RaveBooklistGrounded in an exceptional and up-to-date knowledge of the military, diplomatic, and individual components of American and Soviet politics, he speculates on the role played by chance and even dumb luck in the high-level chess game that was played out in October 1962, deftly summarizing the positions of those favoring an immediate military strike at the Russian missiles in Cuba, as opposed to less cataclysmic actions ... insightful.
Thomas A. Schwartz
RaveBooklistSchwartz grounds his analysis of Kissinger’s distinguished intellectual background with thorough coverage of his youth and academic life, and his voluminous writings. Kissinger’s ideological posture vacillated dramatically, and it is Schwartz’s great strength that he deals objectively with the manifold sides of his subject’s personality: Machiavellian, reckless, prone to \'creative ambiguity.\' This is a sophisticated, well-textured study of a major figure in American political history.
PositiveBooklistThe events culminating with the mass arrests of 12,000 people in Washington, D.C., in the spring of 1971 have been curiously underreported in most histories of the Vietnam era. Roberts changes that with this compelling history of Mayday 1971 ... Along with recounting the events and the government’s response, Roberts deftly integrates profiles of many individuals on all sides of the action ... Roberts has contributed a dramatic, heavily detailed account one of the major actions of the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam ... The mass arrest of 12,000 \'Mayday people\' in their abortive attempt to tie up the capital, and their eventual release, is the centerpiece of this compelling story.
PositiveBooklistNathanson goes beyond tracing Bouton’s life, focusing instead on explicating the roots of Ball Four. In so doing, the book becomes an inside-publishing exposé, showing how the publication and selling of Ball Four changed our expectations of what a sports book could be. Always outspoken, Bouton took on the baseball establishment, showing how major leaguers behaved behind the scenes, humanizing them by shattering the angelic image promulgated by the traditional baseball press. In addition, the book provides fascinating details about Bouton’s post–Ball Four life ... A welcome look at one of baseball’s signature mavericks.
PositiveBooklist...Weitzman, a journalist with Bleacher Report, points out that winning is not always the way to build championship teams ... The jury is still out on the 76ers, but Weitzman offers a fascinating review of the tanking-to-the-top philosophy, including statistical analysis (yes, there are some algorithms).
PositiveBooklist... as comfortable as an old mitt. Whether dealing with Berra’s youth in St. Louis’ Italian American neighborhood, called the Hill, his experiences in the wartime navy, or his courtship of and longtime marriage to the former Carmen Short, Pessah ays it all out in that straightforward, surface-only style—clichés included—that baseball fans know from hundreds of adoring star bios ... Pessah offers more-insightful commentary, particularly on why Berra was always popular as a ballplayer ... Pessah movingly portrays a humble and good man entering his final years, a beloved icon and a decent fellow. If anyone deserves a good old-school biography, it’s Yogi.
PositiveBooklistAchorn combines this collective biography with a suspense tale involving Booth, who was there to kill Lincoln. Although we know Booth was unsuccessful at that point, Achorn re-creates the scene in a way that generates considerable tension. Mixed in is much Civil War history, including stomach-turning descriptions of the treatment of prisoners, civilians, and soldiers. The mud- and waste-filled city of Washington is described accurately, if also nauseatingly ... Hovering over all is the melancholy presence of Lincoln himself, of whom Achorn provides a rich, heavily psychological portrait. The inauguration speech itself, reprinted in the appendix, is oddly religious (for the freethinking Lincoln) and conciliatory, though that feeling, as Achorn makes clear, was not shared by everyone. A moving chronicle of the country on the eve of assassination.
Fergus M. Bordewich
PositiveBooklistA revealing analysis of the relationships of Congress, President Lincoln, and the American people.
PositiveBooklistThis balanced recounting of American nuclear strategizing, by the knowledgable author of The Wizards of Armageddon (1983), is chillingly matter-of-fact in its recounting of political leaders discussing millions of deaths, destruction of cities, and, frankly, the unthinkable ... A frightening but necessary treatment of nuclear policy
MixedBooklistChaffin occasionally loses sight of the ostensible focus of his book, the friendship that developed between its two principals, Thomas Jefferson and Lafayette, who played significant roles in both revolutions, but the book is, nonetheless, an insightful dual biography of the wealthy but idealistic French aristocrat and the flawed intellectual giant on the American side. Chaffin is strong on the international aspects, but he is less certain on the personal, including Jefferson’s romantic (or semiromantic) relationships. Lafayette’s reunion with the elderly Jefferson in 1824 is the book’s emotional high point.
PositiveBooklistTaylor exhibits his comprehensive knowledge of Virginia in this period, and, along the way, he wittily skewers what had formerly been Virginia’s leading institution of higher education, the College of William & Mary ... A complex but fascinating story.
PositiveBooklistThis account of the rise and fall of two internet startups that became billion-dollar enterprises, FanDuel and DraftKings, details how fantasy-football gambling went from kitchen tables (buddies throwing money into a pot) to a massive operation in which players pitted their drafting expertise against others across the globe. Author Chen gets close to the individuals on both sides of the Atlantic ... Scandal intruded when one company’s employee used inside information to bet on an opponent’s site. With criminal investigations from the FBI came attempts at regulation, but the story is a long way from over. Suggest this both to fantasy-sports participants and to readers of Ben Mezrich’s The Accidental Billionaires...
PositiveBooklist[Lovell\'s] knowledgeable depiction of events in Peru is particularly vivid and grisly. Lovell’s experience as a renowned sinologist brings authority to her compelling, if sometimes dense, argument. The rift between Russia and China is explained in painstaking detail, though it is tangential to the book’s main thrust. Finally, events in China today bring Lovell’s account full circle.
Jean Edward Smith
PositiveBooklistSmith, a WWII expert, examines the fascinating circumstances surrounding the liberation of Paris, which took place with no destruction to the city ... A fascinating chapter in the larger of story of the Allied victory in Europe.
PositiveBooklist... a thoughtful analysis ... Nagorski brings keen psychological insights into the world leaders involved (particularly Hitler and Stalin) and a striking awareness of Eastern European affairs. He points out convincingly that Stalin, as well as Hitler, harbored dangerous and self-destructive illusions, and he exposes both leaders’ personal and tactical failings. He sometimes loses sight of his central thesis—a not-uncommon phenomenon when authors saddle themselves with overweening premises—but, nevertheless, this is solid history.
Jonathan M. Hansen
PositiveBooklistHansen brings imposing research and notable erudition to this account of Fidel Castro’s early life ... we learn much that we haven’t known before about the privileged young man who became a revolutionary ... We are left still uncertain exactly how Castro turned from the \'liberal nationalist\' he was as a youth to what he became after 1959. Still, this is a gripping and edifying narrative.
PositiveBooklistLacey deals with issues and strategies, including complex economic considerations, that many others have largely bypassed ... Comparisons to Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals (2005), about Lincoln’s cabinet, are inevitable, and, in fact, the two books make an excellent pairing. A convincing addition to the literature of WWII.
RaveBooklist... balanced, elegantly written, and massively researched ... Combining apt quotation with flowing and precise original language, Atkinson describes military encounters that, though often unbearably grim, are evoked in vivid and image-laden terms ... His profiles of American and English statesmen and soldiers are fair and sharply etched. His treatment of the elderly Benjamin Franklin, especially his diplomacy in Paris, is masterful and funny ... Aided by fine and numerous maps, this is superb military and diplomatic history and represents storytelling on a grand scale.
PositiveBooklistCohen skirts the matter of Gerald Ford’s succession to the resigned Richard Nixon, citing his reasons for doing so, but it’s unfortunate that he almost ignores the nation’s most definitively \'accidental presidency.\' But the story he does tell is illuminating, particularly in its treatment of John Tyler’s assumption of the presidency after the death of Harrison and how that event set the precedent of succession, which was far from a foregone conclusion. He also covers in depth the selection of the respective vice presidents and the detail surrounding the transitions. For a work intended for general readers, there is a surfeit of endnotes, but this is genuinely interesting history on a topic that has never been addressed in this depth.
Art Shamsky and Erik Sherman
RaveBooklistShamsky is a capable, if sometimes repetitive, writer, and, while the story of the Miracle Mets has been told before...it bears telling again. Shamsky’s account of the 1969 season is exceptional, as is his handling of the team’s disparate personalities, the national context in which the Mets staged their Miracle (it was a year for miracles—the first manned moon landing took place less than three months before the World Series), and the coverage of the racial amity on the team.
PositiveBooklist[A] chatty, fact-filled popular narrative ... In some ways, the book strays from a purely New York focus, but it is a compelling read about a fascinatingly rich period.
PositiveBooklist\"...well-crafted ... The novel unfolds in an extremely layered manner, but what Swift’s story slowly reveals says much about publishing, pride, deceit, and plagiarism—and worse, much worse.\
PositiveBooklist OnlineHistorian Arsenault’s biography of tennis star Arthur Ashe, still the only African American male to win a Wimbledon, U. S. Open, and Australian singles title, focuses not on his subject’s success on the court but, rather, on his rich and varied, if sadly short, life outside of tennis—his upbringing in Richmond, Virginia; his complex personality; his civil rights activism; his philanthropy; his legacy; and, of course, his health (a serious heart condition led to his contracting HIV from a blood transfusion) ... Ashe accomplished much with a tennis racket in his hand, but Arsenault, to his credit, succeeds in showing that this tennis star’s life was only beginning when he left the game.
PositiveBooklistIt is not an easy book to evaluate because it is so up-to-the-minute, and Chinen is setting a new standard. His chapter on jazz education, consistent with this stance, is informative and welcome, as is his expansion of his coverage to include an international focus ... Informative reading for anyone open to exploring new horizons in music.
J D Dickey
PositiveBooklistThis is more than straightforward biography ... a unique perspective on this oft-written-about topic. The military aspects of the march and what Sherman called \"hard war\" are vividly recounted in their dreadful detail. A valuable contribution to Civil War history.
James F. Simon
RaveBooklist Online\"Eisenhower, who also appointed William Brennan, famously described the appointment of Warren as his most regrettable decision, and the two principals’ individuality, as well as their relationship to one another and to their associate justices, is skillfully and intelligently drawn. This is a cogently written book, especially given the complexity of many of the issues. Simon does great justice to an important segment of a critical period in American history.\
PositiveBooklistStark is well known as an outdoor and adventure writer, as well as a historian, and that combination comes in very handy here ... This is colorful history, bringing to life a period in which Washington, despite serious illness, matured and began demonstrating the skills that led to his later military triumphs and his quiet leadership as president.
MixedBooklistAs the street works its way up the West Side (partly following the old Bloomingdale Road), Broadway changes character. Recent major transformations are unfortunately entirely omitted. Except in Manhatttanville (uptown), the bad times are barely discussed. At best, the book is a partial history of Broadway, but it is engagingly written and supplemented by good, easy-to-follow maps at each milestone.
RaveBooklistThis is an elegantly and wittily written, deeply nuanced, and finely argued biography, a notable addition to the large Woodrow Wilson collection ... Insightfully, she also shows how his frequent ailments, his intractability, and his second wife’s tending of him late in his tenure all have their precursors earlier in Wilson’s life. Domestic issues, such as race, are not covered as thoroughly as one would hope, but she is particularly strong in showing how Wilson’s Fourteen Points (a statement of principles for the peace following the war) were, to say the least, misguided or naive and, again, rooted in Wilson’s character. An essential contribution to presidential history.
PositiveBooklistThe artists and musical styles Gordon covers here, while united by the Memphis connection, are highly diverse ... As an insider, Gordon is perfectly placed to bring together all the aspects of the incredibly varied Memphis music scene. This will be limited to fans deeply interested in the topic, but for that target audience, it hits the mark.
RaveBooklistThere are several outstanding books combined into one here ... Boot has provided the first thorough biography of Edward Lansdale. Secondarily, this is a superb history of the Vietnam conflict and includes fascinating military detail and a firm grasp of both American and Vietnamese politics ... This important book—substantially enhanced by excerpts from Lansdale’s own writing and augmented by outstanding maps—deserves to be read alongside Neil Sheehan’s award-winning A Bright Shining Lie (1988).
RaveBooklistThis is a very good, angrily passionate, and ultimately saddening book ... New York, he argues in a brilliantly written and well-informed account, is losing its bohemian flair and often raffish charm ... The book is about displacement, race, and social class, the substitution of elites for 'undesirables.' His conclusion: 'We can still find pleasure in the gifts of New York. It’s just a whole lot harder than it used to be.'
RaveBooklistThis is a history book that reads like the best thrillers ... Focusing on these exiles, Olson offers a fascinating view of the war and its aftermath, less from a military than from a high-level civilian perspective ... The many individuals are finely drawn, major developments (breaking of the Enigma code, D-Day, the Battle of Arnhem, the crucial contribution of the BBC) are well covered, and the book provides an unusual and very insightful angle on the war.