MixedThe AtlanticThis book is humbler than its predecessor, and more balanced between liberalism and conservatism—but it offers a similar blend of the highbrow and the banal. Readers get a few glimpses of the fiery online polemicist, but the Peterson of Beyond Order tends instead to two other modes. The first is a grounded clinician, describing his clients’ troubles and the tough-love counsel he gives them. The other is a stoned college freshman telling you that the Golden Snitch is, like, a metaphor for \'‘round chaos’ … the initial container of the primordial element.\' Some sentences beg to be prefaced with Dude ... Reading Peterson the clinician can be illuminating; reading his mystic twin is like slogging through wet sand. His fans love the former; his critics mock the latter ... The prose swirls like mist, and his great insight appears to be little more than the unthreatening observation that life is complicated. (If the first book hadn’t been written like this too, you’d guess that he was trying to escape the butterfly pins of his harshest detractors.) After nearly 400 pages, we learn that married people should have sex at least once a week, that heat and pressure turn coal into diamonds, that having a social life is good for your mental health, and that, for a man in his 50s, Peterson knows a surprising amount about Quidditch ... On the rare occasion that Beyond Order strays overtly into politics, Peterson still can’t resist fighting straw men ... Is he arguing with Gloria Steinem or princess_sparklehorse99 on Tumblr? A tenured professor should embrace academic rigor ... The book leaves you wishing that Peterson the tough therapist would ask hard questions of Peterson the public intellectual.
PositiveThe AtlanticThe \'Lottie path\' is an extreme variation of that approach, and it has now fallen firmly out of fashion. Still, Dod’s story does shed light on women’s quest to claim their place in sports, a realm that has always been dominated by men—as players, officials, coaches, and viewers ... In Dod—as in other tennis trailblazers such as Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova—were gender, social, and sexual nonconformity somehow linked? Abramsky cannot be blamed for failing to settle questions like these, given that one of the problems of writing women’s history is a lack of primary sources. Dod’s letters are few, and she left no revealing personal diary to plunder for insights. That said, I wish the book included more of that essay Dod wrote at 18—and less irrelevant historical context ... Here and there, Little Wonder is padded like an American football player ... Wisely, however, Abramsky’s contribution to the feminist genre of \'lost lives\' wears its politics lightly. Dod was a pioneer, eager to achieve one female \'first\' after another. But she wasn’t a natural activist, even if she did persuade the Royal North Devon Golf Club \'to allow ladies to use their facilities from October through May of each year\' ... If Abramsky’s biography feels rather slight, it is because he refuses to co-opt her into an uplifting parable of women’s liberation. Instead, he celebrates her as a brave and talented and determined original. In sports, the battle of the sexes is far from over, but Dod won more than a few break points simply by living her own life to the fullest.
RaveThe New RepublicSolnit was the perfect writer to tackle the subject: Her prose style is so clear and cool that surely no one can have caricatured her as a shrieking harpy? ... There are only seven essays in this book, but the subjects range from the metaphors of Virginia Woolf to the sexual harassment suffered by female protesters in the Arab spring; perhaps the most disturbing is a piece mirroring Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s approach to his hotel maids with the IMF’s treatment of developing countries. I finished this book and immediately wanted to buy all the author’s other works. In [the] future, I would like Rebecca Solnit to Explain Things to Me.
Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey
PositiveThe GuardianPainstakingly researched, their account is less interested in Weinstein the Monster than the structures that enabled him to flourish ... It is a hymn to old-fashioned investigative reporting. Kantor and Twohey trawl through complex document trails, trying to find old non-disclosure agreements. They chase down tips and, more than anything, form relationships with sources, texting them dozens of times a day to coax them on to the record ... unique texture is what makes the Weinstein story ring true: how could so many people invent such similar lies? ... The second section of the book, describing the Kavanaugh hearings, is shorter and less satisfying, because the reporters were less involved. Nonetheless, it vividly depicts the shortcomings of a system that has no way to treat Blasey Ford’s accusations except as a partisan intervention ... The final section of the book is oddly dissonant ... Paltrow, meanwhile, is troubled by her unwitting complicity in Weinstein’s strategy ... The ambiguity of her story defines this book.
Yuval Noah Harari
MixedThe Guardian\"21 Lessons for the 21st Century is, as the title suggests, a loose collection of themed essays, many of which build on articles for the New York Times, Bloomberg and elsewhere. That has strange results ... The best reason not to throw this book out of the window is that, occasionally, Harari writes a paragraph that is genuinely mind-expanding ... There are plenty of provocations – why climate change might benefit the Russian economy, how humans could evolve into different species – but the globetrotting, history-straddling scope of Harari’s approach has an obvious drawback, which is that some of the observations here feel recycled. His sweeping statements, breathtaking though they are, can also feel untethered from the intellectual traditions from which they come ... Ultimately, the smudges and slips of Sapiens are forgivable, because it’s a rollicking good read and I suspect it acts as a gateway drug to more academic accounts of human history. However, this book sees Harari enter that class of gurus who are assumed to be experts on everything. The 22nd lesson of this book is obvious: no single member of the tribe Homo Sapiens can know everything. If this new age needs new stories, then we have to let more people tell them.\
Aziz Ansari & Eric Klinenberg
MixedThe GuardianThroughout the book, the comedian is reluctant to come to firm conclusions from his research, and sometimes his desire to be non-judgmental about other people’s choices makes his observations feel wishy-washy. He is not here to tell us what to do – instead, he sees his role as a tour guide, outlining the romantic landscape, pointing out the hidden traps and keeping up a steady patter of light-hearted comments. Unfortunately, these can fall flat – the energy and charm of his standup persona often don’t translate to the page ... I finished the book feeling that the time I’d spent with Ansari was not unpleasant, but rather unmemorable – and I wonder how he would have fared without his academic wingman. In that sense, it is not unlike many of the dates it describes: we had fun together, but I wouldn’t text him back.