RaveThe San Francisco ChroniclePawel’s narrative is unflaggingly direct, but it also functions as deep art, for the book is actually a history of California posing as a family portrait. Whether it’s the Gold Rush, Japanese internment, Free Speech Movement, Watts riots, Proposition 13 or climate change, the Brown story reflects large portions of California’s past and much of its present. Politics is often the topic at hand; at other times, it takes its place in a larger social tableau ... Although much of the spotlight falls on Pat and Jerry Brown, Pawel gives full consideration to Kathleen Brown’s career, including her term as state treasurer and 1994 gubernatorial bid. We also learn a great deal about Pat’s mother, Ida Schuckman Brown; his wife, Bernice; and Anne Gust Brown, Jerry’s wife. They are presented not as foils or assistants, but rather as distinctive figures with their own goals, dispositions and accomplishments ... By reminding us that a single family has produced so much of the state’s leadership, Pawel’s skillful portrait also raises an imminent question: What’s next?
PositiveThe San Francisco Chronicle[Selvin's] approach — equal parts rock journalism and true crime — neither minimizes nor sensationalizes the violence on that dreadful day. Rather, he walks readers through the careless and mercenary decisions that led to Altamont’s lethal outcome ... If Selvin is right that Gimme Shelter went easy on the Stones, his book may do the same for the home team. But he certainly deserves credit for bringing the famous concert and its various backstories into sharp, vivid focus.