PositiveThe Washington Post[Bernstein\'s] subjects are religious and financial manias. He succumbs to his own argument that narratives are more persuasive than analyses or calculations, and he loves telling stories, which he does well. That makes this a fun book to read, though a windy one ... Bernstein is a good writer, but his internal editor occasionally takes an unearned vacation. His inspiration and guide for this book was a 19th-century bestseller, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by a Scottish writer named Charles Mackay, who was just 27 when he wrote it. Mackay’s book is still in print 180 years later and still popular among students of stock market behavior. Bernstein’s version unabashedly echoes Mackay’s, enriching its analysis with the findings of modern social scientists who study the irrational human behavior that intrigues both authors.
PositiveWashington PostShe takes on history, economics, politics, anthropology and more in a challenging survey of American corruption that makes a reader do a lot of thinking. Her strong opinions will offend some readers and persuade others; none will be bored ... Chayes argues that the Gilded Age ended in the three catastrophes of the first half of the 20th century: two world wars and the Great Depression. Strangely, she ignores the role of Theodore Roosevelt, the trustbusting, accidental president whose aggressive reforms put many Gilded Age excesses in the rearview mirror. But she is convincing about the three catastrophes and their consequences. Two wars and a depression changed American society, she argues ... Chayes sees the beneficiaries of the new Gilded Age as aggressively protecting their wealth and status by using their money to influence our politics to their advantage — no longer a disputable contention.
MixedThe Washington PostThis is a frustrating, fascinating book. Tye is an inelegant writer and a great reporter. He has relentlessly vacuumed up facts from a rich variety of source materials, some of them never before examined. But his narrative skills are limited, so his book often feels like the result of emptying his notebooks. Tye tells us a lot, but too often he walks away from the biggest mysteries of McCarthy’s life and work with what feels like a defeated shrug, not an explanation. So we never get remotely satisfying conclusions about why McCarthy did what he did in his brief, meteoric career ... In this long book the author’s most substantial attempt to explain what lay behind McCarthy’s compulsive lying and demagogic behavior is that he suffered from what a law school friend described as a \'fantastic\' inferiority complex \'at the core of [his] personality.\' But Tye’s efforts to illuminate that complex seem superficial ... The best chapter in Tye’s book describes how Republicans from Eisenhower to local precinct officials in Wisconsin and nearly every GOP member of the Senate \'enabled\' McCarthy’s corrupt crusade against communists in government ... But Washingtonians old enough to remember the McCarthy years will be disappointed by Tye’s failure to capture the atmosphere the senator created in the nation’s capital, which included fear and loathing but also courage and principle.
James B. Stewart
PositiveThe New York Review of BooksStewart in Deep State writes as a gifted storyteller and thorough reporter. His sources (several of them quite easy to identify) have provided many historical tidbits of interest but no dramatic scoops ... Curiously, despite all the official investigations and digging by reporters that have informed us about these strange events, the main plotline is full of holes ... Stewart...neither fill[s] all the holes nor, for the most part, even acknowledge[s] them. Yet [he] illuminate[s] failures by the FBI, Mueller, and other investigators to figure out what was going on between the Trump campaign and the Russians ... Trump has denied any advance knowledge of the [Lieutenant General Michael] Flynn phone call. Stewart implicitly accepts that Flynn acted alone and lied to everyone. I’m not convinced ... The FBI and the US attorney for the Southern District of New York took over the [Anthony] Weiner case and obtained a search warrant that allowed them to seize his personal electronic devices, including a laptop computer. FBI technicians soon discovered that the laptop held a huge cache of 340,000 e-mails, and many of them came from the domains clintonemail.com and hillaryclinton .com ... Stewart tells this bizarre tale particularly well[.]
MixedThe Washington Post... deserves attention, though its shortcomings are substantial and occasionally exasperating ... Most of Mueller’s very long book is devoted to original storytelling. His extensively reported tales of individual whistleblowers and their often cruel fates are compelling ... But sometimes the pictures Mueller paints are misleading. He prefers black-and-white versions to the grays that so often describe reality. His anecdotes feature good guys in white hats and bad ones in black ... The great crash of 2008 and the government’s reaction to it is another subject Mueller oversimplifies ... Mueller’s mistakes and omissions undermine a reader’s confidence.
MixedThe New York Review of BooksCampbell’s Crossfire Hurricane is an insider’s account (made less useful than it might have been by the publisher’s decision not to include an index) ... One reads accounts of Trump and Russia with a gnawing question in mind: What’s missing here? Curiously, despite all the official investigations and digging by reporters that have informed us about these strange events, the main plotline is full of holes. The books by Stewart and Campbell neither fill all the holes nor, for the most part, even acknowledge them. Yet they illuminate failures by the FBI, Mueller, and other investigators to figure out what was going on between the Trump campaign and the Russians ... Both Stewart and Campbell accept and describe the FBI as they found it. Campbell shows the familiar romantic attachment to the bureau that is typical of its employees.
PositiveThe New York Review of BooksGerman is an angry critic of his old employer. His anger makes his book a useful contribution. Despite the many reforms of the post-Hoover era, the FBI remains an institution apart from American society, still staffed overwhelmingly by white people who tend to be conservative and conventional and prone to big, embarrassing mistakes ... Comey does not escape German’s scorn.
RaveThe Washington Post\"[Fountain] hates vividly, with the verbal energy of a prizewinning novelist. But he also analyzes this history with considerable care. He has done the reading, as the book’s footnotes attest. He is as good on our politics as Norman Mailer was in the 1970s, and he is as indifferent to evenhandedness as Mailer was, too. Some of his history is flawed, and much of his language ignores the rules of the road observed by more conventional political reporters. It is fun to read ... The novelist’s talents that won him the 2012 National Book Critics Circle Award for Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk are on display on nearly every page. Fountain’s writing can be emotionally provocative.\
MixedThe Washington PostDavid Callahan brings inequality to life. He draws a startling picture of the astounding growth of private American wealth in the past quarter-century, the people who have accumulated it and the ways they are using their money, often aggressively, to change the world — sometimes for the better, sometimes not ... Callahan is not a great writer. He uses the dreadful phrase 'for starters' at least five times in these pages, a symptom of his predilection for the language commonly found in PowerPoint presentations. His book is really an extended piece of journalism, reporting a great many intriguing facts. Analysis is not a strong suit, and his caution in judging the giant egos of the philanthropists he writes about can be frustrating. But Callahan has performed a public service by assembling a striking body of information on a fundamental aspect of 21st-century America.