RaveBooklistHorowitz continues to delight in mixing real life...as nebbish against the always-three-steps-ahead Hawthorne. Not to worry, their relationship isn’t over quite yet. There’s much more to discover, and readers will be waiting eagerly for more from one of the best mystery writers around.
PositiveBooklistFocusing on the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, the book draws from scores of interviews to make its various points. Some, like the discussion with Susannah Heschel, the daughter of civil rights icon Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, are enlightening. Others, like those with Heschel’s other family members, are less so. Though Tamkin raises a wealth of questions about everything from religious observances to neoconservatism versus liberalism, there are not many answers, and that, ultimately, is the point when it comes to the identity of a group as diverse in beliefs and practices as American Jewry. This book is very wide-ranging, not always very deep, but always thought-provoking, and it offers many ideas for readers to explore further.
Peter Baker and Susan Glasser
RaveBooklistWith so many books about Donald Trump on the shelves and still more in the pipeline, how does a new one distinguish itself? In this case, it’s through the journalistic chops of coauthors Baker, the New York Times White House correspondent, and the New Yorker’s Glasser. There’s also the book’s heft: at more than 700 pages, it draws on information from hundreds of interviews (many, unfortunately, off the record) as well as written accounts, personal papers, and texts. For now anyway, The Divider is the definitive account of Trump’s White House years. Much of the story is, of course, known. Those who’ve avidly followed the twists, turns, and intrigues of the Trump administration will find plenty that’s familiar. Still, there are juicy surprises ... The story continues, but Baker and Glasser give readers an indispensable starting point.
PositiveBooklistOsman has hit the bullseye ... Osman writes with a very light touch. There’s almost a madcap feel to the action at times, yet he doesn’t shy away from issues affecting the elderly: diminishing mental and physical capabilities, loss of image, and the feeling of time running out. Plenty of layers, but plenty of laughs, too.
Mary Rodgers, Jesse Green
RaveBooklistThese kinds of famous names are strewn throughout this memoir, and that’s part of what makes it so fascinating, turning Rodgers into a privileged Broadway Zelig, who knew everyone (and their secrets) and isn’t afraid to spill them. Rodgers’ voice comes vividly alive here, even though she died in 2014. Apparently, it took coauthor and theater critic Green lots of time to cull years of his interviews with Rodgers and to annotate each page with copious, often-amusing notes, and the result is a candid, hilarious, and fascinating look at a life lived with honesty and only the occasional regret. Whether Rodgers is recounting her lifelong love for childhood friend Sondheim or describing her perpetually fraught dance with her parents, this will have readers applauding loudly.
PositiveBooklistThe family story is thoroughly involving, but Tur has a lot more pages to fill, and here she struggles a bit. There’s her romance and marriage to CBS Mornings co-anchor Tony Dokoupil and plenty about the c-section birth of their son, Teddy. Her COVID-19 years are as boring as everyone else’s COVID-19 years, and she fades to black with the events of January 6. Still, Tur (and her husband) are high profile, so this will attract attention.
RaveBooklistWhat a splendid conceit! Emma and Mr. Knightly are having a house party, and a number of other characters from Jane Austen’s books have been invited ... Of course, this works best if readers are familiar with the Austen crew, but even without that, Gray provides plenty of backstory and enough depth to her characters ... One of the book’s surprising elements is Gray’s decision to focus on Jonathan Darcy’s personal habits, which today would put the young man on the autism spectrum. It’s Jonathan’s ability to see things differently that allows him and Juliet to take the lead as the tale’s sleuths. There’s so much fun to be had in this reimagined Austen world—and the mystery is so strong—that one can only hope, dear reader, that more books will follow.
PositiveBooklistThose who read Vanity Fair during those halcyon days when it helped set the cultural agenda will appreciate Brown’s style: witty, smart, knowing, and topped with a dollop of wonder at getting as far as he did. There’s name dropping but not much dishing, as Brown seems to have liked most everyone he encountered (except Fran Lebowitz). The insider angle will draw readers, but it’s the vivid recollections of publishing in the grips of change that will linger.
RaveBooklist... a multifaceted portrait of greater DC, Bernstein’s home town. Bernstein is something of a Zelig here, turning up in a reportorial role at multiple historic events ... Bernstein catches history in this thoroughly absorbing read.
PositiveBooklistThe subtitle for Brooks’ rose-colored autobiography could have been It’s a Wonderful Life. Even events that might have distressed others get a positive spin ... He goes into depth about his own films and shows, but it would have been nice to hear more about the excellent movies his production company made, including The Elephant Man and My Favorite Year. Brooks is a national treasure who’s not shy to admit it, and his laugh-filled memories mix with an optimism that fans will find almost contagious.
PositiveBooklistOsman, a familiar TV face in the UK, captures the spirit of older folks who don’t want to be pigeonholed by their age and who capture the charming insouciance of those who’ve seen a lot, including death. The use of the present tense moves the dialogue at a sprightly clip, while the plot itself often gallops. But it is the four very different, sometimes annoying, but utterly endearing members of the club who will leave readers eager for Osman to call the next meeting to order.
Bob Woodward and Robert Costa
PositiveBooklistWhat hasn’t been touched on much in the early media coverage of this book is that it spends a fair amount of pages on Joe Biden, his campaign, and his actions after the election, a welcome, if sometimes bland, counterpoint to the postelection frenzy ... In the continuing flood of books about Trump and the election, this stands out as not just another political tell-all.
PositiveBooklist... [a] provocative book of essays ... Shylock, Chagall, and the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting are just a few of the Jews who wander through the pages, with Horn herself sometimes a witness, at others providing insightful commentary full of anguish and rage. This is not an easy book to read. But wrestling with Horn’s ideas makes for a rich experience. In all, a profound lament.
PositiveBooklistThe story is both tense and methodical in equal measure ... Leonard delivers a crisp procedural elevated by intriguing characters on both sides of the law.
Julie K. Brown
MixedBooklistThough the emphasis is on Epstein’s crimes, the fallout for his victims, and the disgrace of a two-tier justice system, Brown interweaves it with her own experience as an underpaid, overworked reporter in the sadly dying profession of local journalism. These two stories are sometimes juxtaposed clumsily, forcing readers caught up in Epstein’s saga of perversion, excess, and privilege to suddenly segue to learning about Brown’s difficulty saving for her kids’ college tuition.Throughout, however, the account of Brown’s dogged reporting, her willingness to spend hours digging, traveling, and interviewing, even in the face of threats and stonewalls, is inspiring, and ultimately her work led to Epstein’s arrest. Brown lays out a lot about the way the world works, and much of it isn’t good. But, sometimes, when enough people stand up, justice prevails.
RaveBooklistThe premise is delightful—Agatha Christie working as consultant for the British Secret Intelligence Service—and the Isle of Skye setting in this third entry in Wilson’s series...is evocative ... Wilson does an excellent job of using familiar Christie tropes—including the roomful of suspects for the denouement—but this has a freshness of its own, helped by taking readers inside Agatha’s head as she deals with personal demons. Fans of mystery fiction’s Golden Age will be entranced.
PositiveBooklist... an exhaustive examination of the whole affair in a work of exemplary narrative nonfiction ... Sabar also seems to have an agenda, often going out of his way to throw shade at King. Provocative and probing, this will entice readers interested in the history of early Christianity.
PositiveBooklist... all is explained in a smart, Agatha Christie–style finale in which friends and foes are gathered to hear who did what and why. One of the series strengths is the focus on the personal lives of Iris and Gwen, both of whom are struggling, Iris with the consequences of her activities during the war, Gwen with battling for custody of her son. Written with flair and lots of snarky humor, this is great fun for British mystery fans.
MixedBooklistIf you’ve been paying attention, there aren’t a lot of surprises in former National Security Advisor John Bolton’s book, at least as far as headline stories go ... Still, it’s enlightening to read about these shocking decisions with voice-over commentary from an eyewitness. In addition, though, there are a few depressing surprises ... When it comes to Trump, Bolton barely needs to point out the inconsistencies and inadequacies; he mostly just reports. Yet Bolton himself hardly comes off well ... He clearly admires his own prose, writing in drill-down detail past the point most readers need or want to go. Yet one place where he’s woefully short on detail is the epilogue, which discusses why he didn’t testify during the impeachment trial. His primary excuse, that the House’s inquiry was too narrow in scope and limited in time because of the election calendar, seems weak at best ... Bolton obviously fancies himself as a truth teller. He should know that it’s never too early to tell truth to power, especially if you’re in the room where it happened.
Bart D. Ehrman
RaveBooklistThis is a wide-ranging survey ... Ehrman takes pains to show the differences and similarities in the various schools of thought. The book is at its best when it gets into Ehrman’s wheelhouse: early Christianity and the Jewish influences surrounding it ... Ehrman’s twin strengths are deep knowledge and an accessible style. This displays both in spades.
PositiveBooklistFor the millions of Americans who feel the very idea of a traditional presidency slipping from their grasp, you are not wrong—and this incisive and insightful book explains the why, the how, and, of course, the who ... This clear-eyed and highly readable account shows exactly how we got where we are, in both the short and long term.
PositiveBooklistWhether in snippets from a variety of people on topics ranging from religion to drug use, or in the longer, several-page interviews, Stern does know how to get his subjects to reveal themselves for the audience’s entertainment. And, of course, he willingly sheds his own inhibitions, not that there’s much to disclose after all this time. Vintage Stern, well seasoned.
RaveBooklistAnd you thought the The View could get crazy on-screen (Joy Behar and Meghan McCain, we’re looking at you). This pull-back-the-curtain story of almost two decades of the groundbreaking talk show delivers ... This is everything a behind-the-scenes book should be—dishy, surprising, and written with the unprecedented help of those who lived it.
RaveBooklistSweeping in scope, yet as intimate as a breath—that is how Parini presents the story of the Apostle Paul. The parameters of Paul’s life are well known, and books about him—fiction and nonfiction—appear regularly. But few are written with the intense detail and keen insight that Parini provides ... It’s a deeply intimate portrait (and it’s good history, too, highlighting the women who supported and often subsidized the Way) ... Parini is a poet, and the beauty of his language is everywhere, whether he’s describing the glories of the ancient world or the form and faces of the young people Paul admires with a profound wistfulness. A moving read, both earthy and transcendent.
RaveBooklistIn hands less skilled than Berry’s, this multifaceted novel might easily have spun out of control. Mixing Greek gods, the brutally described horrors of war, the tenderness of love, and the evils of racism, in both its blatant and insidious forms, seems more than one book can handle. Yet Berry is her own Scheherazade, mesmerizing us with intertwined tales that describe the depths of suffering and the sweetness of love with remarkable intensity and naturalness. This is one of those books in which readers will feel that they are in it together with all the story’s characters. In fact, it is one of Berry’s real triumphs that she manages to give nearly equal weight to a large cast of very different characters ... This is not particularly a young adult book. Every emotion, description, and literary sleight-of-hand could just as easily be in an adult novel. And that is one of Berry’s greatest strengths. She just writes ... proves again that Berry is one of our most ambitious writers. Happily for us, that ambition so often results in great success.
Andrew G McCabe
PositiveBooklist\"But this is so much more than the airing of a personal vendetta (though it’s also that). McCabe brings readers along as he gets the urge to join the FBI and undergoes the intense training, and then he offers an almost \'you-are-there\' account of the stress that working cases like the Boston Marathon bombing puts on an agent ... Most important, this book is a primer on how the FBI works and why its independence is an essential part of the American justice system ... McCabe’s pride in process seems almost quaint, considering the times, but the case he makes for maintaining norms is both solid and thoughtful. Significantly, he doesn’t hesitate to acknowledge mistakes, like the Comey press conference on the Clinton emails.\
Omarosa Manigault Newman
PanBooklistAlthough it’s her disclosures about Trump that have made the headlines...this book is in many ways more the story of someone who happily gives up her principles to pursue a greater public image ... Like many books of this ilk, this one is likely to have a short shelf life—hot at first and then quickly very cold.
PositiveBooklist OnlineHear the sizzle? That’s the sound of Wilson, Republican strategist and now Never-Trumper, burning the president, his family, cabinet, and GOP stalwarts ... Each of the Trump all-stars gets his or her own page or two of skewering. The disclosures aren’t pretty, but the writing is very amusing and most revealing ... This (book) differs from many Trump books in that Wilson knows where the bodies are buried. Have shovel, will exhume. Expect howls of Republican rage and Democratic delight.
PositiveBooklistThe labyrinth Ware has devised here is much more winding than expected, with reveals even on the final pages. The plotting is not completely seamless, but that is more than made up for by a clever heroine and an atmospheric setting, accented by wisps of meaning that drift from the tarot cards.
MixedBooklistJunor annoyingly throws in superfluous backstory and tangential names that stop the narrative at times, but fans of the royals will find this a satisfying piece of the puzzle.
Todd S. Purdum
PositiveBooklistAlthough the biographies of Rodgers and Hammerstein are naturally threaded throughout, this is much more the story of the music rather than the men. Written chronologically, the book details the evolution of the Broadway musical, from lighter-than-air plots and songs that could be plugged in at will, to more cohesive and deeper offerings ... The often-distant relationship between Rodgers and Hammerstein means that they don’t quite come alive for readers, but the music and the stories of how it came to be certainly does. Something wonderful, indeed.
Bob D. Ehrman
PositiveBooklistA number of reasons are examined [for the triumph of Christianity]: evangelism, works and miracles, the offer of expiation of sin, and the promise of heaven. And while it’s impossible to come to an exact conclusion, by leading readers through the history and, yes, the mystery of conversion, Ehrman offers much to consider, including noting the diversity and religious freedom that was lost in the process.
MixedBooklist...reads like a cross between The Emperor’s New Clothes and The Twilight Zone ... the text is mostly written in an omnipresent voice, so it’s difficult to determine what you’re reading—material from interviews or second-hand sources or pure speculation—from moment to moment. In other words, a middle-grade nonfiction book typically has clearer sourcing ... in ways both funny and frightening, this account does reveal a distressing level of dysfunction, starting with Wolff’s ability to sit on a couch in the White House for months without someone kicking him out. Fake news or genuine exposé, this will have people talking for a long time—or until the next presidential tweet.
MixedBooklistIn her introduction, Tur says about the Trump phenomenon, 'I won’t try to explain. I will just tell you what I saw.' And this becomes frustratingly true, as the book goes on. This is a travelogue through Trump ’16, and it only covers what Tur covered herself. There’s very little about policy issues, Hillary Clinton, even behind-the-scenes campaign backstabbing. What the book does well, however, is capture the blur of a campaign and the buffeting of journalists’ personal lives. Tucked within the well-trod territory is the book’s strongest element: the disturbing on-site reports of how deep the hatred ran at the rallies. Tur communicates how shocking it was to see ordinary people become unleashed in crowds, calling Clinton the c-word, or even screaming 'assassinate the bitch.' She writes about what it feels like to need private security and to have a Trump supporter spit in her face, and that resonates powerfully. A thin but very personal first draft of history.
PositiveBooklistOn the surface, the book doesn’t seem to reveal much more about the man personally—illegitimate, gay, sometimes unfocused—than does a solid encyclopedia entry. Ah, but when Isaacson discusses da Vinci’s artistic and scientific endeavors, all manner of fascinating connections begin to emerge ... Encompassing in its coverage, robust in its artistic explanations, yet written in a smart, conversational tone, this is both a solid introduction to the man and a sweeping saga of his genius.
Hillary Rodham Clinton
PositiveBooklistLet’s get one thing out of the way at the top: Clinton takes personal responsibility for her loss in the 2016 presidential election—and she does so multiple times throughout this memoir, which proves to be much more than a political autopsy. As in her previous books, Clinton is eagle-eyed about her faults and clearly recognizes where her statements and actions (deplorables, anyone?) worked against her ... in her wonkish way, and exhibiting a clear desire to figure out how it went wrong, Clinton goes much deeper than just examining the particulars of the campaign and the election ... There are a few incidents treated as nothing-to-look-at-here moments that could have used more discussion, especially Bill Clinton’s tarmac meeting with Attorney General Loretta Lynch, which is dismissed in a few sentences. But the remarkably few sour grapes expressed in the book hardly comprise a whine. Writing in her smart, sometimes self-deprecating voice, Clinton brings much-needed perspective to the election, especially for her millions of supporters, who also want to know what happened and why.
PanBooklistAlmost 1,500 pages, this is unwieldy, both to handle and to read in its obsessive and sometime repetitive detail ... Biographers need not like their subjects, of course, but what Garrow’s hefty tome mostly adds up to is a sour experience for readers and, apparently, for the writer.