesn’t confront the issue of why so many of these movements failed to catch fire ... Attempting a synthesis of a century’s worth of American history is a daunting task. Writing one as provocative and learned, if at times predictable, as this one is a triumph, nothing less.
RaveThe New York TimesIn meticulously tracing [Carrie Buck's] ordeal, Cohen provides a superb history of eugenics in America, from its beginnings as an offshoot of social Darwinism — human survival of the fittest — to its rise as a popular movement, advocating the state-sponsored sterilization of 'feebleminded, insane, epileptic, inebriate, criminalistic and other degenerate persons.'