RaveThe New RepublicAbsorbing detail and lapidary prose ... a convincing and significant work ... Years of digging through all the relevant archives... enable her to write with unparalleled authority and confidence about a man and an agency now more despised than understood ... In over 800 pages of text, G-Man seldom loses narrative drive or offers less than a persuasive analysis of her subject’s deeds or motivations.
RaveThe New RepublicHow should we balance the accomplishments of the New Left with its failure to build a sturdy rival to the cautious liberals and confident neoliberals who have dominated the past half-century of U.S. politics and governance? David Talbot and Margaret Talbot, siblings and veteran journalists, have crafted a book of personal narratives rich with the kinds of details that might help answer such queries ... The book brims with vivid descriptions of how all these characters looked, dressed, got along with one another (or didn’t), and how they came across in public. The Talbots sprinkle in factual nuggets that might surprise even former activists from those years or the historians who write about them ... No one can accuse the Talbots of neglecting the fierce, diverse identities that composed and animated the ’60s left. They devote equal space to Native American rebels like Russell Means and Dennis Banks, Black leaders like Seale and Newton, the Chicano unionist Cesar Chavez, the white antiwar activists Hayden and Fonda, feminists like Booth, and gay liberationists like Rodwell. They also describe how inequalities of race and gender—and fame—often kept like-minded rebels from accomplishing more.
MixedThe New York Times Book Review... a keenly observant narrative, albeit an entirely sympathetic one ... At the center of [Freedlander\'s] story is Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who may need no introduction but still might blush to read this glowing portrayal by a reporter who lives in her New York City district and appears to have interviewed only people who share his sentiments ... On occasion, Freedlander’s terms of acclaim are reminiscent of how film magazines used to gush over Hollywood stars ... Fortunately, Freedlander looks away long enough to offer a vivid report on the growing leftist infrastructure for which A.O.C.’s election in 2018 was merely one step on the anticipated road to a party and, perhaps, a nation transformed ... Freedlander’s book is informative as an in-house account, yet it fails to take on the difficult but inescapable question of how the \'A.O.C. generation\' might actually “seize” power and \'rewrite the rules\'.
RaveThe NationOne of the chief virtues of Alexander Keyssar’s remarkable new book...is that it conclusively demonstrates the absurdity of preserving an institution that has been so contentious throughout US history and has not infrequently produced results that defied the popular will ... a scholarly masterpiece. No other historian has so persuasively explained the utter failure to ditch or change a process that, as he puts it, \'is ill understood by many Americans, bewildering to nearly everyone abroad, and [was] never imitated by another country\' ... Keyssar has crafted an absorbing, if dispiriting, narrative about the durable obstacles to structural change in the United States ... Keyssar reveals throughout his book how complex historical wisdom can be. Rarely does he offer just a single explanation for why the various efforts to reform the Electoral College or do away with it have failed to gain the necessary votes in Congress or why, for years at a stretch, their proponents saw little point in trying. The impression he leaves is of a polity in which incremental moves that enhance democracy, like the Voting Rights Act, are possible, while efforts to cure the fundamental infirmities of the system keep coming up against such barriers as the \'balance of power between the states and the national government\'[.]
RaveThe NationThe Second Founding...demonstrates [Foner\'s] talent at unearthing insights about the Civil War and Reconstruction eras, in particular how Americans defined and acted on the ideals of freedom and democracy. It’s a slim volume that synthesizes the vast library of works devoted to Reconstruction. But he uses that rich scholarship to highlight the radicalism of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments and how, over the past 150 years, clever and powerful conservatives have diligently sought to undermine their egalitarian promise ... Foner’s new book is also a guide to nearly all of his scholarship, which examines not only the rights and better living conditions gained through extended contests for power but also the ambiguous consequences of what were, as a rule, only partial victories. The sensibility that drives his work was likely born out of his experiences on the left and the frustrations of a period of American radicalism that helped do away with legal apartheid and spearheaded movements for gender equality and the protection of the environment but also failed to mount a serious challenge to the conservative tilt of both major parties ... He expresses these judgments in what another eminent historian, Christopher Lasch, called \'plain style\': direct and vivid prose without a trace of specialized language, which anyone with a passing interest in the subject can read, learn from, and enjoy.
David M Kennedy
PositiveThe Washington PostKennedy is too good a historian and too sensitive a writer to fall for a single-minded, mordant perspective .. While Kennedy\'s treatment of the 1930s is engaging but rather predictable, the author\'s chapters on World War II consistently rise to the level of the best historical narratives ... The author is just as clear-eyed about the political myopia that may have prolonged the killing and the prejudice that undermined the morality of the war at home ... His conclusions may not be original. But to write about the fires of change with grace, empathy and common sense is an achievement indeed.
RaveThe New York Times Book Review... [an] excellent biography ... Applegate, a Ph.D. in American studies from Yale, tells this grand story with aplomb, intelligence and a sure feel for historical context ... Besides her deep knowledge of 19th-century culture and politics, Applegate adeptly gets to the core of her subject\'s character, often with telling quotations ... At times, however, her narrative loses its force in a thicket of personal details. This is especially true when she writes about Beecher\'s erotic adventuring ... Yet by illuminating Beecher\'s position in history, Applegate has produced a biography worthy of its subject.
T. J. Stiles
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review... perceptive and fluently written ... Stiles writes with both the panache of a fine journalist and the analytical care of a seasoned scholar. And he offers a fruitful way to think about the larger history of American elites as well as the life of one of their most famous members.
Arnold A. Offner
MixedThe NationThe author, whose previous books concerned diplomatic history, supplies all the evidence one could want to prove that Humphrey played a major role in leading his party—and, to a degree, his country—to reject Jim Crow and embrace a number of social-democratic policies. Yet Humphrey’s decision to become the most prominent Democratic cheerleader for the US atrocity in Indochina also turned his life of liberal achievement into a tragedy ... Offner’s lengthy account of his subject’s years as vice president will make many readers cringe.
PositiveThe New Republic[Lepore] tells this dual story splendidly in her new book, These Truths ... deftly crafted ... Few writers in this country produce narratives about the past as insightful, concise, or witty as those that Lepore seems to turn out ... Lepore establishes the influences of technology on American ideals, but she has less time for the diverse flavors of political religiosity—egalitarian or otherwise ... Even secular historians who may wish that were not true should realize that attention must be paid ... Lepore begins her book by rejecting the urge to moralize, but she cannot resist making stern judgments near the end of it about the troubling, crude politics of the present ... Lepore is at her best when she illuminates these conflicts in both thought and action.
MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewO’Toole is a gifted narrator with a knack for illuminating the significance of well-known people and events. She captures what each Allied leader wanted to achieve at the Paris peace conference without losing sight of the future they were arguing about ... It’s a pleasure to read such a smart and lucid presentation of so critical an aspect of the global past ... However, O’Toole deploys her literary skills in the service of a history both familiar and rather old-fashioned. There is nothing of significance in her book that the small army of Wilson biographers and scholars of the Progressive era have not been narrating and chewing over since his death in 1924. And, aside from insightful portraits of Wilson’s two beloved wives, O’Toole’s gaze is fixed throughout on the president and other famous and powerful politicians. Absent are the opinions and deeds of the voters and political activists who compelled Wilson to grapple with the issues of corporate power and the decision to go to war that defined his presidency ... Neither does her narrative really support the title she chose. Wilson was indeed a man of profound convictions—about the functions of government, the responsibilities of citizens, the supremacy of white people.
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review...no 20th-century American intellectual devoted himself to that purpose more consistently than the subject of the new biography Schlesinger: The Imperial Historian. The question is whether his achievements matched his ambition ...Aldous gracefully balances an appreciation for his subject’s talents as a writer of narratives and speeches with an acknowledgment of his shortcomings as a political analyst and aide ...misses an opportunity to examine how Schlesinger’s gradual loss of intellectual influence mirrored the crisis of American liberalism itself ... Schlesinger’s liberal panegyrics can still be read with pleasure, even if one winces at his reluctance to abide any serious criticism of his idols.
Randall B. Woods
PositiveBookforumRandall Woods’s vividly detailed narrative ... threads juicy quotations from the tirelessly wheedling Texan into his accounts of bill after liberal bill—from civil rights to Medicare to federal aid to education to the National Endowments for the Humanities and for the Arts—that made the Great Society seem pretty unstoppable at the time.
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewIn Spain in Our Hearts, [Hochschild] retells this familiar tale in an unfamiliar and convincing way — as a collective biography that strongly sympathizes with the Americans who fought for and wrote about Republican Spain but refuses to spare them from criticism. By assembling a well-chosen set of individual narratives, many about figures who are relatively unknown, he captures why so many people thought the fate of the world might be decided by who won the conflict in a poor, mostly rural country on the edge of Europe.