RaveThe Washington Post... among the very best books about American political life in the late 20th century. Making use of a mass of stories and new details, the authors portray Baker against the background of a different era ... The book is hardly a hagiography. Baker was involved over the years in some decidedly nonheroic activities, and his family life was at times messy. The authors include those parts, too ... It’s doubtful that any future historian will be able to gather as much information about Baker as the authors have ... Sometimes, this research served to penetrate Baker’s instinctive caution and caginess ... Above all, The Man Who Ran Washington works so well because of its anecdotes about Baker’s adroitness, for good and for ill.
Fang Fang, Trans. By Michael Berry
PositiveThe Washington Post... a welcome sense of earthy reality ... The book is strikingly critical of the Chinese Communist Party—the leaders in Beijing and, especially, the party cadres at the local level who suppressed the fact that the virus is intensely contagious ... On the other hand, the book presents an entirely human portrait of life in China. In fact—and this is the supreme irony—Fang Fang’s account makes clear that as the geopolitical differences between the Chinese regime and the United States grow by the day, the lives of middle-class Chinese meanwhile seem ever less exotic and ever more similar to those of Americans ... But looming in the background is China’s distinctive, intensely repressive political system, which stands apart. Wuhan Diary provides context and insight about the way it works in China at the ground level and for an individual writer.
MixedThe Washington PostStengel’s account of what happened in that effort is well-told, though not exactly gripping, given the nature of the work...But the book Stengel seems to have wanted to write was about the culture of the State Department, and in this regard he is much more successful. In fact, the first few chapters of his book should be required reading for new State Department employees ... [Stengel] introductory portrait of life at the State Department is compelling, but after a while, he began to fit in, and his account becomes laden with initials and jargon ... Stengel’s book ends with several recommendations, such as changing Facebook algorithms and having newspapers explain better what they do. While some of these are thoughtful, he admits it’s not clear they will fix the problem of pervasive disinformation.
PositiveThe Washington PostPrisoner, Rezaian’s account of his time behind bars and his release, is full of stories...some of them funny, some of them outrageous ... Not all of Rezaian’s book is...fast-reading ...There is a slow-going chapter about the many relatives in his large Iranian American family, and in general, the narrative about the incremental progress of his court case inches along. It is Rezaian’s descriptions of the way the Iranian regime operates at the working level—its twisted logic and paranoia—that make the book so worthwhile.
PositiveThe New York Review of BooksThe result of Rhodes’s many years near the Oval Office is that he can punctuate The World As It Is with glimpses of the private Obama. Some of these are amusing anecdotes ... Others suggest a president who was an especially gifted politician at election time but disdained the day-to-day politics in which most presidents engage ... What Rhodes’s book shows is that in too many cases, foreign policy decisions were turned into questions of identity and self-definition, thus making them a function of Obama’s personal history ... One is left to wonder who Obama was when he decided against asking Congress for approval before he launched military action against Libya in 2011, or drone strikes and special operations attacks throughout his presidency ... In his memoir, Rhodes positions himself to the left of Obama: more concerned about democracy and human rights, less willing to support authoritarian regimes. He acknowledges his occasional disappointment with his boss ... one of the strengths of Rhodes’s book is that, in passing, he shows the gradual emergence of the right-wing, faux-populist movement that produced Trump ... there are some ways in which, decades from now, historians may come to think that the Trump administration was as much a continuation of the Obama years as a turnabout from them. Rhodes himself recognizes this uncomfortable continuity, starting with matters of campaigning: \'When you distilled it, stripped out the racism and misogyny, we’d run against Hillary eight years ago with the same message Trump had used: She’s part of a corrupt establishment that can’t be trusted to bring change.\'
MixedThe Washington PostThe book is extremely uneven, a hodgepodge of borrowed history, gee-whiz cliches about current China and, occasionally, some genuine insights. Allison has worked or consulted for the Pentagon in several administrations, and he is at his best in writing with authority about defense issues ... In the best section of the book, Allison critiques America’s strategy toward China since the end of the Cold War (he calls it 'engage but hedge') and lays out alternative strategies ... The primary defect of the book is that it is weakest in the chapters on China itself. The view of China that Allison conveys too often reflects the distant, top-down view of outside elites, in which the Chinese Communist Party is all-powerful, enjoys public support and is firmly in control of the country.
MixedThe New York TimesThe result of the author’s effort is mixed. Mr. Savage, a reporter for The New York Times, has succeeded in producing a book that will almost certainly stand as the most comprehensive account of the Obama administration’s policies, views, theories and bureaucratic battles over national security laws and the legacy of the 2001 attacks. His account is thoughtful and consistently fair-minded. These virtues amount to no small achievement. Yet Mr. Savage’s extensive reporting also leads to a failing: This is not an especially readable or user-friendly book.
PanThe Washington PostThe reliance on these archives and Service’s dense writing style sometimes give the book a musty feel. It is considerably less readable than books about the end of the Cold War written by journalists who were based in the Soviet Union at that time...Yet Service does succeed in giving the reader a comprehensive account of the meetings and debates in the years leading up to the Soviet collapse.