RaveThe Christian Science MonitorEmbers of War is simply an essential work for those seeking to understand the worst foreign-policy adventure in American history. Logevall has tapped new resources, including extensive archives in France and what is available in Vietnam. He has a complete grasp of the vast literature on what the Vietnamese call The American War, and even though readers know how the story ends – as with \'The Iliad\' – they will be as riveted by the tale as if they were hearing it for the first time ... The only misstep in this fantastic book is Logevall’s description of the writer Graham Greene’s time in Southeast Asia ... Such a mistake aside, Logevall makes good on his attempt to write the \'full-fledged international account of how the whole saga began...\'
PanThe Boston GlobeThe Unwinding’ is perhaps New Yorker writer George Packer’s worst nonfiction book. That is, however, not hugely insulting. Packer’s 2005 book The Assassins’ Gate’ still stands as a fantastic chronicle of America’s descent into Iraq. A 2000 book called Blood of the Liberals’ that he wrote is nearly as impressive. But The Unwinding,’ while well-written, intelligent, and frequently engaging, falls short of those achievements ... it must be said, there is nothing in these pages that equals the power of Barbara Garson’s Down the Up Escalator.’ That work, released in April, is also an account of lives devastated by the Great Recession. But it doesn’t have the fatal flaw of The Unwinding’: useless interludes telling of the one-percenters on the winning end of the age of inequality ... The Unwinding’ is compelling at times, but it won’t tell Americans much that they do not already know. And it could have. Coming from a writer of Packer’s immense talent, it cannot be evaluated as anything other than a disappointment.\
Ronald C. White
PositiveThe Boston GlobeRonald White’s magisterial new biography, weighing in at over 800 pages, is the newest heavyweight champion in this movement ... While White’s biography is indeed both striking and comprehensive, it does leave the reader with less psychological insight into Grant than might be hoped ... The book does, however, benefit greatly from White’s decision to look closely at the correspondence between Grant and his beloved wife, Julia ... Among the best parts of White’s book are his recollections of the mutual affection [Grant and Lincoln] shared.
PanThe Christian Science MonitorSome of the most compelling parts of Partanen’s book illustrate how what many Americans consider to be the ultimate indicator of liberty – the freedom from burdensome government – is actually a trap ... There is no history in Partanen’s book, no acknowledgement that millions of Americans who right now are struggling to remake the country along the lines of Nordic societies and failing because of systemic and institutional hurdles. The Nordic Theory of Everything is an earnest, breezy book by a well intentioned writer. But its ignorance about the limited possibilities of change in America makes it as frustrating and flimsy as a piece of unassembled Ikea furniture.
MixedThe Christian Science MonitorMuch of The Politicians & the Egalitarians is an attack on 'postpartisans.' The other, less developed theme of Wilentz’s new book is economic inequality. 'The driving force in American political history has been the effort to curb the power of concentrated wealth, whether the power of the slaveholders or the power of industrial plutocrats,' he writes. Wilentz has few original ideas on this subject, however, and it almost seems like an afterthought to him ... Still, it is a pleasure to be in the hands of an individual who can write compellingly about such a range of American history. Reading The Politicians & the Egalitarians, one comes away with the sense that historical debates matter.
Randall B. Woods
PositiveThe Christian Science MonitorWoods shrewdly points out that what motivated the liberalism of the Johnson era was the Civil Rights Movement and the Cold War ... Prisoners of Hope, which is long on policy history but shorter on biography, has little to say about Johnson’s psychological problems, which ranked with Richard Nixon’s but were less visible.
RaveThe Christian Science MonitorDesmond’s meticulousness shows how precision is not at odds with compassionate storytelling of the underprivileged. Indeed, is the respect that Evicted shows for its characters' flaws and mistakes that makes the book impossible to forget.