PositiveThe Washington Post... delightful ... Nussbaum is a veteran of the profession, possessing a witty, Art Buchwald-esque writing style ... Another of the book’s strong suits is its resurfacing of potentially incendiary speeches that were never set ablaze ... I’m baffled why Nussbaum included Mayor Abe Beame’s draft 1975 speech announcing that New York was teetering on bankruptcy — which is unreservedly dull. Sometimes, too, the book lurches into the quicksand of what former Atlantic Monthly managing editor Cullen Murphy once called \'provisional history,\' or seems to weave from port to port with no ultimate destination in mind. To some degree that’s to be expected, a lack of through-line being almost inevitable in a compendium of speeches that, for various reasons, went unspoken. But I did sometimes have the feeling of sifting through a Christie’s or Sotheby’s catalogue: its listings factually accurate, well curated, and interesting in and of themselves, but telling no overarching story ... Some chapters, however, hold up in dramatic ways, and the closing one is particularly strong, with Nussbaum reflecting on how great figures’ last words can live in immortality ... in Nussbaum’s able hands, this cruise through what-might-have-been offers a hell of a fun ride.
PositiveWashington PostSprawling and wildly ambitious, idiosyncratic and also consistently readable and engaging, Making History dives deep into the way history-driven scholars and artists — from Burns to Shakespeare to Herodotus — have shaped the collective memory of humankind. Championing both famous and largely forgotten historians as well as storytellers, filmmakers and photographers, Cohen’s volume offers memorable anecdotes and reasoned judgment as it explores themes including the foundational mythos of the Old and New Testaments ... Cohen clearly prizes narrative flow over ivory-tower historical analysis, stressing novelists’ and playwrights’ ability to conjure the atmosphere of past times and places instead of just recording facts ... Somewhat ironically, Cohen then holds up Chinese writer Ban Zhao (45-116) and Byzantine scholar Anna Komnene (1083-c.1153) as examples of underappreciated female historians — though both made their names supporting and writing about men ... Among Cohen’s strengths is his sheer enthusiasm for his favored writers.
Garrett M Graff
RaveThe New York Times Book Review... dazzling ... A lively writer, Graff explores the dramatic scope of the Watergate saga through its participants — politicians, investigators, journalists, whistle-blowers and, at center stage, Nixon himself ... With granular detail, Graff writes about the white-collar criminals, hatchet men and rogues who populated the outer circles of Nixon’s covert operations.
PositiveThe Washington PostToday, when everyone knows that Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk are financing private space missions, but few can name any of the more than 200 astronauts who have lived on the International Space Station, it can be hard to explain the excitement and awe that 1962 mission aroused in Americans of all stripes, as well as people the world over. It seems like a story from a simpler and altogether less-jaded time — a time Jeff Shesol captures in Mercury Rising, which brings Glenn’s story alive again with both nostalgia and a riveting, fast-paced narrative that has \'movie\' written all over it ... Shesol does a marvelous job of documenting Glenn’s steady rise ... While Mercury Rising captures the sense of energy and possibility in America’s Cold War space program, and ably explores what the New York Times once called Glenn’s \'prickly sense of integrity,\' there’s still a need for a definitive biography of America’s first true space hero.
RaveThe Washington Post... an excellent single-volume biography of America’s greatest first lady ... Nothing about Eleanor is staid or plodding. Michaelis, the author of wonderful biographies of Charles Schulz and N.C. Wyeth, writes beautiful nonfiction prose ... Wherever the intrepid Eleanor travels, Michaelis offers vivid descriptions of topography, wardrobe, weather conditions and societal moods as if an understudy for Charles Dickens. While Michaelis’s style is sometimes florid, his uncanny ability to nail down the atmospherics of a particular place and time with consummate grace is engaging ... The last chapters of Eleanor, when the Swiss physician David Gurewitsch enters the narrative as a love interest, are absolutely spellbinding.
RaveThe Washington Post... brilliantly written, eye-opening ... Frank...is the ideal public intellectual to grapple with this duality. From 1891 to the rise of Trumpism, Frank walks readers through a minefield of assumptions about populism’s nature and history. His reflections on the 1896 presidential election set the narrative’s pace and tone ... Throughout The People, No, Frank takes pains to look at populism through a broad lens ... His reflection on how the jeans-clad Jimmy Carter wrapped himself in populism to avoid being tagged as a socialist, liberal or conservative is spot-on.
Doug J. Swanson
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewThough well-written, Cult of Glory isn’t a book for the fainthearted. Swanson, a prodigious researcher, recounts how in their nearly 200-year “attention-grubbing” history Rangers burned peasant villages, slaughtered innocents, busted unions and committed war crimes ... Swanson portrays the 19th-century Rangers as a paramilitary squad, proudly waving the banner of white supremacy. Nevertheless, he also dutifully recounts the bravery of the scouts John \'Coffee\' Hays and Sam Walker during the Mexican-American War in protecting American supply trains from attacks by Mexican guerrillas ... While Swanson ably deals with botched Rangers work like the 1980s investigation of the serial murderer Henry Lee Lucas, the most gripping drama of Cult of Glory is found in the early chapters.
PositiveThe Washington Post... might be wrongly dismissed as a mere campaign polemic. In truth, Brown’s elegant portraits of his Desk 88 predecessors have marvelous historical value ... Brown’s engaging book tacks solely to the left, valorizing Democratic dragonslayers who took on Jim Crow, Joe McCarthy, the Vietnam War and other evils ... What makes Desk 88 particularly engaging are anecdotes illuminating the heroes’ convictions and character ... Brown’s book suffers somewhat from its narrow focus on the white male fraternity that sat at Desk 88 — which reflects the entire Senate for most of its history. The approach makes it impossible to recognize the progressive contributions of female senators and senators of color. It also means some names get elevated undeservedly ... The book’s narrative also tends to sag whenever Brown abandons his solid historical approach to call out more recent policy accomplishments that he had a hand in, such as working to pass the Affordable Care Act ... Brown’s efforts to insert himself into the historical narrative are sometimes obtrusive ... Despite these quibbles, it’s heartening to know that the Senate today has a history-minded member like Brown among its ranks ... the senator is a fine prose stylist.
PositiveThe Los Angeles TimesHitchens represents a far more noble intellectual tradition: the rapscallion iconoclast. Being able to shape-change, shed skins, sit on the hillside overlooking suburbia like a coyote, Hitchens represents a dying breed of public intellectual whose voice matters precisely because it can’t be easily pigeonholed or ignored ... At the core of Hitch-22 are Hitchens’s British anxieties about class and decline of empire ... But, in truth, Hitch-22 shows us more how Hitchens is a great pamphleteer — like Thomas Paine — rallying against perceived social injustice and religious fanaticism. While his targets are sometimes wrong — like Mother Theresa — his originality of argument is always refreshing.
RaveThe Boston Globe\"This isn’t a rushed account aimed to fulfill a fat publishing contract or settle scores or provide uplift (though it does). Every page sparkles with directness and grace. She writes compellingly of the complexities of marriage and family with honesty and the kind of confidence that comes of being a person of integrity who knows who she is—and is comfortable with it. Like its author, Becoming’ is a work of solid worth ... Not that Becoming’ is Trump obsessed or gloomy (though her mournful remembrances of the Newtown, Conn., Charleston, S.C., and Orlando, Fla., massacres are haunting). Her grief and grievances never overwhelm. Many pages are filled with fun bits about Carpool Karaoke with James Corden, Nerf dunking with LeBron James, and discussing women’s shoes with Queen Elizabeth II.\
RaveThe Washington Post...meticulously researched and authoritative … Adequate single-volume biographies about FDR abound. But none are as heroically objective and wide-angled as this fine Dallek effort. A master synthesizer of primary sources, Dallek, who previously won the Bancroft Prize, brilliantly deliberates on Roosevelt’s Hudson Valley childhood, tenure as assistant secretary of the Navy (1913-1920) and years as a progressive New York governor (1929-1932). The anchor of this book, however, is the White House years … I found Dallek’s spirited examination of how Roosevelt interacted with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill from 1940 to 1945 the most enthralling part of this biography.
Gordon S. Wood
RaveThe Boston GlobeThat Wood has written Friends Divided — a finely-crafted dual biography of Adams and Jefferson — is therefore a hearty cause for celebration. Every page sparkles with literary eloquence, flawless analysis, and dramatically plotted history that contains a lesson for a riven time ... The structural device Wood employs involves systematically juxtaposing the differences between the aristocratic planter Jefferson of Virginia and the self-made lawyer Adams of Massachusetts ...looks at how their divergent philosophical views about the epochal Enlightenment and French Revolution played out, letting readers decide for themselves the righteousness of each argument ... By the end of Friends Divided it’s clear that these two icons knew they were tied at history’s hip.
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewBalance is what Cozzens is seeking in this detailed recounting of random carnage, bodies burned, treaties broken and treachery let loose across the land. Although the book is not a seamless narrative, and its writing is sometimes stodgy, Cozzens admirably succeeds in framing the Indian Wars with acute historical accuracy ... Cozzens excels at showcasing how rogue officers often disregarded orders from Washington in pursuit of glory. At the same time, he is very clear that many Army officers behaved honorably.
PositiveThe Washington PostPinning down FDR’s innermost thoughts is always an elusive goal for a scholar, but Lelyveld has the fortitude and skill to properly analyze FDR’s decision-making process. What makes His Final Battle so exceptional is Lelyveld’s admirable ability to write nonfiction with highly stylized lyrical beauty ... There is, however, to my mind, a fundamental shortcoming to Lelyveld’s analysis of how FDR envisioned the postwar world...Lelyveld gives short shrift to the gigantic role his distant cousin Theodore Roosevelt played in FDR’s geopolitical thinking ... Somewhat mysteriously he pretends that Eleanor Roosevelt — who barely warrants a couple of cameo appearances in these pages — is irrelevant.