RaveThe National Book ReviewMillard reminds us of the historical impact of this lethal fairy tale ... Apart from Millard’s meticulous research and suspenseful prose, she brings an enormous enthusiasm for the narrow escapes and daring-dos of human history, the impulse to act decisively in the face of death. Her books explore extraordinary men who shared the same restless curiosity and stomach for hardship long before ease and consumerism slaked mankind’s thirst for discovery. In these times of serious economic, geopolitical, and medical challenges, her book offers readers a special kind of escapism – to intense obstacles of an entirely different kind
PositiveThe National Book ReviewMasur is another in a valiant legion of historians who continue to fill in gaps in our knowledge of the ancestry of American fascism from southern slave-owners to present-day insurrectionists, the defiant Know-Nothings who have never held allegiance to democratic principles when they challenged racial hegemony. Her work also reminds us that America has always garnered more loyalty from Black Americans, pushing the nation to fulfill its egalitarian promises, than the nation has shown them in return. That yin and yang of our schizophrenic political system continues to play out in a tension that we seem far from resolving.
RaveThe National Book ReviewMad at the World...chronicles Steinbeck’s riveting 66-year race toward self-destruction. The appetite with which he wrote, fought, traveled, and imbibed makes for a good read. One loses count of his homes, dogs, love affairs, cocktails, personal conflicts, and bouts of loathful self-doubt ... Souder brings to the book an empathetic appreciation of a writer’s angst, the haunting, oscillating fears that his work will never gel, or that it will never be appreciated, or that an eventual success will ruin his drive to repeat it. He captures the feverish toil behind Steinbeck’s work while unflinchingly reporting his irascible, neurotic, and cruel behavior towards editors, critics, friends, wives, and sons ... Souder captures the raucous personality of a prolific and ferocious artist.
Steven M. Gillon
MixedThe National Book ReviewIn his new book The Reluctant Prince, Gillon...give[s] us a picture of a flawed man whose vanity insulated him from the course corrections of humbler people. Gillon offers an alternately fawning and sober appraisal of a promising young dilettante, addicted to his celebrity while impatient with its superficiality. Kennedy comes across as generous, but inconsiderate; as cognizant of the Kennedy recklessness, yet foolhardy himself ... Jackie does not come off well in this biography ... Gillon’s research presents her as an irrational helicopter parent ... Gillon’s writing, like its subject, has trouble choosing between gossip and history, prattle or politics. At moments, he seems to enable John, Jr.’s self-absorption, accepting it as understandable under the difficult circumstances of his life: a young man so cursed with wealth, notoriety, good looks, and high expectations that abject modesty was not an option. At other times, Gillon bluntly blames Kennedy for his reckless behavior, in particular for flying his Piper Saratoga into Long Island Sound when the weather and poor visibility grounded more prudent pilots.
Steven M. Gillon
MixedStar TribuneGillon offers an alternately fawning and sober appraisal of a promising but conflicted dilettante, one addicted to his celebrity while impatient with its superficiality. Kennedy comes across as generous but inconsiderate; as cognizant of the signature Kennedy recklessness yet foolhardy himself ... Gillon’s writing, like its subject, has trouble choosing between gossip and history. At moments, he enables Kennedy’s self-absorption, accepting it as the understandable circumstances of a difficult life: a young man so cursed with wealth, notoriety, good looks and high expectations he couldn’t muster consistent success. At other times, Gillon bluntly blames John Jr. for his reckless behavior, in particular for flying his Piper Saratoga into Long Island Sound when the weather and poor visibility grounded more prudent pilots.
PositiveThe National Book Review\"... a tense and courageous account ... Land captures the nagging anxiety that poverty entails ... Land explains in minute detail the indignities, compromises, and defeats that keep all but an extraordinary few mired in poverty ... Stephanie Land’s account of struggling as a maid speaks for a growing population of working people who refuse to give up hope while toiling within a system that increasingly gives up on them. Her book smashes the myth that the poor double as welfare profiteers. And until we realize how shame and accountability keep people on the dole, we need more books like this one.\
Ben Bradlee Jr.
PositiveThe National Book Review\"In an adroit journalistic enterprise, The Forgotten, Boston Globe editor Ben Bradlee, Jr. chooses engagement as he delves into the question eating at many of us since November 2016: Who are these people so reckless that they would vote to overturn nearly a century of liberal social engineering that ostensibly benefits them most of all? ... While there have been numerous high-altitude analyses of the debacle, detailed accounts like Bradlee’s that involve listening to Trump voters have been slow in coming, largely drowned out by the din of this administration’s scandals. It would be a mistake, however, to ignore this examination, and others like it, simply because the standard bearer of white, working-class rage turned out to be a Russian mole. The telling irony of a Democratic party apparatus that touts inclusiveness while summarily dismissing large numbers of blue-collar voters for their social views is not lost on Bradlee ... whatever the electoral results, Bradlee advises Democrats to heed the complaints of the forgotten middle American voters so we can mend our fractured nation in a post-Trumpian future, whenever that may be. Ben Bradlee’s deeply reported book provides an excellent place to start.\
PositiveThe National Book ReviewSarah Smarsh’s new book, Heartland, provides a searing description of the utter chaos that being poor entails. It reads at times like a simple memoir of a Kansas farming family struggling to keep up, at others as a social critique of America’s economic structure. Part family history, part picaresque novel, it helps us to understand the maelstrom of rudderless want ... The real-life characters of Sarah Smarsh’s near-novel fix our plumbing, wait on our tables, grow our food, and defend our shores. They are the \'Okies\' of today: tough, resilient, simple folk who do not fathom \'the system\' as anything other than a mechanism that will chew them up and spit them out. And so long as we dismiss them as morally bereft hicks somehow deserving of their fate, we will continue to fuel a rage that sees destruction as its only alternative.
RaveThe National Book Review\"Lest the grandiose subtitle deter you, Kaufman delivers a highly readable, thoroughly engrossing report on how conservative activists and corporate lobbyists are using the Badger State as an incubator for a radical demolition agenda to be used across the nation ... Kaufman recounts Progressivism’s faith in government, specifically its ability to promote the collective good while protecting the citizenry from corporate exploitation. A fusion of native and immigrant respect for air, land, water, and humanity created a political gospel that sustained Wisconsinites for over a hundred years. And that approach infused American social legislation throughout much of the 20th century.\
RaveThe National Book ReviewThe book stands not only as an excellent piece of political and environmental investigative journalism, but also as a study of urban American racial politics. Clark traces the impact of early 20th century redlining, overcrowding, and sub-standard infrastructure on the crisis. It should come as no surprise that the tainted water\'s deleterious effects were most severe in poor, black neighborhoods that were deliberately created through segregationist housing policies when the city was thriving. As the dominoes of middle-class flight and urban blight toppled, a series of unforeseen consequences revealed once again that government subsidization of suburbs leads to the dilapidation of the inner city that is left behind. Clark cites multiple American cities that have suffered similar deterioration as governments redirected money from majority-minority urban hubs to majority-white suburban spokes.
Cass R. Sunstein
PositiveThe National Book ReviewAs with any collection of essays on a common political topic, one can walk away from Sunstein’s powerful political anthology won over by the optimists or the pessimists. Different readers may be persuaded that things will work out for the best, that the situation is desperate and unraveling, or that this is, simply, a shameful but temporary experience that—if history is any indicator—we will come to regret and forget.
RaveThe Minneapolis Star TribuneRolling Stone political writer Matt Taibbi’s new book, I Can’t Breathe, documents the historical and physical forces that collided at 202 Bay St. on July 17, 2014, when Staten Island police notoriously strangled Eric Garner to death, on camera. Taibbi has written a profoundly good and well-researched book that dissects the moment when bad policy and bad policing aligned to execute a down-on-his-luck ex-con ... As Taibbi’s research makes clear, to be young, black and out in public in Staten Island is to be a target for the local police department...also analyzes the crime prevention strategy known as 'broken windows' ... After 300 pages, the reader is left with the cumulative impact of one horrific encounter with 'reasonable suspicion' after another — unprovoked beatings, strip searches in the middle of the street, planted evidence, unjustifiable cause, plea deals and reduced sentences for crimes never committed — all meted out on black males.
PositiveSalonThe Midnight Assassin captures the lawlessness and ribaldry of frontier life—you can almost hear the tinny piano, the laughter, the squeals, the breaking glass and boot heels on wooden planks as a saloon fistfight spills into the street ... The Midnight Assassin would have benefited from even more mining of these rich lodes of racial politics and white paranoia, and a bit more intensive sociological analysis. Hollandsworth may have decided, however, that this was more than the average reader of a popular murder mystery had bargained for. Despite this modest deficit, Hollandsworth has delivered — for lovers of true crime stories, American history, and under-appreciated Texana — an irresistible spellbinder.
E. J. Dionne Jr.
RaveThe Huffington PostUltimately Dionne is optimistic that logic will prevail within the Republican Party. With rapid changes to the ethnic makeup of the country and the social liberalism of the younger generation, he argues, time is against the hard right. The party is likely to become more reasonable in the future, he believes, simply because it has little choice if it wants to remain politically viable.