RaveUSA TodayMacdonald’s is a voice of introspection that seems fully suited to the global grief ... [The essays] mark her as that rare nature writer whose subject is human nature every bit as much as the natural world. Her keenly poetic, elegiac observations trace the fleeting phenomena that surround and contextualize our lives. The descriptive range is sweeping ... Macdonald moves easily from these deeply personal, spiritual associations to realms of scientific rigor, seeking certainty in the hard evidence of how things work ... In Macdonald’s prose, the correlation between the cosmic and the common is always close at hand, with the high polish and affection for detail of authors who prove their love of things-in-themselves, whether Elizabeth Bishop’s poetry of close inspection or John Updike’s inquisitive elegance ... At its height, MacDonald’s writing captures the inexpressible rhythm of being ... Macdonald’s essays are, if anything, murmurations for our ominous time – dark yet flashing, stirred from the core.
David I. Kertzer
RaveUSA Today... vividly recounted history ... Kertzer had access to recently opened Vatican archives regarding Pius XI, and his thorough research goes a long way in overturning conventional notions about Catholic church resistance to Mussolini. If anything, it\'s a tragic story of a pope\'s too-late realization that Hitler\'s and Mussolini\'s pagan tide of anti-Semitism had drowned any rationale for church support.
PositiveUSA Today...Upheaval...is a well-documented comparative study exploring how nations can change for the better through the sort of coping mechanisms we typically associate with personal trauma. It may seem a stretch, but Diamond’s blend of logical analysis and historical narrative amounts to more than just a self-help manual for sovereign states. By detailing how seven countries faced past upheavals with self-appraisal and bold adaptation, Diamond makes an erudite case for learning from history and applying its lessons to our global future ... But Diamond’s decision not to include any discussion of the UK’s Brexit upheaval or the polarization of America in the Trump era leaves a gap in his political science.
Addressing those overweening realities of the Western world, on even a basic level, would have rounded out his thesis in timelier fashion. As it stands, the book’s prescription for success is rooted in a past that seems to recede more rapidly each day. Even so, Diamond’s careful analysis of how nations have coped with their trauma can point toward solutions for stubborn issues—such as income inequality, immigration and climate change—that bedevil the future.
Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch
PositiveUSA TodayIt’s a breezily entertaining account of a treasonous plot among various pro-crown figures, including some of Washington’s bodyguards, to assassinate the general and turn the tide of the Revolutionary War ... For Meltzer, a best-selling author of thrillers and a popular History Channel host, this foray into non-fiction has a decidedly melodramatic flavor, rushing along in the present tense from one breathless, cliffhanging chapter to the next, replete with bold-faced teasers...and flash-card prose ... But the research shown is solid, citing newspaper accounts, journal entries and letters from such revolutionary leaders as John Hancock, John Adams and Washington himself. To their credit, the authors turn the oft-chronicled details of Washington’s rise to prominence and the first American presidency into a colorful origin story ... The details of...treachery are less interesting, though, than the larger point that in the revolutionary era, peopled by colonists with divided loyalties to Britain and an emerging America, \'the two sides are porous and always changing.\'
RaveUSA Today\"None of [the sexual abuse of Hollywood\'s \'golden age\'] is described more compellingly than in Karina Longworth’s new book, Seduction: Sex, Lies, and Stardom in Howard Hughes’s Hollywood ... This is a first-rate work of cultural curation, in which Longworth combs the countless stacks of Hollywood memoirs and biographies, with a focus on the pathological predations of Howard Hughes, Texas millionaire, starmaker and film producer ... Written with forceful style and a passionate regard for the forgotten hopefuls who came to California seeking success in a thoroughly sexist era, the book casts a feminist eye on the dark decadence of early Hollywood – from silent-era orgies at the Ambassador Hotel to the impunity with which the founding studio heads manipulated starlets ... Longworth paints a vivid picture of Hughes, his marriages, divorces, feuds and the Hollywood establishment he all but ruled for a while, through hit films such as Hell’s Angels and The Outlaw.\
PositiveUSA TodayDespite her achievement, her perspective is that of the nervy outsider, one who wandered, hippie-stoned and wildly talented, into the male enclaves of a journal that lionized rock stars and helped legitimize the drug-addled counterculture as a political and intellectual force ... Green found her place there with ease, a natural storyteller with an ear for dialogue and an earthy directness to her prose ... If anything, Green’s memoir seems drenched in a nostalgia Rolling Stone’s sexist heyday doesn’t deserve, but all the same she writes unsparingly of her frailties, her fixations, the honest appetites of an explorer in a fragmenting America. Brave survivor of the psychedelic wars, she came, she saw, she conquered.
Dan Abrams and David Fisher
PositiveUSA TodayAbraham Lincoln’s legend was formed well before he became America’s 16th president in 1860. Popularly known to his Illinois friends, neighbors and colleagues as \'Honest Abe,\' he was admired as much for his rough-hewn, self-educated, rail-splitting youth as for his mature identity as one of the leading lawyers in the state capital of Springfield ... The historic outlines are all too familiar, but now ABC News chief legal affairs anchor Dan Abrams and author David Fisher deliver the pre-presidential Abe from hazy myth with Lincoln’s Last Trial: The Murder Case That Propelled Him to the Presidency
RaveUSA TodayPaul Simon: The Life...is a straight-shooting tour de force ... Hilburn’s nuanced attention to the dynamics and the substance of Simon’s artistry is evident throughout. We learn where memoir turns to message in his lyrics...and we learn countless, often surprising details of his music-making.
PositiveUSA TodayA wonderfully cinematic prologue — ‘Past the half-block-long ochre-and-slate-colored Spanish Baroque facade, under the marquee that blazed nightly with the power of 4,500 bulbs’ — reveals how Fox lost everything soon after he hit his pinnacle in 1929 … It’s a complex life, and Krefft can’t avoid a suffocating emphasis on accountancy and legal details. The book is practically a primer on New York theater leasing rates and the cash thievery of the city’s corrupt Tammany Hall political machine, which helped Fox finance his early movie palaces. Then there’s his drawn-out anti-trust battle with Thomas Edison’s movie monopoly, and the eternal inequity of movie-star salaries … Life, ever unfair, had its way with the fantastic Mr. Fox. Yet Krefft reminds us, in this big, brassy production of a book, of his grand legacy.
Erica Armstrong Dunbar
RaveUSA TodayIf there’s an irony to the fact that February, Black History Month, also contains Presidents' Day, Erica Armstrong Dunbar’s new book brings that irony into sharp relief. Never Caught is a chronicle that throws considerable shade on America’s Founding Fathers for their slaveholding hypocrisy ... Even for those who know the basics, Never Caught is a crisp and compulsively readable feat of research and storytelling.
PositiveUSA Today...this anvil of a book — at nearly a thousand pages of narrative — may prove a lumbering journey for casual consumers of American history, even though Chernow writes with grace and builds momentum. But where his Hamilton sprang freshly from the page in all his exotic, mercurial, nation-inventing dimension, Chernow’s Grant must remain the stolid, deeply shadowed figure of past biography ... Chernow has all the details, of course, and relies on letters and solid chronicles rather than interpretive leaps or glib psycho-history.
RaveUSA Today...this richly researched, passionately argued survey gets down, with persuasive rhetoric and narrative momentum. It makes the case that American pop is one long, nuanced continuum energized by a hard-fought battle for sexual and racial liberation ... Pop’s a huge universe, of course, and Powers can’t account for all of it, but her insights and historiography are sharp, and her larger point — that American music refracts and reflects a profound struggle for freedom — resounds.
MixedUSA Today...the surfeit of plot twists and emotional baggage are buoyed by Lehane’s hard-boiled lyricism and peerless feel for New England noir. But there’s also a whiff of pandering ... Lehane seems to be shuffling his deck of plot cards as the narrative lurches, settling into a grinding action-crime procedural involving a goldmine scam, cliched hit men, gruesome murders, preposterous resurrections ... Lehane’s goal for his heroine may have been ambitious, but — like Brian — he lets her down.
RaveUSA TodayGuinn’s reporting is fully rounded; he unearths details to show all sides of Jones the leader, a firebrand who helped to integrate Indianapolis years before U.S. desegregation law, who established social service programs for drug addiction, poverty and battered women. Former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown once introduced Jones as an 'American Gandhi.' What lesson Guinn imparts in 500 jungle-dense pages may have been summed up in two lines by Bob Dylan: 'Don’t follow leaders/Watch the parkin’ meters.' Yet only a cynic would dismiss this narrative as useless. The Jonestown massacre opened eyes wide to the nihilism of cults — and, perhaps, to the limits of charisma.
RaveUSA Today...a first-rate work of biography and history, addressing the film and the family in all their complexity and character ... Zapruder writes elegantly and with keen sensitivity about the toll the film took on her late father, Henry, a lawyer who became the film’s guardian after Abraham’s death ... [an] absorbing, deeply researched book.
RaveUSA Today[Springsteen's] narrative gift is on glorious display in Born to Run, a philosophically rich ramble through a rock ‘n' roll life ... Reading his intimate look back on a remarkable yet troubled life, it’s safe to say that Bruce’s aesthetic wouldn’t be complete without this long-form Song of Springsteen. It’s the lyric he was born to write.
RaveUSA TodaySelvin triumphs with a detailed, unsentimental exploration of who, what, when and where, drawn from interviews with those who were there — from the medical staff and stage crews to the musicians themselves — and extensive documentation ... With this lurid yet deeply cautionary tale, Selvin shows what a bad, strange trip it was.
RaveUSA TodayHer story has been told and, no doubt, distorted quite a bit over the decades. But Lubow’s deeply researched and muted narrative — there’s no need to sensationalize with purple prose a life so strange and so shadowed — reads definitively ... Lubow chronicles Arbus’s rise and fall with a novelistic intensity that plumbs the decisive moments of a driven, unsettled soul. Along the way, he explores the complex intersections of her life and art, and delivers a major work that helps us see how Arbus saw, and how she told single-frame stories that keep speaking to us.
PositiveUSA TodayPhilbrick’s impeccable research and solemn style aim for an atmospheric immersion, swaddling the reader in period specifics (did you know that pettiaugers were 'two-sailed workboats equipped with leeboards instead of a keel'?). But the book’s engine revs nicely with the appearance of Arnold, a Connecticut Yankee who prospered as a New Haven merchant, patriot, and builder of 'one of the finest homes in town'...Philbrick’s thick-textured chronicle echoes David McCullough’s breezier history, 1776, but as a cautionary tale of character corrupted in pursuit of power, Valiant Ambition casts its scholarly spell.
RaveUSA Today...vividly reported...the forces of man and nature, so often at odds, were on a familiar collision course, and this engaging book maneuvers deftly along the way toward impact.