PositiveThe Wall Street JournalAn illuminating group portrait ... His most interesting character, Jacob Schiff, all but takes over the story.
MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewWhile Leonhardt is a man of progressive sympathies — perhaps because of those sympathies — he devotes plenty of ink to castigating Democrats. He charges them with abandoning bread-and-butter issues like labor unions and the minimum wage for neoliberal causes, such as free trade and unreserved support for immigration ... Not a familiar-feeling book. Leonhardt introduces every section with a historical vignette ... Leonhardt has clearly cherry-picked his anecdotes to make his case, but the stories enliven what could have been a dry or data-heavy polemic. They also advance his worldview: Policies and personalities have a great effect on economic progress. If you think of the economy as something like an ecosystem, in which millions of self-interested agents interact through the medium of price, this is not the book for you. Ours Was the Shining Future offers a top-down view of economics ... An interesting book, with many provocative points, but I found it too tendentious to be the last word on the fate of the American dream. Leonhardt tells us that his book is \'for anybody trying to understand how our economy — and, with it, our society — has been hobbled.\' He concludes with a discussion of how progressives might win elections in the future. His partisan pitch may put off some of the anybodies he aims to reach.
Fergus M. Bordewich
RaveThe Wall Street JournalCompelling ... This makes for gruesome reading ... Packed with detail; in some places Mr. Bordewich might have provided more context and slowed the pace ... Certainly Mr. Bordewich presents a convincing case that, left to their own devices, Southern whites were not about to confer real freedom on the freedmen. He is equally persuasive that by the end of Grant’s second term, Northerners were unwilling to commit the guns to police the South, much less the butter to rebuild it.
Andrew K Diemer
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal... retrieves an important piece of American history ... fulfills the purpose that Mr. Diemer lays out: to remedy Still’s \'erasure\' from historical memory.
PanThe Wall Street JournalThe trouble with such deterministic exercises is that life tends to be more complicated ... Mr. Russell assures us that his logic is \'devilishly simple\' and that in commodity prices he has found his \'butterfly.\' He means the proverbial insect whose wing flap leads to a hurricane. It seems that he has scarcely seen a butterfly that didn’t cause a hurricane ... Mr. Russell is furious at neoliberalism, but his attack is a muddle ... inflated language ... And he has neoliberalism backward. Whatever its effects on Gary, Ind., global trade brought unprecedented growth to the developing world ... a painful book. It reads like a Twitter feed, a deluge of words in the service of rhetoric.
MixedThe Washington PostLeonard writes vividly about a technical subject ... By focusing on a regional banker, Leonard offers a refreshingly non-Washington view ... The simplicity that is his strength is also the book’s weakness. The Lords of Easy Money is a one-sided assessment that squeezes Bernanke into a rather black hat ... Leonard blames the Fed for tolerating bubbles without acknowledging the topic’s (much-debated) complexity ... Leonard elsewhere stretches for the sake of narrative coherence ... The author is surely correct that many Americans view the Fed as an unelected power aligned with elites, perhaps contributing to the disaffection that exploded on Jan. 6, 2021. He might have explored their prejudices with more dispassion.
PositiveWall Street JournalDisturbing ... Mr. Robison, an investigative reporter at Bloomberg, argues convincingly.
MixedThe Wall Street Journal... is built on scenes that the author has re-created; quotation marks, in the main, are conveniently absent ... Mr. Mezrich opines that GameStop represents the culmination of a populist movement and that, in the future, the stock market might lose all connection to the fundamentals, like \'an untethered balloon.\' But the thing with a short squeeze is that, once the shorts capitulate (as they did in GameStop), there are few folks left to buy. GameStop’s stock remains many multiples above its pre-mania level, but it has fallen from its peak by more than half. The fundamentals are not dead yet.
CC Sabathia and Chris Smith
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalBeautifully rendered ... more than an account of alcoholism. It has plenty of stirring baseball moments ... C.C.’s portrait of the Crest, the city’s black enclave, is thoughtfully nuanced ... The author’s candor humanizes the game ... dwells on Sabathia’s shortcomings—and only on his. He is generous (or discreet) toward fellow players. His self-criticism is on display when he writes that lying to cover up his drinking was also an addiction ... Readers and fans will be rooting for him to enter the Hall of Fame and rooting even harder for him to stay sober.
PositiveThe New York TimesA history of a private Wall Street partnership ... This is not exactly mini-series material, and the Browns’ stolid rectitude presents any would-be chronicler with a challenge ... Karabell’s leitmotif is the pre-eminence of money in America’s growth, and in its culture, but his frequent flights of rhetoric will not be to everyone\'s taste ... His narrative of a firm that remained private and true to its credo is engaging and new ... Similarly, when the author writes that the firm’s \'centrality; is easy to overlook, we can hear him straining. Alas, no amplification is needed to elicit our interest in the understated Browns. Shoemaker, stick to thy last.
RaveThe Wall Street JournalIn the midst of his Italian campaign, Napoleon Bonaparte stole a painting from a monastery in Venice. Cynthia Saltzman has turned this forgotten episode into a highly original work of history . . . She depicts [Napoleon], with masterly economy, as a brilliant tactician riddled with personal conceits and vanity. The author deftly shifts between Napoleon’s military conquests and his wholesale art thefts . . . Saltzman seems equally conversant with 18th-century art criticism and the period’s politics . . . Plunder is supported by prodigious research . . . [Saltzman] has written a distinctive study that transcends both art and history and forces us to explore the connections between the two.
MixedThe Wall Street JournalAccording to the book’s subtitle, Flint was \'the strike that created the middle class.\' The author, a journalist and historian from Lansing, barely bothers to substantiate that claim, but his chronicle of the strike is compelling ... It’s not that labor can’t, or shouldn’t, reorganize. But they would be wise not to ignore the unhappy coda to the story that Mr. McClelland has set forth.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalIn the heat of today’s quarrels over global warming, The Domestic Revolution serves as a reminder that our own era is not unique ... dense with detail, but Ms. Goodman’s exhaustive research and evident pleasure in delivering the goods are often a delight ... And Ms. Goodman is no armchair historian. She has scrubbed \'sticky smuts of coal smoke\'; she has had the \'privilege\' of cooking many meals in original ovens from the late medieval period. A prodigious do-it-yourselfer, she notes that she has \'gathered a great deal of practical experience in history as it was lived.\' She is at home contrasting wood fires and coal flames, and her description of the \'monstrously hard work\' of premodern laundry, which involved hauling copper pots with boiling water and soap or lye and beating the fabrics till clean, is enough to shame anyone who complains of modern comforts.
PanThe Wall Street JournalHiltzik pokes among the ghostly bones of tycoons past but doesn’t generally offer a new interpretation. Mr. Hiltzik presents a colorful cast in conventional terms ... Mr. Hiltzik’s narrative, unhappily, is overloaded with portentous framing ... Mr. Hiltzik often assumes a forward knowingness, but rarely seems to be fully in the present moment ... His characters are a rich, interesting lot. But his reflexive foreshadowing robs Iron Empires of the drama it might have had.
Alan D. Gaff
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal... slim but distinctive ... doesn’t substantially alter our image of Gehrig, but it does offer a scoop ... Mr. Gaff discovered Gehrig’s columns while doing unrelated research; he fused them into a narrative and added a useful biographical essay ... This brief memoir, though syrupy in its paean to hard work and the cardinal virtues, may be read as an outsider’s early gratitude for having landed where he belonged.
MixedThe Wall Street JournalIn The Idealist, Samuel Zipp, a cultural and intellectual historian at Brown University, has captured Willkie’s \'brief, blazing moment,\' a little-remembered interlude when America was at war but already worrying about the postwar order ... Mr. Zipp acknowledges Willkie’s naiveté, but his portrait is a friendly one. When, in the Soviet Union, Willkie enthused over plans for a massive hydroelectric project on the Volga, Mr. Zipp explains away the irony that Willkie had launched his political career in opposition to state electric power in America. And his criticism of Willkie’s support for free trade feels politically freighted ... Mr. Zipp sees Willkie’s vision as timeless, but The Idealist is mostly a cautionary tale.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewDark Towers offers a compelling, if familiar, thesis: that unchecked ambition twisted a pillar of German finance into a reckless casino and fostered a culture in which amorality and, ultimately, criminality thrived. Deutsche is intriguing not only because its leaders chased growth at any cost—resulting in mountains of losses, as it always does—but because it once was the emblem of European institutional lending, the near-opposite of Wall Street short-termism ... [employee William] Broeksmit’s suicide elevated his usefulness as a narrative prop, perhaps more than Deutsche warranted. Enrich doggedly prowls the psychological shadows for clues about what might have driven him ... Dark Towers suffers some unfortunate tropes of business journalism ... the bank is \'fueled\' by greed. Perhaps \'fuel\' should be reserved for energy writers ... Enrich has given us a thorough, clearly written and generally levelheaded account of a bank that lost its way.
RaveThe Wall Street JournalMr. Russell’s conceit works magnificently. It installs a fresh lens onto a drama that most of us first heard as children. It affords him the luxury of patiently setting the scene, which he does by chronicling the pressures mounting on the wealthy on both sides of the Atlantic ... Mr. Russell, a historian from Belfast, seems on slightly surer footing recounting tensions on the British side of the pond, but he fills his tale with worthy shipboard characters from both countries ... One wishes Mr. Russell had also featured one of the rougher emigrants traveling in third class. But he compensates with his sure dissection of Edwardian manners: the ritual teas, the high-church Protestantism, the smug certainty with which privileged heirs assumed their futures ... Mr. Russell exploits our foreknowledge of events to dramatic advantage. The most innocent detail, such as the placement of the lifeboats, fills us with dread ... a beautiful requiem.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalAll the Wrong Moves is a briskly told coming-of-age memoir and a kind of confessional ... Mr. Chapin has a fine eye for the game’s beauty and observes in a typically insightful metaphor that chess elevates one of the more dismaying aspects of existence—violence—into \'symbolic ballet\' ... His self-deprecation does become annoying, but then, he warned us ... In the course of his entertaining odyssey, Mr. Chapin offers a Zen-like secret to chess, and to living, and some sharp observations on the game ... to judge from the confident style of All the Wrong Moves, his first book, Mr. Chapin does have a future as a writer
MixedThe Wall Street Journal... amounts to an eloquent plea for reinstatement ... While [Rose] regrets that he broke the rules, he still seems not to grasp why betting on his own team, as he did, is prohibited ... not a book about gambling; nor is it a work of self-reflection. And its eloquence is of the locker-room variety. Cliche, vulgarity and slang abound ... he is expressive about the sport he loves and about the father who raised him to strive to win. He evokes the baseball of a simpler time ... the most compelling sections of Play Hungry are those that document his rise ... Above all, Play Hungry testifies to the dividends paid by desire, not just to Mr. Rose but to the teammates he inspired with the will to win. None of this qualifies Mr. Rose for sainthood, but it’s worth pointing out that his focus on winning led him to judge his teammates solely by their abilities.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalThe...stories in Mr. O’Toole’s admiring but unflinching survey, plucked from England and America over the past two centuries, often inspire, even if few of the successes endured ... The good news is that practicing the golden rule has generally been a winning business strategy. The converse has also been true ... Mr. O’Toole is careful not to claim too much. He notes that the commitment to ideals has often lapsed after the founder departed or the family ownership changed ... But even if idealism is transient, Mr. O’Toole has made a strong case that enlightened stewardship is in the interest of stockholders. In setting out to write a brief for social responsibility, he has delivered some managerial wisdom.
MixedThe Wall Street JournalMr. Peck presents a conventional picture of the 28th president as an idealist whose dream of an enduring peace was largely undone by his own rigidities. His pointillist picture of America on the home front will be sure to interest World War I buffs. He has much to say about war bonds and War Gardens, anti-German hysteria and the deplorable suppression of civil liberties. He also follows the doughboys to Belgium and France, where they discover the French fry but shell shock, too ... Mr. Peck seems almost unaware of the loose coalition of Atlanticists—East Coast bankers and editors, Republican internationalists—who pushed for a greater American role. He doesn’t mention, for instance, Paul Cravath, an influential, Anglophile New York lawyer who lobbied for American involvement ... Unfortunately, The Great War gets mired in its own trench warfare. It catalogs much but inspires little. Stirring moments, such as the Battle of Gallipoli in 1915—Winston Churchill’s audacious attempt to shorten the war, which ended in tragedy for thousands of troops—are drained of passion. Mr. Peck has a penchant for bald sentences ... Mr. Peck’s wide-angle lens becomes problematic.
Benjamin Carter Hett
PositiveThe Washington PostGerman democracy in the 1920s was far newer than America’s today; yet, Hett reminds us, universal voting (for men) was well-established, in place longer even than in England. But it was beset with serious problems ... Hett’s tale does not so much change our view of demagogues as it highlights the crucial role of those who would halt their progress. Faced with jingoist politicians who resort to poisonous lies, his book fairly proclaims, the forces of democracy can prevail only if they muster courage, resolve and cooperative spirit.
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewIn Theranos’s brief, Icarus-like existence as a Silicon Valley darling ... [t]he company was the subject of adoring media profiles; it attracted a who’s who of retired politicos to its board ... This is the story the prizewinning Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou tells virtually to perfection ... Carreyrou’s presentation has a few minor flaws. He introduces scores of characters and, after a while, it becomes hard to keep track of them. In describing these many players he sometimes relies on stereotypes ... Such blemishes in no way detract from the power of Bad Blood. In the second part of the book the author compellingly relates how he got involved, following a tip from a suspicious reader. His recounting of his efforts to track down sources...reads like a West Coast version of All the President’s Men. The author is admirably frank about his craft ... The question of how it [Theranos] got so far — more than 800 employees and a paper valuation of $9 billion — will fascinate business school classes for years.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalIn the whole memoir, Mr. Ford relates no conversations with his father. Indeed, he cannot remember the sound of his voice, though he yearns to. In another memoir this might come across as an indictment, but Mr. Ford loved his father and felt that, somehow, his father loved him ... Readers may be tempted to parse this book for clues to Mr. Ford’s fiction, but that would miss the point. 'My parents were, after all, not made of words,' the author writes. He wants to show them to us as they were ... This affecting memoir reflects his quest to reclaim the parents who were possibly happiest before he was placed 'between them.'”
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal...a devastating portrait ... Glass House, it must be said, is not an especially easy book to read. The author seems to have interviewed nearly everyone in the local phone book; trimming would have helped. He is also prone to conventional judgments about Wall Street and politics. Regarding the latter, he writes that, for instance, both Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy 'won their elections against small-government conservatives.' This mischaracterizes both Herbert Hoover and Richard Nixon. But for anyone wondering why swing-state America voted against the establishment in 2016, Mr. Alexander supplies plenty of answers.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalThe details of his prison break are best read in full. Suffice it to say that if Ms. Millard does not enlarge our image of Churchill, she presents him vividly and readably. She has a knack for detail and notes that while he was willing to risk his life for the crown, brooking discomfort was another matter ... Ms. Millard also does a splendid job of introducing modern readers to the Boers, depicting a nation of citizen-farmers, doggedly self-reliant if racially blinkered, who gave the British Lion all it could handle.
Joseph E. Stiglitz
PanThe New York Times Book Review...though Stiglitz spews plenty of populist rhetoric, The Euro is thick with dense paragraphs (imagine an economics text written by Michael Moore) ... Far from the measured analysis that one might expect from a renowned economist, The Euro has the strident tone of a political pamphlet. Italics are everywhere, as if the reader were being screamed at. There is a numbing incantation of faults attributed to the troika.