MixedUSA TodayIn Craig Unger\'s House of Trump, House of Putin, Russian names rush past the reader faster than the Cossack cavalry in Sergei Eisenstein\'s Battleship Potemkin, starting with Vladimir Putin, Felix Sater and Semion Mogilevich. Putin is, of course, the Russian president for whom President Donald Trump has a bizarre fixation ... Unger, a veteran journalist and author, takes the reader on a veritable tour of sleazy night clubs, restaurants and resorts frequented by Russian oligarchs and criminals in this book subtitled The Untold Story of Donald Trump and the Russian Mafia. ... Unger...cites dozens of books and journalistic accounts of events. He\'s weak, however, on the primary sources needed to sway a skeptical reader, much less a jury.
PositiveUSA TodayStories about disasters averted often provide more drama and sheer terror than those that actually happen. So it is with Marc Ambinder’s The Brink: President Reagan and the Nuclear War Scare of 1983, a detailed account of a nuclear holocaust that never happened ... Reagan believed Soviet leadership had contemplated a possible winnable nuclear war, just as there were U.S. advisers who believed the same thing. Each nation looked at the other as a rival bent on the other\'s destruction. If a nuclear strike could somehow accomplish that without guaranteeing mutual destruction, so be it. By the middle of 1983, it seemed that someone in either Moscow or Washington would take that chance ... Ambinder infuses this drama with a rapid pace involving multiple players in the White House, Kremlin and missile sites throughout the world, including on the fields of West Germany, where U.S. commanders expected a Soviet ground attack that could trigger the use of nuclear weapons.
Kate Andersen Brower
PositiveUSA Today[A] crisp, engrossing new book ... First in Line is not a deep historical treatise that examines the lives and times of our recent presidents. It does not need to be. Instead, Brower delivers what she did in her previous books, a readable, insightful account of how the vice presidency has evolved and the men could end up in the Oval Office some day.
Patrick K O'Donnell
PositiveUSA TodayIt\'s a gripping read about a war that many Americans know little about ... O\'Donnell\'s focus on the Body Bearers makes The Unknowns stand out from the normal war story. He shows how their exploits brought them to the notice of Gen. John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force ... At times The Unknowns can be confusing, as there are multiple characters to follow through multiple battles and locations. But few authors have the same kind of enthusiasm and gusto that O\'Donnell brings to his topic. His gift is taking the reader from the map room to the battlefield. It\'s an exciting, often harrowing, trip worth taking.
RaveUSA TodayMeacham has become one of America’s most earnest and thoughtful biographers and historians ... He employs all of those skills in The Soul of America, a thoroughly researched and smoothly written roundup of some of the worst parts of American history and how they were gradually overcome ... Meacham provides advice to find our better angels — enter the arena, resist tribalism, respect facts and deploy reason, find a critical balance and keep history in mind. He\'s provided a great way to do it.
RaveUSA TodayAs author Joseph Rodota shows in his excellent new book The Watergate: Inside America’s Most Infamous Address, life in the Watergate didn't always match the hype of its developers, although the intrigue inside the buildings often outstripped anyone's imagination ... Rodota goes further than the scandal, taking readers inside the hulking buildings to show the people and characters inside.
Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt
RaveUSA TodayAs tempting as it is for opponents of President Trump — whom the authors, Harvard University professors, call a ‘serial norm breaker’ — to blame him for all of what ails the U.S. democracy, he is just one of many who have changed the traditions of our national political fabric … At the root, they say, is racism … The authors deftly mine world history for other examples of how politicians have distorted their nations' less-robust democracies to enhance their own power … The authors show the fragility of even the best democracies and also caution politicians, such as those who enabled Chavez in Venezuela, who think they can somehow co-opt autocrats without getting burned.
PositiveUSA Today...O'Donnell understands politics and its impact. He writes with an assurance and steady sense of pace that makes much of this seem new. He is especially strong on Nixon's interference in the 1968 Paris peace talks, an episode long rumored but which is now finally understood as fact ... The one quibble with Playing with Fire is that you know you're reading a book by a liberal TV icon; O'Donnell makes no effort to hide his devotion to Robert Kennedy, whom he calls Bobby throughout the book. Such coziness is unseemly and slightly dims the luster of an otherwise illuminating work.
RaveUSA TodayLitt, while obviously a fan of the former president, does more than just shower affection on Obama and gaze longingly at his Shepard Fairey poster. He delivers a thoughtful and funny account of life as a minnow surrounded by Washington’s self-important whales. Litt took his job seriously, but never himself, and that makes for enjoyable reading. While his account should appeal to those of all political persuasions interested in what happens inside the White House, it’s hard to see many on the right embracing his view of the 44th president ... Litt's books ranks with other classics from former White House speechwriters, such as Peggy Noonan's What I Saw at the Revolution about the Reagan administration. It's worth a read, even if Litt's revolution wasn't one you agreed with.
PositiveUSA TodayDee excels at capturing the feeling in these places whose best days, if they ever really existed, are decades gone by. His knowing gaze and elegant writing work well throughout The Locals, which is infused with a sense of desperation and dread. His characters are vivid, and the emotions raw. The novel stumbles somewhat near the end, however, seeming to run out of steam.
RaveUSA Today[Marshall] writes with the cool drollery that characterized the work of Christopher Hitchens or Simon Winchester. He tackles a topic that many people take seriously without taking himself seriously, and the result is a book that explains where many of the flags that capture the world's imagination come from and why ... A Flag Worth Dying For is a fresh explanation of symbols we often take for granted, and a keen meditation on what flags mean to those who embrace or recoil from them. It's not a book worth dying for, but it's one worth reading.
RaveUSA TodayWill Bardenwerper deftly toggles from a nonstop supply of terror to occasional scenes of normal life throughout The Prisoner in His Palace ... a brief, but powerful, meditation on the meaning of evil and power.
MixedUSA TodayRising Star is Garrow's attempt to crack that template, and he does so with a book as heavy as a paving brick and about as subtle as one heaved through a picture window ... Garrow puts great faith in the memories of Obama's onetime girlfriend, Oberlin professor Sheila Miyoshi Jager, whose three-year relationship with Obama is treated with as much seriousness as the decision to kill Osama bin Laden ... Each page crackles with the strength of his research, and the footnotes groan with great detail. It's a prodigious work, and one that will provide the foundation for any serious Obama biographer in the future. It shows the depth and richness of Obama's life ... Garrow's research cries out for a discerning editor.
Thomas Oliphant and Curtis Wilkie
RaveUSA TodayOliphant and Wilkie excel here in taking the accepted knowledge of Kennedy's rise, debunking some of the conventional wisdom (such as Joe Kennedy's role as his son's Svengali) and adding new details that provide a richer history of our 35th president ... The authors' knowledge of politics, campaigns and the presidency crackles off each page. They touch all the Kennedy bases here, detailing the roles played by Robert Kennedy, the candidate's brother, as well as aides Theodore Sorenson, Lawrence O'Brien and others. Oliphant and Wilkie also give life to long-forgotten players in Massachusetts politics ... a must-read for fans of presidential history.
John A. Farrell
PositiveUSA TodayThat's a lot of material to pack into one volume, even one that weighs in at 750 pages, but Farrell does it while providing revelations and insights along the way ... Farrell devastatingly shows how Nixon sabotaged the 1968 peace talks in Paris to end the Vietnam War by using Chinese-American activist Anna Chennault, a staunch anti-communist, as a conduit between his presidential campaign and the South Vietnamese government ... Richard Nixon: The Life falters only when it feels rushed. Near its end, a lot of details fly by fast and furiously. A reader who is not steeped in decades' worth of Nixon lore will find this an extremely valuable introduction to the life and times of one of our most consequential presidents.
PositiveUSA TodayBhattacharjee has done an excellent job explaining codes and ciphers. He makes that arcane world come alive, particularly as he shows the chief investigators, led by the late Steve Carr of the FBI, as they piece together the various clues that led them to Regan ... The downside here, however, is that despite the lengthy sentence meted out to Regan after he was convicted of espionage, his actions don't rise to the level of a Snowden, Aldrich Ames or Kim Philby. The documents and photos never reached a foreign government, nor were they ever linked to damage to U.S. interests or troops. They were eventually recovered after extensive sleuthing. For all his trying, Regan failed at being a spy.
PositiveUSA TodayWolfe, a staff reporter for The Wall Street Journal, starts slowly here. At first, she seems enthralled by these paragons of hoodie fashion culture and their big dreams. It's hard to believe she's serious when she writes, 'Even more than a testing ground for startups, Silicon Valley, to me, is a larger laboratory of cultural experimentation, where the only thing that's impossible is to predict.' By the book's end, as Wolfe tracks the Thiel fellows along their often-tortured paths through the new economy, it's clear she's half-serious. She captures the absurdity of this brave new world, pierces the hype but also conveys the dreams and the passions that can shape a world's economy.
Michael Kranish & Marc Fisher
PositiveUSA TodayAny voter who is not already devoted to Trump's cause will find plenty of reason to think long and hard about whether to support him after reading this book ... Trump Revealed delivers enough devastating details to disqualify virtually any other candidate. Talented writers Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher have taken the work of dozens of Post journalists and woven it into a compelling narrative.
Jean Edward Smith
MixedUSA TodaySmith takes the president's own words and subsequent writing to show how others may have enabled the decision to invade, but Bush pushed the agenda, as he did from the moment he took office ... While Smith writes with a deft sweep and sense of history, Bush will not stand as the definitive treatment of this president. It relies too much on contemporary journalism, memoirs and subjective reports, and drips with condescension toward its subject. Only after the relevant documents are declassified, along with a cooling passions, will a more complete portrait be ready to be written.
PositiveUSA TodayKendall writes movingly and effectively about the parenting skills of the 43 men who have served as president ... The author places the presidents in six categories. There are the preoccupied fathers more focused on politics and work than parenting; playful pals who valued being their children's buddy over being a strong parent; the double-dealers who couldn't be trusted with their families or the country; tiger dads prone to bad tempers and high expectations; the grief-stricken, such as Pierce and Coolidge; and the nurturers ... Any parent can talk about the demands of raising children. Kendall succeeds in showing how some presidents matched those demands and rose above them, while others failed miserably yet still managed to navigate the nation through challenges and crises.
RaveUSA TodayRightful Heritage is a big book about a pivotal time in American history. Brinkley writes admiringly of Roosevelt's record, but his tone is backed up by a rich trove of research. For the millions of Americans who enjoy the fruits of Roosevelt's work each year, that admiration is easier to understand.