MixedThe New YorkerA book that can scarcely contain its subject, in that it raises infinitely more questions than it answers ... How does a biographer begin to write about such a man? ... Isaacson, in his account of Elon Musk’s childhood, barely mentions apartheid himself. He writes at length and with compassion about the indignities heaped upon young Elon by schoolmates ... Musk’s childhood sounds bad, but Isaacson’s telling leaves out rather a lot about the world in which Musk grew up.
Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang
PositiveThe New YorkerAn Ugly Truth is the result of fifteen years of reporting. Frenkel and Kang, award-winning journalists for the Times, conducted interviews with more than four hundred people, mostly Facebook employees, past and present, for more than a thousand hours. Many people who spoke with them were violating nondisclosure agreements ... An Ugly Truth is a work of muckraking ...
Vivek H. Murthy
MixedThe New YorkerMurthy writes with compassion, but his everything-can-be-reduced-to-loneliness argument is hard to swallow, not least because much of what he has to say about loneliness was said about homelessness in the nineteen-eighties ... Curiously, Murthy often conflates the two, explaining loneliness as feeling homeless ... Maybe what people experiencing loneliness and people experiencing homelessness both need are homes with other humans who love them and need them, and to know they are needed by them in societies that care about them. That’s not a policy agenda. That’s an indictment of modern life.
Daniel Walker Howe
RaveThe New YorkerWhat Hath God Wrought is both a capacious narrative of a tumultuous era in American history and a heroic attempt at synthesizing a century and a half of historical writing about Jacksonian democracy, antebellum reform, and American expansion ... Howe relies on decades of prodigious scholarship in women’s history—arguably, a field of inquiry that constitutes a revolution in its own right—to tie his thesis together ... The women’s-rights movement, which grew out of the antislavery movement, which grew out of revivalism, which was made possible by advances in transportation and communication, is the strongest evidence for the interpretive weight that Howe places on social, cultural, and religious forces as agents of change, and makes What Hath God Wrought a bold challenge both to Sellers, who is more interested in economics, and to Wilentz, who is more interested in politics. Howe’s synthesis does what a synthesis is supposed to do: it brings all these things together.
MixedThe New York Times Book Review... most of his book is a long argument that the mission was worth it, for reasons many readers will wonder at ... His argument goes like this: Apollo didn’t bring us to Mars, at least not yet, but, hey, it brought you Alexa. A counterargument goes something like this: My country went to the moon and all I got was this lousy surveillance state.
MixedThe New Yorker...[a] commanding and important book ... Gordon-Reed...uses Madison Hemings’s memoir as the foundation for an elaborate reconstruction of an American epic, a century-long saga of the Hemings family, in slavery and freedom. She reasons from analogy. She speculates. She asks her reader to trust her knowledge of human nature. There’s no denying that a brick, here and there, could do with more mortar. Arguments from human nature can be persuasive, but when the wind blows they tend to totter ... the product of exhausting and illuminating research.
PositiveThe New Yorker... deeply affecting, finely crafted and heroic ... Wilkerson’s work, in other words, is more novelistic than documentary ... Wilkerson, somewhat too sketchily, considers postwar urban history—white flight, the closing of factories, the disappearance of industrial jobs ... The questions of social scientists (What is the structure of poverty?) and of policymakers (How can this be fixed?) are not Wilkerson’s questions ... This is narrative nonfiction, lyrical and tragic and fatalist. The story exposes; the story moves; the story ends. What Wilkerson urges, finally, isn’t argument at all; it’s compassion. Hush, and listen.
RaveThe New York Times Book Review...the best new study of the American mission to space, rich in research and revelation ... Brinkley carefully considers this and other attacks launched by civil rights activists, like the National Urban League’s Whitney Young.
MixedThe New YorkerChernow’s aim is to make of Washington something other than a \'lifeless waxwork,\' an \'impossibly stiff and wooden figure, composed of too much marble to be quite human.\' That has been the aim of every Washington biographer, and none of them have achieved it.
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review...a riveting and frankly distressing new biography...Elaine Showalter insists that Howe, who was born in the same year as Walt Whitman, had 'the subversive intellect of an Emily Dickinson, the political and philosophical interests of an Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and the passionate emotions of a Sylvia Plath.'