MixedWashington Independent Review of BooksBradford goes into excruciating detail in dethroning the famed novelist. At times, the reader suffers from too much information. We are exposed even to Mailer’s very early sexual urges. There is something off-putting — voyeuristic — about this, and one wonders at its point ... The book contains a bibliography but no list of archives, papers, or periodicals, nor any persons interviewed. Instead, Bradford seems to have relied almost exclusively on secondary sources. There are no end notes or footnotes, either ... The index, too, is curiously inadequate ... Still, in the end, Tough Guy adequately charts the controversies, the scandals, the successes, and the failures — in literature and in life — of its complicated subject.
Thomas E. Ricks
MixedThe Washington Independent Review of BooksRicks takes us inside the often tense, sometimes fractious inner circle of civil rights leadership. Nor does he sugarcoat the sexism in the movement ... What lessons are we to learn from Ricks’ military analysis of the Civil Rights Movement? It may be that any political movement lacking an all-encompassing strategy and specific tactics is likely to fail. Conversely, those skillfully employing his prescribed roadmap may succeed. But such action can be applied by dictators as well as democrats. Philosophy, perhaps even more than strategy and tactics, must underpin any movement for change.
PositiveWashington Independent Review of BooksA short but powerful addition to the Holocaust canon ... A small criticism of Wannsee: Longerich has written so extensively about the Holocaust (I counted 16 prior books), he seems to presume readers have as much knowledge as does he. Though he includes a list of abbreviations, some important items go unexplained. These include the Four Year Plan, a series of economic measures Hitler instituted in 1936, and the General Government, established to administer conquered Poland, Slovakia, and the Soviet Union. The Internet provides the missing information, but so, too, could have the author of this slim but important book.
David Wright Falade
RaveWashington Independent Review of BooksRiveting ... David Wright Faladé skillfully weaves real people and events into a compelling fictional narrative of life in the African Brigade ... Wright Faladé has done his research. His sense of place...is picture perfect, and the characters come alive on every page ... David Wright Faladé has brought a fictionalized version of Richard Etheridge’s story to a larger audience. It’s a tale worth telling — and one very well told.
RaveThe Washington Independent Review of Books... she offers a thoughtful and affectionate meditation on the state in which, despite its dualities, she still feels most at home. Where others might see a simple picture of unreconstructed racism, Gordon-Reed sees — and dissects — complexities that largely defy stereotypes. In so doing, she makes On Juneteenth an important part of the discussion about who and what we are as 21st-century Americans ... Gordon-Reed brings her substantial intellect to this intimate exploration of her home state, one she approaches with ambivalence but also love.
PositiveThe Washington Independent Review of Books... [a] fine work ... Bibliophiles will enjoy many of the stories King tells, which are often as much about the content of the books as those books’ actual form ... The book brims with historical context.
PositiveThe Washington Independent Review of Books... is not, strictly speaking, a military history, though the reader learns about battle tactics and strategies. This is human history, in which Matteson skillfully weaves the biographies of \'five heroes\' ... Matteson is an elegant writer, and his narrative is compelling and often cinematic. His description of death...is far more vivid than what is found in most military-history books ... Despite the book’s many strengths, though, there are some missed opportunities to enrich the story. Pelham, of the horse artillery, brought two slaves with him to the front, which was not uncommon for officers of the Southern gentry. But we are left wondering what became of them after he died in battle.
PanWashington Independent Review of BooksUnfortunately, Watts’ repeated use of the term \'Black Cabinet\' tends to exaggerate the status of its members and subordinate the individual stories of those it is meant to encompass. Until Bethune \'took command,\' in Watts’ words, the group accomplished little ... These mistakes are seemingly minor, but they add up and, for a knowledgeable reader, distract and detract from the book’s larger value ... In addition, the author does not provide a sense of place about where so many pivotal events in the book occurred. Though she cites many primary and secondary sources, one wonders whether, during the course of her research, she ever stepped foot in the nation’s capital. The writing lacks local color, scenes, and details that would have enlivened the narrative ... Throughout, names drop in and out, often with little character development. The author gets into the weeds to describe policy disputes, sometimes necessary but a slog for the reader. Most troubling of all, the book seems to lack the passion the subject would seem to demand — until the last chapter, when the author writes of those she collectively calls the Black Cabinet ... Sadly, The Black Cabinet fails to deliver on the promise of its title. That is unfortunate, because Watts has taken on an important but neglected chapter of American history — and, for this, she deserves credit.
PositiveThe Washington Independent Review of Books... a page-turner of a narrative ... Finn has crafted a taut, cinematic story that could’ve been a black-and-white high-society hijinks film from Hollywood’s golden era, a comedy of manners in a hostile land.
PositiveThe Washington Independent Review of BooksNagorski makes a compelling case ... These unforeseen turns of events in 1941 drive the book’s narrative. It slows only when Nagorski gives us too much detail about the comings and goings of diplomats — American, British, and Russian. Too many characters float in and out of these scenes. Here, the story tends to get bogged down, and this reader wished more for a summary.
PositiveWashington Independent Review of Books\"This is an immensely timely book, but, as the delivery of news and the contours of the media landscape change at warp speed, it is also quickly overtaken by events... For the merchants of truth, the medium is the message but also a moving target. Abramson has done an impressive amount of research, including interviewing Times executives with whom she parted ways. Her first-person section seems, at first, oddly out of place, but it is also an honest and unavoidable coming-to-grips with her own complicated relationship with the changing Times and her sometimes difficult role, both personally and professionally ... anyone who cares about the truth and how we distinguish fact from fiction — and how the truth is delivered today and in the future — would do well to read Merchants of Truth.\
PositiveThe Washington Independent Review of BooksAuthor Steven Ujifusa does not shy away from inconvenient truths, laying bare the shady origins of family wealth that over generations lifted some, if not all, boats, but also gave birth to a privileged social class that was as philanthropic as it was self-serving ... Ujifusa chronicles the competition among shipbuilders and ship captains to make the treacherous trips around the horns of South America and Africa to their ports of destination. These narrative chapters are among the most compelling in the book, filled with sadistic master skippers and first mates, unruly crews and the vagaries of the weather, including storms that threatened to sink vessels and doldrums that slowed their voyages to a standstill ... The early chapters are slow going, and the names of ship owners, traders, captains, and their ships tend to overwhelm ... Ujifusa’s writing is generally fluid, but clichés appear from time to time ... Overall, Ujifusa presents a sweeping, little-known piece of commercial history written by men willing to take risks, and occasionally work the grey areas of the law, to achieve some measure of fame and fortunes that survive to this day.
PositiveWashington Independent Review of BooksNot to minimize the threat of anti-Semitism — otherwise, why write this book? — but Weisman maintains that other minority and marginalized groups are facing far worse ... Weisman could have anticipated the criticism and been more balanced had he acknowledged such efforts and recognized that American Jews are far from monolithic in their views on Israel. Nor have many American Jews pulled their punches in joining with other groups in fighting bigotry in this country. He gives short shrift to activist groups such as Jews United for Justice and others. But Weisman seems less interested in Jewish activism in other spheres than he is concerned with Jewish mainstream myopia when it comes to Israel. There is no doubt, as he well documents, that vicious anti-Semitism from the Alt Right is on the rise and, through the unchecked channels of the Internet, has gone viral, literally infecting the political mainstream.
MixedThe Washington Independent Review of BooksMitchell has taken a footnote to history and turned it into a book. He provides background on the tunnels and tunnelers, a necessary foundation, but it takes too long to get to the network competition, the central dramatic element. There's potential here, what with spies and counter-spies and White House efforts to successfully stop one network from proceeding. But there is much that is buried deep in the weeds and too many local characters to sort out.