PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewReading between the lines of Julia Sweig’s extensive, engaging new biography, Lady Bird Johnson: Hiding in Plain Sight, it is possible to see her as the perfect bridge to the modern first lady — not the visionless helpmeet of a Nancy Reagan, but not quite the fully realized, independent role models of Hillary Clinton or Michelle Obama ... It would take a modern woman to see through the thick smoke screen of self-deprecation that was Lady Bird’s persona. And to those who do not know her story, Sweig’s book will come as a revelation, showing her to be thoughtful, unstoppable and well ahead of her time (and possibly her husband) when it came to women’s rights, racial disparities, economic inequality, the decline of America’s cities and, especially, conservation and how it related to the quality of public health and public life ... a book in the Caro mold, using Lady Bird, along with tapes and transcripts of her entire White House diary, to tell the history of America during the Johnson years, permitting the reader to see that convulsive time — and to understand the decisions that were made — through the very personal impressions of the first lady ... This cover-all-bases strategy is the book’s strength and its weakness ... Sweig’s determination to take Lady Bird seriously — to provide a true accounting of her efforts — is admirable; her sources include, in addition to the first lady’s diary and personal papers, dozens of interviews and oral histories. But sometimes this works against the flow of the narrative ... As with so many biographies of famous people and famous events, the best parts of Lady Bird Johnson are the intimate glimpses of the first lady’s interactions with family and other notable folk. Sweig, who has also written books on Cuba and U.S. foreign policy, is much more sensitive to the nuances of Lady Bird’s complicated relationship with Jacqueline Kennedy than other biographers have been. Instead of the shrinking violet often portrayed in the press, we find Lady Bird stepping in for a pregnant, politics-hating Jackie during J.F.K.’s presidential campaign, and trying her best to comfort her aboard Air Force One in the hours after he had been assassinated. Sweig’s vivid account of a confusing reunion with Jackie during Robert F. Kennedy’s funeral is as powerful as it is heartbreaking.
RaveThe New York Times Book Review... simply brilliant, both in its granular storytelling and its enormous compassion. This book should be required reading for anyone trying to understand the challenges of getting to and surviving in the United States in the Trump era, and it would make an excellent, subversive gift for those who believe that closing our borders is the best way to keep America strong ... offers a crash course in how shifts in public attitudes and, in turn, United States policy have helped and hindered people desperate to escape the poverty or violence in their homelands ... What makes this book so different from other works that tell similar stories is the talent and doggedness of Goudeau, who spent years working with refugees in Austin, and brings an insider’s authority to the page. But she also clearly grasps that nonfiction narratives like these rise and fall on the small details that reveal a character’s humanity; Goudeau understands the metaphorical power of a beloved courtyard where family gatherings will never occur again, and the fear inspired by the sideways glance of a newly minted government soldier who may or may not be a friend on any given day ... Reading After the Last Border will make you wish that more Americans would take a critical look at themselves and ask whether we are who we want to be, or whether we have lost our allegiance to the dreams that still inspire so many to try to reach our shores.
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review\"... the new book by Charles Graeber, The Breakthrough: Immunotherapy and the Race to Cure Cancer, artfully traces the history of old and new developments that may have — finally — resulted in an actual cure for the most dreaded of all diseases ... Graeber does a good job of hacking through [the medical jargon], interspersing the medical research with interesting accounts of patients and their determined physicians ... Graeber also thoughtfully provides the reader with a two-page glossary in the front and extensive notes in back, including a Cliffs Notes-type section called \'The Breakthrough, in Brief\' and a jaunty one after it entitled \'A Brief Anecdotal History of Disease, Humans, and the Quest for Immunity.\' A discerning reader might wish for a better-crafted book, with much of this information woven into the text itself, but it’s a debatable point; you wouldn’t want it to get in the way of the story, and it probably would.\
RaveThe Kings of Big SpringMr. Mealer, who covered war in the Congo for the Associated Press and Harper’s magazine, has impressive reporter’s chops as well as a native West Texan’s gift for storytelling. The combination produces the best kind of twofer: an engaging history of the oil patch wrapped in an intimate portrait of his own family ... At this sort of tale-telling Mr. Mealer excels, turning the lives of ordinary working people—three generations of his family—into powerful stories of folks trying, one way or another, to pull themselves just one rung up the ladder in the face of seemingly endless economic obstacles ... And for once, this isn’t just a story of men, but of the women who held things together—or didn’t. The women in The Kings of Big Spring suffer in all the familiar ways, becoming ever more acquainted with loss as farms and children and even the smallest fortunes disappear.