MixedNPR... more Clancy than Camus: a fast-paced thriller with big, sweeping, made-for-the-adapted-screenplay action sequences, but populated by one-dimensional walking resumes who speak in paragraph-long expository chunks. There are submarine chases that channel Tom Clancy\'s The Hunt For Red October, and silver-haired, umlauted ecoterrorists who remind you of Pierce Brosnan-era James Bond villains ... But given Wright\'s journalistic track record, that clunky expository dialogue is the unexpected star of the novel. Wright clearly did his homework researching this book, and given his reporting background, couldn\'t resist sharing every fact about pandemics, infectious diseases, public health planning, government disaster contingencies and vaccines that he dug up. And while in other times, it might come across as forced and clunky, we readers are currently in the market for exactly that: Every single fact a great reporter like Wright has learned about pandemics ... If they all come couched in sometimes-awkward writing, it\'s no problem! After all, it\'s hard to criticize characters for continually working facts about the 1918 flu pandemic into every conversation, when we\'re all doing the exact same thing ... When the plot is keeping pace with our real-life current events, all of Wright\'s expository homework can lead to moments of dark humor for the reader ... gradually moves from an urgent existential warning to an escapist entertainment. The End of October is the perfect novel for a long airplane flight or a beach chair. Provided, of course, our real-life leaders are a bit more effective than Wright\'s fictional ones, and we\'re all once again able to encounter either of those this year.
MixedNPRThere\'s a great story inside Edison. You just have to work around author Edmund Morris ... The problem with Edison: Morris wrote it backwards ... The result is a confusing, frustrating, and circular read. I muddled through about 200 pages and was ready to give up before — with a bit less ingenuity than it takes to invent the lightbulb or phonograph, but still much more than is usually needed to read a book — I suddenly came up with a solution: Read it backwards ... I can see an argument for the end-to-beginning structure. Great lives — maybe all lives — are evaluated, appreciated, and better understood when they\'re coming to a close. Connections, trends, and threads are more clear when you\'re at the end of the line looking backward ... Or maybe Morris was just looking for one last challenge ... Either way, the narrative I had to construct for myself was fascinating and lively. I just wish Morris hadn\'t made it so hard to get there to begin with.
Garrett M. Graff
RaveNPRAmong the most powerful entries in this new canon ... visceral ... also tells stories that, while massive in scope in their own right, were drowned out by the enormity of the day ... brutal, emotionally wracking reading. I repeatedly cried. I could feel my pulse elevate. I often had to put it down after a dozen pages. But I think that\'s the point of the book. Sept. 11 was terrible and confusing, and the more time passes, sometimes the harder that is to remember. No matter how much we try to describe those feelings to children who didn\'t live through them, something will be lost in the translation and telling ... This book captures the emotions and unspooling horror of the day. It will be a good text to hand to a curious teenager when he one day asks: What was Sept. 11 really like?
Bud Selig, with Phil Rogers
PositiveNPRI was pleasantly surprised to find For The Good Of The Game to be charming, informative and even entertaining ... outside of...rare exceptions, Selig\'s book is about the best memoir you can hope to read from a powerful professional sports insider. Much of that is due to the deep love and respect that Selig carries for the game of baseball ... The book\'s charm also comes from the Forrest Gump-style encounters Selig kept collecting throughout his life ... The book certainly has many of the usual flaws of a famous person\'s memoir: Several anecdotes and phrases resurface from chapter to chapter. The writing style isn\'t consistent. A few sections feel like the places Selig decided to stuff in all the moments that an editor must have told him readers would expect to hear about ... I wish he had been a bit more reflective on what he, as the head of Major League Baseball, could have done to limit the problem [of steroids], or fix it faster.
MixedNPR... the argument for more national history-writing is often drowned out by the book\'s condensed history of nationalism in America. And the story Lepore lays out in this short book doesn\'t exactly inspire patriotism ... In this context, the recent resurgence of nationalism feels like a logical continuation of a strain that\'s animated United States history since Day 1, rather than the aberration Trump opponents like former Vice President Joe Biden frame it as ... To better understand this land, a reader would be better served by picking up Lepore\'s ambitious U.S. history, These Truths, rather than this follow-up essay.
Nancy Isenberg and Andrew Burstein
PositiveNPRThe book functions more as an intellectual biography than a standard history ... There\'s an entire chapter focused on authors, most notably Cicero, who influenced 2 and 6 (borrowing from how the Bushes have referred to themselves as 41 and 43) ... At the heart of the book are essays...wrestling with the idea of democracy: what form governments should take; what sort of men should serve or even vote; and how much of a buffer should exist between governing and popular opinion ... While the book spends a bit too much time inside the heads of 2 and 6...it still does an excellent job capturing how those institutions fell into place over the long scope of the father\'s and son\'s careers.
Robert A. Caro
PositiveNPRWorking is an inspiring — and reading it as a journalist, honestly sometimes shame-inducing — window into the seemingly superhuman reporting, researching, writing, patience, and above all, will-power that have powered his reinvention of the political biography and history genre ... Even if he or she isn\'t planning on spending decades turning over every single detail of a subject\'s life, a reporter, author, or researcher will come away from this book armed with several new approaches to fact-finding and writing ... Robert Caro\'s chapters are unique. Often appearing to veer wildly off the course of his books\' primary topics, they function as mini-biographies of well-known political figures.
MixedNPR\"Large chunks of the lives and careers of Clay, Calhoun and Webster are missing here. Brands mentions that Clay was elected House Speaker in his very first term in Congress. How? Why? I\'d love to hear more about it... but Brands never fills in the details. The book also leans heavily on excerpts from floor speeches and journal entries. Perhaps Brands would have been better off writing about Henry Clay, the subject who comes most alive in these pages, and simply made Calhoun and Webster major recurring characters. The book still brings to life a transitional era of American politics when the scope and power of the federal government was unknown, as were the boundaries of the United States. It also details the, at times, delayed and meandering, but ultimately inevitable, march toward catastrophe that a half-slave and half-free country found itself in.\
Joseph J. Ellis
MixedNational Public RadioThe chapters on the founders are insightful and clearly benefit from his deep knowledge of the men\'s lives, works and his familiarity with seemingly every written word they ever produced. But the current events chapters are often unfocused, don\'t quite mesh with their related founder chapter and often veer toward a rehash of liberal conventional wisdom.
PositiveNPRLeavy documents a personal life marked by tragedy ... But Leavy doesn\'t write about how these terrible moments shaped Ruth\'s personality and life, because it\'s simply unknown. Ruth never really told anyone, and the hagiographic sports reporting of his era never delved into it. That makes it hard to write a thorough biography ... Leavy responds by doing the next-best thing: painstakingly recreating the mythical, larger-than-life role Ruth played in American culture at the height of his fame ... The structure takes some getting used to, but it perfectly captures the swirl of attention that followed Ruth everywhere he went.
PositiveNPRJohn Kerry\'s new memoir, Every Day Is Extra, begins like Barack Obama\'s literary Dreams From My Father and — over the course of nearly 600 pages — slowly morphs into Hillary Clinton\'s paint-by-numbers political tome Hard Choices ... As the book adopts the dense feel of the typical political memoir, it avoids the genre\'s most newsworthy feature: score-settling and behind-the-scenes accounts from politicians who no longer need to tend to personal relationships ... Kerry, like most other Obama administration alumni who have written books, opted to focus on his time in the arena, rather than critiquing or responding to the Trump administration. But given the glaring contrasts in personality and policy, and given how much energy Trump has devoted to dismantling everything Kerry worked for, you can\'t help but want to hear much more from the former senator and secretary of state on current events, as well as the past.
Doris Kearns Goodwin
PositiveNPR\"[Compared to other new books on the subject], Goodwin\'s Leadership is the most focused and purposeful ... Goodwin succeeds... by cross-pollinating her biographical units with similarities and key differences between the leaders she\'s studying ... Annoyingly, the White House chapters are broken up by bold, bullet-point nuggets of the leadership qualities each president employed. There are too many — about 20 for each president — and Goodwin could have successfully made all these points without this nod toward financial self-help books ... While the presidential chapters are the focus of the book, the chapters on early failures are the most interesting.\