PanThe New Yorker... typical of Woodward’s White House-centric narratives: inconsistencies pile up; narrative threads are dropped and then recovered without any notice of the ways in which they have altered in the interim ... What is so hard to decipher about these early sections is to what extent Mattis, Tillerson, and Coats were as naïve as Woodward portrays them, to what extent they feigned cluelessness in order to justify their willingness to work for Trump, and to what extent their depictions are Woodward’s own infantilizing spin, intended to create bildungsromans out of the lives of men in their sixties and seventies ... Whether Woodward and his sources are aware or disengaged, cynical or naïve, takes on extra importance because of the unique challenges and outrages of our era, in which a willingness to abide Trump has sat side by side with an inability to understand his malignancy ... there is such a thing as too much access: chapter after chapter shows Trump ignoring questions and ranting about the media, Obama, and his poll numbers ... Acceptance of how far we have fallen would have meant not only reappraising the country many of them loved but also the Party many of them belonged to ... Those who read Rage now will get some sense of the hectic and turbulent nature of decision-making within the White House. But, years from now, the book is less likely to serve as a reminder of what it felt like to experience our age and more a sign of why it came about.
PositiveThe New YorkerAny book that delves deeply into the psyche of a country—or even presumes that countries have psyches—is bound to occasionally skirt the edges of absurdity. O’Toole, alas, can’t resist seeing political significance in the publishing success of Fifty Shades of Grey, imagining an audience for whom Christian Grey was the E.U. and Anastasia Steele innocent England. But his summation of the paradox at the heart of Brexit is succinct and shrewd: \'There is an imperial nationalism and an anti-imperial nationalism; one sets out to dominate the world, the other to throw off such dominance. The incoherence of the new English nationalism that lies behind Brexit is that it wants to be both simultaneously.\'
PositiveThe New YorkerUnlike other recent White House chroniclers, Alberta offers something more ambitious than a tale of palace intrigue; his book is also a six-hundred-plus-page history of the Republican Party over the past decade, which seeks to explain how the G.O.P. steadily moved right and eventually gave way to full-on Trumpism ... Although Alberta is clearly not an admirer of the President, he is not unsympathetic to the voters who have embraced him and their feelings of resentment toward what they see as an increasingly liberal culture.
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review\"With The British in India: A Social History of the Raj, Gilmour, metaphorical microscope in hand, has written a broad-ranging but precise and intimate examination of the British men and women who served and lived on the subcontinent ... It is a finely wrought history of the British in India that does not really examine what the British did to India — or to Indians ... Part of the pleasure of this book is that Gilmour has clearly spent eons of time scouring archives for diaries and letters, and has a real feel for domestic life. Some of the best sections concern relations between the sexes ... Gilmour does not offer much in the way of assistance to people who may be unfamiliar with the workings of the British administration in India, or the contours of Indian history, but he is so wide-ranging and diligent that it almost doesn’t matter ... But some of the gaps in his story eventually become glaring ... [Gilmour\'s conclussion] is a straw man, and about as convincing as several of his comparisons between British imperialists and modern NGOs.\
MixedSlate\"Fear will make plain to the last optimist that, just as Republicans in Congress are unlikely to save us, neither are the relative grown-ups in the Trump administration ... Is Woodward the last optimist? He obviously believes that Trump is unfit to be president, but a reader can’t quite shake the sense that he somehow thinks maybe, just maybe, things could be different with the right coaching or incentives ... Indeed, the near-misses Woodward writes about feel particularly insubstantial, in part because very few of these aides and appointees seem to really grasp the nature of the man they are serving (no matter how much they talk about his stupidity and recklessness), and in part because Trump himself is so clueless and aimless that he rarely seems to follow through on his worst ideas anyway ... I trust Woodward’s ability to decipher whether his sources are being honest more than I do Michael Wolff’s, whose dodgy book on the Trump presidency set a very low bar for works like this, but too much of Woodward’s narrative feels reliant on the firsthand accounts of a group of very untrustworthy people.\
Bill Clinton & James Patterson
PanSlate\"...this is the sort of sub–Tom Clancy thriller that simultaneously preaches a dreary populism and believes its readers are too stupid to understand dialogue that isn’t enunciated on the page ... Obviously, one should be careful not to project too much authorial autobiography onto a novel’s protagonist. But the parallels here are comically hard to ignore—and if you, a former president, opt to co-write a thriller starring a current president, you are shamelessly inviting them ... it’s notable that these two men, respectively renowned for their powers of narration and oration, seem unable to overcome the challenge of composing good prose. Part of the problem is their fondness for mixed metaphors ... How can one not pity a poll-obsessed politician—and erstwhile political genius—who writes a novel in which he is transformed into a brave war hero with everything going for him except political skill, but still feels the need to, on the third-to-last page, inform the exhausted reader that the American people love him after all?\
Michael Isikoff, David Corn
PositiveSlateThat you guys, after your reporting, came to the conclusion that the story of Trump in Russia is a somewhat mysterious one, and that in due course, with a full investigation, as presumably is going on now, more evidence will come to the surface. Because there are too many coincidences and loose ends and strange things that you discovered and that have been discovered by other reporters.
PanSlateOverhanging the entire tale — and every page of Fire And Fury — is the more crucial problem that Wolff is talking to a bunch of pathological dissemblers who have been known to blatantly lie to the media and really cannot be trusted at all ...have a story that could plausibly be true — at least the part about Blair telling Kushner this — but the reader has no way of deciphering whether it actually is, or of evaluating what it could possibly mean ... critiques are all essentially correct: He has been known to make lazy mistakes; he tells stories that prompt eye-rolls because something about them just doesn’t ring true ...starkest sign of a rotten media ecosystem is that a book this flimsy and dubious could dominate the news cycle ...a book in which it is impossible to distinguish fact from fiction — and pointless to even try.
PanSlateThese critiques are all essentially correct: [Wolff] has been known to make lazy mistakes; he tells stories that prompt eye-rolls because something about them just doesn’t ring true. Yet Fire and Fury is a much worse book than any of these criticisms suggest. Wolff is not merely out of his depth—he frequently seems confused by even basic matters of political ideology—but he also rather starkly displays all the problems with writing palace-intrigue stories about dishonest and unscrupulous people ... Working in Wolff’s favor is the fact that, despite his journalistic shortcomings, his overarching narrative—Trump is an unstable and incompetent president who has no business holding the office he didn’t really want all that much anyway—is disturbingly credible. And to Wolff’s partial credit, he seems to have some awareness of the critique of his type of journalism ... Wolff seems confused as to what precisely he is trying to argue about Bannon’s personality and role in the White House ... Wolff also finds himself on shaky ground whenever he peeks from behind the curtain and starts analyzing politics ... The Trump team probably regrets all the bad press they have gotten from Fire and Fury over the past several days, but they should surely feel sanguine about a media environment that allows Wolff’s method and standards to flourish.
PanSlateAn allegory about the contradictions of a world that is both thoroughly globalized and startlingly unequal, Hamid’s book directs our attention to that question of luck: the degree to which the places where we are born shape our destinies. Exit West is unfortunately more successful in broaching these subjects than in fully grappling with them ... If it seems like I have done an insufficient job of describing the two central characters, who dominate nearly every scene and are almost the only people given any dialogue, that is because Hamid defines them as thinly as possible ... Exit West is never boring, but its intriguing premise never really pays off, and too many of the author’s decisions feel arbitrary. This is especially true when it comes to the nameless country of the book’s first half ... Novels, even those as 'relevant' as this one, do not need to have “messages,” but when a writer seems so much more interested in his political premise than his characters, it’s reasonable to expect a stronger sense of what exactly he or she wants to say. And at a time when migrants are seen as dangerous, faceless masses, Hamid’s book is a missed opportunity to provide migrant characters with some substance and distinguishing features.
MixedSlateIn a memoir that forthrightly details the harassment Kelly faced at Ailes’ hands, you might expect to find greater honesty about Fox News itself, and the political and ideological project that Kelly is in fact an integral part of. But no: Instead, Kelly reveals herself to be either a lot less canny than she seems or even cannier than she wants to let on. My money is on the latter ... The book itself is often as wholesome as apple pie, and as unwise to consume in large servings ... The Fox sections of the book are the most compelling, partially because Kelly’s rise at the network was so impressive, and partially because she describes people such as Ailes and Brit Hume in ways that are often vivid ... For all the disgust that she claims to feel for the misogyny and male entitlement of this soon-once-again-regnant America, and for all the personal harm it caused her, our bleak future is one in which Megyn Kelly is likely to find herself right at home.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalWhether or not you are a person of a faith is unlikely to determine your opinion of Chanan Tigay’s extremely enjoyable new book, The Lost Book of Moses: The Hunt For The World’s Oldest Bible. It will delight anyone who finds religion or its history even remotely arresting. At once a mystery and a historical yarn, Mr. Tigay’s book is also a reminder that humor and a real sense of fun can enliven a serious piece of work.