PositiveThe AtlanticLevy’s novels have an undeniable—and undeniably winning—eccentricity. The introduction of a doppelgänger is a typically atypical move. Levy doesn’t exactly practice magical realism; her books are too tethered to the practicalities of life to ever be described that way. But her plots turn on weird moments and comical misunderstandings ... What’s thrilling about Levy’s novels is that they are alive with this relentless spirit of questing ... Levy’s feminist critique of the classical-music world is uncharacteristically lumpy. She overworks the theme of a woman forced to master the scores of male geniuses while suppressing her own creativity ... We should call her what she is: one of the most lively, most gratifying novelists of ideas at work today.
MixedThe AtlanticHer book doesn\'t feel terribly urgent ... Bakewell’s writing inspires immense pleasure. She is a warm, engaging, and clear explicator of dense ideas ... What makes these books so enjoyable is that Bakewell writes with the gusto of an enthusiast. But her history of humanism suffers from this tendency ... Without a pithy definition or clear doctrine, she can manage only to narrow humanism down to three characteristics: freethinking, hope, and inquiry ... Her writing goes down easy. But she tends to brush past the shortcomings of her subjects ... She seems conspicuously reluctant to engage in the culture wars roiling intellectual life and global politics, which is strange, because her book keeps returning to themes at the core of the conflicts.
Jacob S. Hacker
RaveThe New York Times Book Review... a portrait of the Trumpian moment that, in the book’s professorial way, is as terrifying as those Page 1 accounts of presidential ravings. They meticulously show how the president isn’t a singular presence, but a thoroughly representative one. Hacker and Pierson are two of the most reliable and reliably creative thinkers in their discipline ... persuasively and meticulously argued ... None of this analysis will astound a reader of journalists like Paul Krugman, Jane Mayer or Jonathan Chait. But there’s value in a calm overview that relentlessly traces the biggest themes of the era. This academic detachment lends credibility to the authors’ grim prophecy.
MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewIt makes important arguments, but Lanier has pressed many of them several times before. While Lanier has shown a capacity for wit, this book is hokey ... There’s a laziness to his polemic: a lack of examples, arguments that unfold much too quickly to gather their full powers of persuasion, writing that chokes on excessive metaphor ... Whatever the flaws of this short manifesto, Lanier shows the tactical value of appealing to the conscience of the individual. In the face of his earnest argument, I felt a piercing shame about my own presence on Facebook. I heeded his plea and deleted my account.
MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewThis is an important, erudite and flawed book about the deepest roots of this inflamed moment, which was shipped to the printer before the outcome of the American election. The fact that the book contains only a smattering of references to the new president strangely enhances the credibility of its doomsaying. Mishra didn’t scramble for a theory to fit the facts ... Just when lessons from the past seem to be building toward a point about ISIS or globalization, he layers on another digression about Dostoyevsky or Ataturk. This tendency can be frustrating — and one begins to suspect it is a crutch, since our current spate of anarchists, populists and terrorists are so much less theoretically minded and articulate than their antique antecedents. It’s a strange imbalance, but Mishra writes with enough style, energy and incision that he carries the reader through ... Mishra dwells in the realm of ideas and emotions, which get short shrift in most accounts of global politics. So it’s bracing and illuminating for him to focus on feelings, what he calls 'the wars in the inner world.' But he doesn’t have much to say about the material reality of economics and politics other than angry bromides about the 'Western model' and broad, unsupported statements about stagnation.