RaveThe Washington PostMasur wants to know what led increasingly influential politicians to adopt the view that Black people ought to \'have all the rights and privileges and immunities\' that \'every citizen\' had. In Masur’s account, the answer is a now-forgotten social mobilization of Black civil rights advocates who fought alongside White allies not only to undermine slavery but to establish basic equality for Blacks in the free states of the North ... Masur’s heroes are the social activists ... Masur’s book illuminates just how much was at stake in the fight over Black citizenship ... Masur’s fresh perspective lets us see famous episodes in a new light ... Masur’s book is a brilliant meditation on progress and its limits. Activists creatively targeted weak spots in the Constitution. In the 14th Amendment, they essentially established a second American republic ... Masur’s monumental account leaves no doubt that a generation of 19th-century racial egalitarians altered history. They forced white supremacists to change course, and they created resources used ever since by advocates in the fight for equality.
PositiveThe New Republic... a deeply reported, hour-by-hour account of the partisan battle over Kavanaugh’s nomination and the fallout, using her Washington sources to weave a political page-turner ... But more than a story about the court, her book is also about what a career in law did to Kavanaugh—how at each stage of advancement, the institutions he passed through made him an inexorably more partisan figure ... In Marcus’s story, the most striking thing about the confirmation process that ensued was its ever-escalating partisan logic ... Marcus ends her book by wondering whether the neutral ideal of the court can survive the bruising battle of Kavanaugh’s confirmation process. [Adam] Cohen’s history [Supreme Inequality] asks how such an ideal has lasted as long as it has. Yet neither book quite satisfactorily explains why the court has been so susceptible to polarization—or why Republicans have benefited from it so disproportionately.
PositiveThe Washington Post... a stunningly well-timed book on a question ripped from the headlines ... Wineapple’s timely story suggests, almost despite itself, that impeaching presidents and dreaming of justice are no substitutes for the work of doing justice and winning elections.
MixedThe New Republic\"The difficulty for Brookhiser is that his life of Marshall is too detailed and careful to sustain such mythmaking. In Brookhiser’s short and captivating biography, Marshall emerges as the institution’s first great partisan operative: a man who managed with extraordinary success to reassemble a judicial branch in American government from the broken pieces of the Federalist Party ... Brookhiser’s account captures much of the chief justice’s high-wire act [of Marbury v. Madison]... Yet Brookhiser’s version of the case misses the key step, one that reveals the full extent of Marshall’s political project in the crisis ... Brookhiser’s narrative shares the great shortcoming of a very common misreading of Chief Justice Marshall. It minimizes the politics at the heart of Marshall’s project. Brookhiser’s updated version of the conventional story presents Marshall as the Atlas of American law, hoisting the Constitution upon his broad apolitical shoulders. Understating the politics of the court’s founding years, however, is misleading.\
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalMs. McGirr’s book points to the wisdom of Prohibition’s repeal—and rightly calls on us to step back from the counterproductive policies of our own time.