RavePittsburgh Post-GazetteAmazon, in other words, is perhaps the most unifying entity in 21st-century American society. It is the campfire we have chosen to commune around, and MacGillis’ book takes a wide, expansive look at how this campfire has become a firestorm ... MacGillis approaches his subject from the proverbial side as opposed to head-on. He reports widely, stitching together a portrait of workers, families, and towns that have been forever affected by Amazon. He describes his aim as wanting to provide readers not with an audit of the company but rather \'a closer look at the America that fell in the company’s lengthening shadow\' ... MacGillis organizes many of his chapters around the ways in which Amazon excels at these sorts of out-of-sight operations — lobbying, tax loopholes, data centers ... I’m certainly a mark for a book that tells the stories of cities like Seattle and Dayton not with stats but instead via long quotations from writers like Charles D’Ambrosio and Paul Laurence Dunbar. But the book’s literariness is overstated. I found Fulfillment to have more in common with the horror and science fiction genres, where Amazon is the shark, the murderer, the Frankenstein, met (wisely) with caution by some and with wide-eyed optimism by others ... A small portion of the book is devoted to the frenzied competition over which city would land Amazon’s second headquarters, and I vow right now, to all presses and writers: if you write a book about the embarrassing \'HQ2\' fiasco, we will review it ... MacGillis asks us to truly process what Amazon’s pandemic profitability means for the nation ... sobering.
PositivePIttsburgh Post-GazetteMr. Klein is someone who is allergic to quick fixes and simple explanations ... The book, Mr. Klein’s first, is thorough. It’s engaging ... I found myself more engaged by the energy he devotes to analyzing language. A lesser text or article might say our system is ‘broken’ as a result of ‘polarization’ driven by ‘identity politics,’ but Mr. Klein interrogates the use of each word in that sentence ... Mr. Klein’s generosity as someone who quotes extensively is what I view to be the second reason to recommend Why We’re Polarized above other polarization texts ... Mr. Klein is at his best in his writing, in his book, on his podcasts when he is deeply engaged with the views of others. He’s a born, gifted synthesizer. In book form, this gift can be a little halting at times. Practically every chapter begins by examining a 20th century study, which can start to feel like an unnecessary step backward. But the move is representative of Mr. Klein’s comfort zone. He wants to gather information. He wants to see if it changes his mind about the causes of polarization.
PositivePittsburgh Post-GazetteThere’s no shortage of important cases he has to cover from the past half-century. There’s no shortage of justices, either, a majority of whom are introduced in Supreme Inequality via crucial backstories, which are both necessary to the book’s arguments and detrimental to its pace ... The reason that Supreme Inequality works —and the reason its arguments should replace our oft-recycled legal narratives and representations — is due to Mr. Cohen’s relentless focus ... Mr. Cohen is also infuriatingly good at revisiting poorly written majority opinions ... a tour guide such as Mr. Cohen is invaluable. He understands both the \'what\' and the \'why\' of the court’s past 50 years.
RaveThe Pittsburgh Post-GazetteMusk’s feints and fibs are cataloged in Edward Niedermeyer’s exceptional Ludicrous: The Unvarnished Story of Tesla Motors. ... an essential case study of how a brash visionary can suck every last speck of oxygen and rationalism from an industry, so much so that it reads like a necessary companion to Kevin Young’s excellent Bunk: The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post-Facts and Fake News. ... I can confirm that if you peruse the commentary around a Niedermeyer communique, you will find a highly motivated fan base that seems more interested in protecting Tesla’s stock valuation than reading past the headline on stories about the many half-truths Tesla has told about its environmental impact, its full self-driving upgrade and other matters.
PositivePittsburgh Post-GazetteWhat ultimately carries the book is Stephenson’s line-to-line attentiveness, to both the world we as readers recognize and the worlds we don’t. In the same way that Rod Serling opens most Twilight Zone episodes with a boringly recognizable scene before nudging characters into the fourth dimension, Stephenson is superb at writing relatable prose that could slide into any of the best contemporary literary fiction ... There’s a glut of what I like to think of as Marty McFly Prose, where characters announce to both themselves and the audience that they must get \'to Moab before the president of the United States gets there.\' These announcements may seem trashy beside Stephenson’s more descriptive lines, but, much like in Back to the Future, these lines are clarifying as the narrative toggles between ridiculousness and profundity.
PositivePittsburgh Post-Gazette\"... harrowingly informational ... For newcomers to the climate conversation, the book will be nightmare-inducing yet also welcoming, seeing as Mr. Wallace-Wells isn’t a preachy environmentalist but instead a direct and powerful writer who doesn’t \'even think of myself as a nature person\' ... That is the frighteningly effective thing about Mr. Wallace-Wells’ approach — it demonstrates how climate change affects the environment and how, lest we forget, our bodies reside in the environment ... Although it’s likely to be overlooked by more scientifically oriented readers, one of the more fascinating chapters concerns storytelling.\
PositivePittsburgh Post-GazetteIt’s a fun tour. Immerwahr recasts popularized figures such as Daniel Boone, Douglas MacArthur and Mark Twain as central if sometimes unwitting players in the debate over American expansionism. He also manages to reframe everything from James Bond movies to the Beatles as crucially relevant in matters of empire and globalization ... Immerwahr is particularly convincing when criticizing God’s play-calling. When it comes to U.S. territories, the only thing more consistent than violence is ineptitude ... by the end of Daniel Immerwahr’s book, the story of the U.S. territories feels both overlooked and crucial when it comes to understanding our supposedly indivisible nation.
PositivePittsburgh Post-Gazette\"Mr. Tomasky’s tone is rather friendly itself, if off-putting at times. He establishes that his readers aren’t political insiders but rather “average concerned citizens,” though at times he sounds like a parent who has brought democracy to show-and-tell. (Early on, exclamation points run wild.) On the whole, the conversational tone is charming and, more importantly, effective ... Although I respect and agree with Mr. Tomasky’s faith in the modern American university as a crucial institution of democracy, he doesn’t address a massive impediment: how state legislatures have relentlessly defunded and demonized education at all levels.\
RavePittsburgh Post-Gazette\"From this central family drama springs a number of narrative moves that can hardly be called minor or tangential ... The most compelling sections center on the narrator and her unease about her documentary project ... The novel’s climax — a chapter-spanning single sentence — is a true literary spectacle. Foregoing paragraph breaks, Ms. Luiselli essentially builds a wall of prose across 19 pages. It’s the most emotionally draining sentence that will be published this year, and, unlike a wall of concrete, her wall of prose unites the many characters’ story lines ... [Luisielli] is capable of pushing the boundaries of the sentence like James Joyce, David Foster Wallace and other over-celebrated white male novelists of the 20th century, but rather than mere performative page-passing, her intent is to corral politics, history and story into conversation. In short, Ms. Luiselli is now constructing books that are both personal and global, familial and political.\
Lawrence D. Burns and Christopher Shulgan
PositivePittsburgh Post-Gazette\"Both informative and slog-free, Lawrence D. Burns and Christopher Shulgan’s Autonomy: The Quest to Build the Driverless Car — And How It Will Reshape Our World succeeds for the same reason all great science writing does: its interest in people is par to its interest in objects ... The central narrative functions like a heist movie. The target is the Department of Defense’s off-road robot races in 2004, 2005, and 2008. The prize: $1 million for the first contest, $2 million thereafter ... As with any field’s emergent book-length work, Autonomy has gaps that future texts must fill. When it comes to the forthcoming automation-induced labor crisis, Autonomy mostly gestures toward oft-cited consultancy reports on massive job losses.\