MixedThe Guardian... for all the hype around Wolkoff having secretly taped Melania, her book is sedate, not tempestuous. It informs, but it lacks the bombshell revelations that can make this genre compelling or darkly entertaining ... Wolkoff’s tale is one of friendship lost, as opposed to wholesale dysfunction or searing intra-familial enmity.
PositiveThe Guardian (UK)... unique among Trump-themed books. The author was a member of Mueller’s team, supervisor of the prosecution of Paul Manafort. He is both admiring and critical of his former boss, which lends credibility and originality. Pathos is part of the package too ... Weissmann offers a detailed look at why the special counsel reached the conclusions he did, and expands on how Bill Barr ambushed Mueller with his four-page summary of a 400-plus-page report ... Weissmann’s rhetoric is hot – but not overblown ... also a guide to how the Mueller investigation divvied up its work. Sections on the case of Michael Cohen are particularly instructive ... a dispiriting work. It is not simply about the Mueller investigation, or Trump. It is also an examination of where America stands ... Weissmann contrasts Trump’s inauguration with protest marches held the day after, and observes the country’s changing demographics. Mindful of history, he ponders whether the civil war ever ended. Looking at the coming election, that is an open question. America’s fissures are once again on display.
PositiveIrish Times (IRE)...it’s easy to distrust Cohen. On that score, Disloyal should be taken with more than a grain of salt. Its author is no hero. But that doesn’t make the book any less interesting. For all its black-hearted opportunism and self-aggrandizement, it delivers a readable and bile-filled take on Trump and his minions ... Cohen entertains, albeit at the expense of others: Don Jr, Jared Kushner, Roger Stone and Steve Bannon, for starters ... Jared Kushner also emerges worse for wear ... Organized crime pervades the book, and Cohen does not sound at all disapproving. Said differently, Trump’s world was the crew the author always dreamed of joining ... As expected, Cohen goes granular in narrating his efforts to buy the silence of the adult film star Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, a Playboy model ... In the din caused by Trump’s comments regarding the military, Disloyalty still cut through.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders
MixedThe Guardian (UK)... very much a would-be candidate’s autobiography, even as it devotes countless pages to its author’s time in the White House ... Personal normalcy and faith are the dominant themes, the narrative a mixture of whitewashing and score-settling but with the emphasis on the former ... Not surprisingly, when Sanders describes her time in the Trump White House she goes full-bore at Robert Mueller, doing her best to play the victim. As is to be expected, she regurgitates the \'no-collusion\' party line and offers full-throated endorsements of Bill Barr, Trump’s second attorney general, and Pat Cipollone, his second White House counsel, for their defense of the president ... Unfortunately, Sanders can go overboard with ethnic reductionism. Or, at least, she could have used some editing ... This is as candid as we are going to get. It is not an audition for another Trump-tied gig. She has her eyes on a different executive mansion – in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Mary L. Trump
PositiveThe Guardian (UK)It is score-settling time, Trump-style. Go big or go home. Few are spared. Too Much and Never Enough doubles as mesmerizing beach reading and a memorable opposition research dump, in time for the party conventions. Think John Bolton-quality revelations, but about Trump’s family ... Although she casts her book as a warning to the American public, it is 200-plus pages of revenge served with the benefit of time and distance. Yet the narrative remains compelling ... A modern-day Moloch, the president expects the nation to sacrifice itself. Not everyone appears willing, least of all his niece.
PositiveThe Guardian (UK)... the most damning written account by a Trump administration alumnus, the one that stands to haunt the president come November ... laden with proximity and credibility, which makes it a book to be believed ... Bolton’s prose is lackluster. But that’s a relatively minor shortcoming. More egregious is the book’s title, which is lazy and self-aggrandizing. Bolton has ripped-off Lin-Manuel Miranda and compared himself to Alexander Hamilton, founding father and first treasury secretary. Talk about overreach ... the best opposition research dump. Ever.
PositiveThe Guardian (UK)Trumpocalypse voices irreconcilable grievance. Still, Frum’s dismay is not directed at the president’s supporters, at least he tries not to. Frum understands that even if the incumbent loses re-election, the great American divide is not disappearing anytime soon ... Frum observes that in theology, the apocalypse was not \'the end\' but the harbinger of a \'new and better order\'. We’ll see. But Trumpocalypse is an apt title for these blighted times.
PositiveThe Guardian (UK)... an attempt to capture the madness that is the Trump presidency and the danger to democracy it poses. Aided by measured prose and healthy skepticism, Karl succeeds ... Well-organized and respectfully written before the pandemic, Front Row at the Trump Show conveys the chaos and the characters that inhabit the president’s universe.
MixedThe Guardian (UK)Plouffe delivers a dense, nuts-and-bolts book, chock-full of advice. Written before the first nominating contest and the global pandemic, it is a mixture of enthusiasm and partially outdated realism. Plouffe is no longer dismissive of Trump and his political skill set ... Citizen’s Guide offers a useful description of the \'gettable\' electorate ... Unfortunately, Plouffe can come close to broad-brushing Trump supporters as irredeemably deplorable ... With the US having gone from everything is awesome to a state of national emergency in a matter of weeks, we could all use a bit less bile ... Against this backdrop, Citizen’s Guide cannot begin to tell us the whole story—nor can we expect it to.
PositiveThe Guardian (UK)Hubbard delivers a highly informed portrait, leavening his narrative with well-deserved skepticism, and leaves the reader wondering what lies ahead for the prince and his kingdom ... This does not purport to be a comprehensive biography. Rather, Hubbard focuses on the prince’s rise, his accretion and exercise of power, and weaves past reporting into a readily readable package. As to be expected, the prince declined to be interviewed ... Hubbard’s book is anything but a hagiography. It is definitely worth the read.
RaveThe Guardian (UK)David Enrich delivers a master class in financial sleuthing. The New York Times’ financial editor follows the money, plows through paper and talks to dozens of people in the bank’s ecosystem. There are names, places and computer files. This is a first-rate read ... Like a discordant melody that haunts disturbing lyrics, Dark Towers is woven with the life and the 2014 suicide of Bill Broeksmit, a former Deutsche executive ... His death imparts to Enrich’s book an air of mystery ... Dark Towers is an excellent primer for what may well await [President Trump].
MixedThe Guardian (UK)In Triggered, the president’s eldest child excoriates the left for its censoriousness, but ignores his father’s repeated demands for the same ... As is to be expected, Triggered’s displeasure with social media is exaggerated and omits a key fact: the apparent Cambridge Analytica–Facebook–Trump campaign axis ... Still, Triggered’s critique of the left’s use of shaming as a cudgel should not be ignored. The fact is, members of the Democratic establishment continue to worship at the twin altars of identity politics and political correctness ... Ultimately, Triggered is best viewed as the opening salvo of the Trump child with real political chops ... Triggered is a better campaign biography than most.
PositiveThe Guardian (UK)As befitting Pulitzer winners for investigative reporting, [Rucker and Leonnig\'s] book is richly sourced and highly readable. It sheds new light on how the 45th president tests the boundaries of the office while trying the patience and dignity of those who work for or with him. It is not just another Trump tell-all or third-party confessional. It is unsettling, not salacious.
PositiveThe Guardian (UK)... a meticulous deep dive into all things Trump and Kushner. A veteran investigative reporter with WNYC radio, NPR’s New York affiliate, Bernstein brings a keen eye for financial flimflam and the tectonics that buffet American politics ... the book is laden with original reporting and primary sources ... At times, Bernstein’s sentiments color her indictment ... Bernstein also does justice to Trump’s investments, his brushes with the law and the near-prosecution of his children by the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr. On that score, American Oligarchs picks up where Bernstein’s earlier reporting left off.
MixedThe Guardian (UK)... a thoughtful and well-researched polemic that advocates Trump’s removal. Among other things, it provides a highly readable history on the origins and evolution of impeachment, and offers answers to questions that surround the process ... But like the current impeachment hearings, its capacity to persuade will probably be limited. By definition, impeachment is political. These days, it is also highly partisan ... Katyal convincingly argues that impeachable conduct, in the parlance of the constitution – should be understood to mean offenses that violate the public trust ... Politically, Katyal can appear tone deaf. At the outset, he proclaims, \'I am not a partisan\' – despite a record of donating to the Democratic National Committee and the Obama and Clinton campaigns. He has contributed more than $12,000 over the past decade to political causes. Said differently, being a law professor does not immunize one from being a partisan ... Katyal also fails to grapple with just how we have reached this historic point. He acknowledges that America today is historically reminiscent of the 1850s, and yet he does not delve into how we got there.
MixedThe Guardian (UK)... highly relevant to the primary race ... Stoller strafes targets across political and ideological spectrums ... Goliath also does a deep-dive on the rise of what has become known as the Chicago School and market conservatism ... Stoller’s shout-outs are eclectic ... Based on the 2016 election, Stoller may be on to something ... Unfortunately, Goliath comes up short in addressing the intersection between culture and economics ... McGovern’s redistributive economics coupled with unvarnished social liberalism and foreign policy dovishness managed to alienate organized labor, a Democratic mainstay.
PanThe Guardian (UK)... fails to live up to the hype ... offers few new revelations about the tempest-in-chief. Three years into Donald Trump’s presidency, the public is well aware he is neither stable nor a genius ... does not entertain ... does not present Trump World in a broader context ... does not brim with righteous fury ... Rather, A Warning reads like something written by someone with knowledge of what sometimes transpired within the Oval Office but without box seats. While the book records Trump’s profanity and chaos, it does not convey a meaningful firsthand story ... lacks a serious examination of how America reached this point or how \'never Trump\' lost its place within the Republican party ... Still, Anonymous has tales to tell, and on immigration the writer does deliver ... Disturbing is not the same as surprising ... As the names and faces of impeachment witnesses fill our TV screens, an aide with no name will be quickly forgotten.
PositiveThe Guardian (UK)Barry Levine and Monique El-Faizy parachute into the netherworld of weaponized libido that is the life of the 45th president. Salaciousness abounds. Their book is lurid, informative and aptly subtitled ... All the President’s Women is breezy but heavy. Unlike Stormy Daniels’ 2018 bestseller...none of it is entertaining. Not surprisingly, the White House declined multiple opportunities to rebut the book’s contentions ... The book rests upon firsthand interviews, transcripts and prior reports. It also contains a detailed appendix that lays out its sources. Said differently, if you can actually believe Barack Obama is a crypto-Muslim born in Kenya to a cocaine-addled Martian, then opting in to at least 50% of All the President’s Women should be a no-brainer ... It is unlikely All the President’s Women will change many, if any, minds about Trump. He was never viewed by anyone as a boy scout. Each half of the US sees what it wants. If Trump is brought down, it won’t be by his zipper.
PositiveThe GuardianTom LoBianco is the latest author to attempt to fill in the blanks on the canvas that is the vice-president. Unlike some Pence books, the result is neither hit job nor hagiography. Rather, the veteran Pence-watcher portrays his subject as a committed Christian with sharp elbows and a sonorous voice, one who has struggled with the tugs of faith and ambition, his sensibilities now dulled by baptism in Trump’s swamp ...
Pence’s journey, and to a lesser degree LoBianco’s book, reflect the dilemma faced by faith communities at a time when religious \'nones\' are a growing part of the population, organized religion is mired in scandal and mainline Protestantism, the creed of the Founding Fathers, has ceded its sway ... Piety and Power is an American tale.
PositiveThe Guardian (UK)... a must-read on what went down in the first 18 months of the Trump presidency. Filled with color and quotes, it is highly digestible ... In light of recent reports that Trump’s communications with an unidentified foreign leader may have injured US security and triggered a standoff between the administration and Congress, Campbell’s take cannot be readily dismissed.
PositiveThe Guardian (UK)... a well-sourced, informative and breezy biography of one New York’s greatest mayors. Indeed, it is an essential read in an era where high-end urban centers and their immediate environs are pulling away from the rest of the country. It is a tale of two Americas ... Randolph succeeds in describing Bloomberg’s successes, which are many, lasting and significant. But she comes up short in capturing the distance between him and large swathes of the citizenry. She records but does not fully delve into the cultural fissures that pockmarked the New York landscape throughout Bloomberg’s time in office and became all too clear at its conclusion ... can come close to hagiography.
Jim Mattis and Bing West
PositiveThe GuardianCall Sign Chaos, Mattis’s memoir, is a readable look at more than four decades as a marine. Co-written with Bing West, a former marine and Reagan Pentagon alumnus, the book spans Mattis’s career, from enlistment through retirement. It contains veiled disapproval of Trump and is sharper in expressing disagreements with his Oval Office predecessors ... He commends Obama for his intelligence and reserve and Biden for his warmth. Yet he tags them over the pullout from Iraq, Obama’s imaginary red line in Syria and their stance toward Iran. He does not mask his disapproval ... When it comes to Trump, Mattis flanks, avoiding a head-on clash. Call Sign Chaos takes aim at bigotry and lauds the military service of migrants ... In his epilogue, Mattis notes America’s political divide and full-throated tribalism. But he is optimistic.
MixedThe GuardianAcosta’s book sheds real light on the West Wing funhouse. It explains how the \'enemy of the people\' emerged as a mainstay of Trump’s lexicon ... Compared to its predecessors in the realm of the Trump exposé, The Enemy of the People lacks the acid-dripping punch of Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury and Siege, the granularity of Bob Woodward’s Fear and the salaciousness of Stormy Daniels’ Full Disclosure ... Unfortunately, Acosta’s quotes and anecdotes are frequently sourced to unnamed White House officials and political insiders ... Acosta glides across well-tilled ground ... Acosta...fails to place the rage and resentment in the larger context of how America and the west reached this inflection point ... Trump still expects the media to bow, scrape and be co-opted. To give him his due, Acosta refuses to do that.
George F. Will
PositiveThe GuardianThe grandson of a Lutheran minister, Will looks back at history but is not mired there. He relishes social and technical dynamism and the grenade hurled by Charles Darwin. On the other hand, he has a bone to pick with Woodrow Wilson, progressivism, utopianism and majoritarianism ... Will does not predict what comes next. But it is also safe to say that America, the Republican party and conservatism are all in flux ... Even after Trump leaves office, don’t expect Will’s brand of conservatism to find a warm welcome in what once was the Party of Lincoln. To be sure, America is poorer for that.
Jake Sherman and Anna Palmer
MixedThe Guardian... painstakingly chronicles the return to divided government and the restoration of an institutional check on a mercurial chief executive ... depicts a foul-mouthed president in love with his own reflection, a House GOP encased in the amber of self-delusion, and Nancy Pelosi’s unblinking focus on twin prizes: recapturing the House and returning to the speaker’s chair ... What lessons are drawn from 2018 remain to be seen.
PositiveThe Guardian\"A damning depiction of the Kushner clan and \'Javanka\' ... an amalgam of Page Six-like dish, post-Holocaust social history, firsthand investigative reporting and recapitulation of Javanka & Co’s contempt for rules, at least those that directly affect them ... Ward puts it all out there, waiting for the reader to inhale, gasp and possibly heave in disgust ... few leave with reputations intact ...Kushner, Inc does not entertain. It is not Fire and Fury 2.0. Rather, it traces how we arrived at this point, where Javanka plays an outsized role in driving national decisions and our nightly news.\
Andrew G McCabe
PositiveThe GuardianDefinitely worth the read. The Threat is not just another exercise in score-settling, although there is plenty of that ... should leave the reader worried that our cold civil war is taking its toll on the US and its institutions.
MixedThe GuardianLadles out scoop but is short on insight. The author is critical of Trump world’s visceral brutality but does not adequately trace the mien and tenor of the West Wing to its occupant-in-chief. In his closing pages, Sims takes Trump to task for treating loyalty as a one-way street. The reader is left wondering what took so long for the scales to fall from Sims’ eyes ... leaves more than just the impression that cultural resentment fuels the administration and the modern Republican party ... What is most memorable about Team of Vipers is the joylessness of working for this president and the acrid aftertaste it leaves.
MixedThe GuardianLet Me Finish, his bombshell of a book, could just as easily have been titled Everybody Hates Chris ... Like most tell-alls, Let Me Finish is an exercise in score-settling, albeit one written from the realm of a dystopic presidency ... a self-serving, fascinating and informative read ... Yet while Christie pours his bile on those who surround Trump, he seeks to leave the president unscathed and mostly succeeds ... As to be expected, Christie omits inconvenient details ... Throughout, Christie conveys a misplaced sense of being put upon. Unfortunately, victimhood does not suit him ... In the end, Let Me Finish is a tale of Christie’s willingness to dance with the devil and turn a blind eye when needed ... This is what sour grapes sound like.
MixedThe GuardianSasse could give greater context to these trends, but does not ... Not surprisingly, Sasse avoids drawing clear causal lines between immigration, stagnant wages, shuttered factories and Trump’s victory.... Them forcefully expresses Sasse’s support for freedom of the press and religious liberty, a combination that appears in short supply elsewhere. Laudably, Sasse also refuses to demonize those on the other side of the aisle ... what makes Them worth the read is Sasse’s amalgam of realistic alarm and warning.
PositiveThe GuardianIn print Daniels emerges as no less than Trump’s equal ... Make no mistake, Full Disclosure is a story for our times. Ancient Rome has returned, complete with bread and circuses and a president impersonating Caligula ... For the moment, Daniels is one person with an unvarnished narrative.
PositiveThe Guardian\"Fear depicts a White House awash in dysfunction, where Lord of the Flies is the closest thing to an owner’s manual. Woodward is not describing the usual flavors of palace intrigue that come with the turf ... Woodward’s Fear is big on facts and short on hyperventilation. It is not Fire and Fury redux or Omarosa 2.0. Rather, it is a sober account of how we reached this vertiginous point. Woodward’s words are quotidian but the story he tells is chilling. Like Trump himself, the characters that populate Woodward’s narrative are Runyonesque and foul-mouthed.\
MixedThe GuardianJohn Forbes Kerry served nearly three decades in the Senate, four years as secretary of state, and did a tour of duty as a naval combat officer in Vietnam. He also landed within three points of beating George W Bush in 2004, the smallest winning margin for an incumbent president since Woodrow Wilson. Now comes Every Day is Extra, Kerry’s dense 640-page tome, his fifth book and first memoir ... Like the ex-senator himself, Every Day is Extra is informed, informative and at times overly self-indulgent. Kerry’s prose is detailed but not vivid, sounding more like a transcribed diary than a personal tell-all. Still, he provides essential accounts of his time as a truly heroic but wrongly maligned Swift boat officer, and as the secretary of state who was the prime mover of the Iran deal and the Paris climate accord.
Omarosa Manigault Newman
PanThe Guardian\"As to be expected, Unhinged is self-reverential, with Omarosa, an ordained Baptist minister, offering self-absolution from the get-go. The almost mononymous author volunteers that Trump was not her first choice for president, and that she only signed up after an expected gig with the Clinton campaign fell through ... Looking back at her brief White House tenure, Omarosa writes: \'If I get hurt, if somebody cuts me, I bleed.\' But a marked lack of introspection permeates Unhinged.\
David D Kirkpatrick
PositiveThe GuardianIn December 2010, a Tunisian street vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi set himself ablaze. His death sparked a conflagration that raged from North Africa to the Levant and all the way to the Gulf. On 11 February 2011, mass demonstrations and the collapse of US support forced Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s president, out of office. After nearly 30 years, a pharaoh had fallen ... David Kirkpatrick\'s book, Into the Hands of the Soldiers, gives a first-hand account of the failure of democracy to take root in Egypt and the region. Kirkpatrick meticulously chronicles Mubarak’s downfall and the coup that ousted Mohamed Morsi ... Kirkpatrick grapples thoughtfully with events he witnessed. At one point he writes: \'We set ourselves up for disappointment … Who stole the revolution? That image of the revolution was as much about western narcissism as it was about Egypt.\'
MixedThe Guardian\"His memoir is a highly readable and often informative effort to defend Trump, restore some of the author’s own lost luster, and settle a few scores. At times, it rings like an audition for a talkshow. At others, it sounds like a family member seeking to whitewash an abusive relationship ... Spicer tries to attribute some of the tumult to inexperience and inadequate staffing. That works, to a point ... As to be expected, Spicer can be selective about scandals past.\
Salena Zito, Brad Todd
MixedThe GuardianTo be sure, Zito and Todd pull some punches. Most glaringly, they discount the role of race in the race, with not a word about Pepe the Frog, Charlottesville and Trump’s reluctance to distance himself from David Duke. Similarly, they ignore the fact that Trump’s margin among white voters was actually 1% greater than Ronald Reagan’s in his 1984 landslide over Walter Mondale ... but they paint a portrait of Trump’s base that is not standard GOP-issue, and a Democratic party overly reliant upon its upstairs-downstairs bicoastal coalition ... a book which provides food for thought.
MixedThe GuardianIn The World As It Is, Rhodes tells his side of the story. As to be expected, he gives a full-throated defense...and seeks to extricate himself from the Benghazi debacle. What makes the book truly illuminating, however, are its quotes, barbs and reflexive disdain for flyover country ... Rhodes stands on firmer ground when he examines the contradictions within American foreign policy ... As one example, Rhodes observes how the anti-communist Afghan freedom fighters of the 1980s morphed into 21st-century jihadists.
To Rhodes’ credit, he also acknowledges that Obama’s \'reset\' with Russia did not work ... Like a doctor taught to do no harm, Rhodes repeats Obama’s aphorism, \'don’t do stupid shit\'. That is easier said than done.
John McCain and Mark Salter
PositiveThe GuardianIn describing the country, his tone is almost reverential ... History matters to McCain, and for him America is and was about its promise. The book is his farewell address, a mixture of the personal and the political ... a fitting valedictory for a man who seldom backed down.
RaveThe Guardian\"The book strives to be a Baedeker on how we arrived at our present inflection point. McFaul succeeds, shedding needed light on the most geopolitically competitive relationship of the last 75 years and attempting to explain the \'why and what\' of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election ... While McFaul is confident in the strength of democracy in the US, it is worth remembering that even here democracy is only as strong as the trust it elicits from the governed. Let’s hope McFaul is right.\
James B Comey
PositiveThe Guardian\"A Higher Loyalty contains little by way of stunning revelation, but offers additional details ... Candidly, Comey acknowledges that the perceived likelihood of Clinton’s victory may have made reopening the email investigation in late October 2016 that much easier...A Higher Loyalty is less sparing of attorney general Loretta Lynch and her attempts to steer Comey’s investigation from the shadows while refusing to recuse herself ... Comey emerges as a moralist, shaped by religious conviction. A former Sunday school teacher, he sprinkles into the text quotes from Martin Luther and theologian Reinhold Niebuhr ... Comey may have left the building, but his ghost and Trump’s nightmares remain.\
RaveThe GuardianMounk convincingly argues that democracy and liberalism are not synonymous and that in the face of uneven growth and a multicultural world, friction (or worse) between the two concepts is now almost predictable. The People vs Democracy delivers a clear-eyed take on how liberal democracy fell out of favor in swaths of the Anglosphere and elsewhere. Not surprisingly, Mounk is alarmed by the rise of populism and what he diagnoses as liberal democracy’s fragility.
PositiveThe GuardianDavid Frum’s Trumpocracy is an attempt by the former speechwriter for George W Bush – author of the term 'axis of evil' – and never-Trump Republican to come to grips with this [Trump's chaotic executive power]. He laments what he views as 'the corruption of the American Republic' and painstakingly catalogs the threats he sees posed by Trump to America, liberal democracy and Europe ... Frum is not sanguine about a return to old norms in a post-Trump America ... At the same time, Frum confronts the disconnect between white working class voters and America’s elites... Yet it is over the very issues of class and the country’s red-blue divide that Frum appears to miss part of the picture ... The author is on stronger ground when he examines Russia’s role on the global stage, the 2016 election and the intellectual moorings of Trumpism.
PositiveThe GuardianLilla rightly blames academia for converting universities into snowflaked sanctuaries, where deviation from political correctness constitutes sin punishable by banishment ... Ultimately, Lilla’s prescriptions are not a surefire remedy for a Democratic restoration. The party’s woes with white voters without a college degree go beyond just identity liberalism ... The Once and Future Liberal is a dead-on diagnosis of what ails the Democrats. The open question, however, is who will ultimately be listening to Lilla.