MixedThe New York Times Book Review... fascinating but flawed ... [Lepore\'s] attempt to use Simulmatics as a parable for and precursor to “the data-mad and near-totalitarian 21st century” is hamstrung by the fact that it failed at almost everything it tried to do — oftentimes spectacularly so ... Despite Lepore’s repeated references to the Simulmatics team as “the best and the brightest,” the group that Greenfield assembled was, well, not that ... Lepore undermines her attempt to elide over the differences between Simulmatics’ ambitions and its accomplishments by quoting or summarizing post-mortems from the company’s clients ... Over the last decade, Lepore, a Harvard history professor and New Yorker staff writer, has repeatedly shown herself to be an uncommonly astute and insightful interpreter of American history, and one of her many strengths is the moral clarity that infuses her writing. Lately, however, it feels almost as if she’s trying to stanch the flow of hatred, misinformation, racism and venality that threatens to overwhelm the country by the sheer volume of her work ... This prolificness likely explains why her latest effort feels as if it was rushed out the door before it was ready. When she’s at her best, Lepore’s writing has a nimble fluency that can be exhilarating. Here, however, events are described out of order, crucial context is missing and stylistic tics become intrusive ... But the fact that Simulmatics can’t support Lepore’s narrative shouldn’t detract from the importance of the story she’s trying to tell. Lepore’s frustrations should be our frustrations as well ... That Lepore overstates Simulmatics’ role in this tale does not make her ultimate conclusions any less true, or any less terrifying.
MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewShe is at her best when she unpacks how the Third Reich created what she calls a \'diagnosis regime\' by labeling anyone who disagreed in any way with Nazi aims, achievements, or ideology as being fundamentally ill ... Sheffer’s account of the \'program of systematic child killing\' that grew out of this mind-set is chilling ... Sheffer’s pivot from describing deadly Nazi conceptions of community to Asperger’s complicity with the Reich’s killing machine is less effective ... a more nuanced approach would have further examined the other, conflicting evidence that Asperger was able to save the lives of some disabled children who had been marked for death. It is this evidence, after all, that was pointed to when Asperger was hailed as a hero ... Sheffer is a careful and nuanced researcher, which made her clumsy effort to \'destabilize\' our notions of autism feel all the more out of place ... I wish Sheffer had trusted her readers enough to let us know about her personal connection to this story at the outset of her book instead of inserting it as a concluding aside, where it became an unsettling coda to her ardent effort to undermine our notions of autism and its origins.
MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewOn the whole, Can’t Just Stop is fast-paced and engaging without being simplistic, and Begley shows admirable restraint in eschewing news-you-can-use prescriptions for how to improve your productivity or otherwise better your life. Begley is strongest in passages where she uses her reportorial eye for detail to unpack complicated ideas with a few choice examples ... After illustrating how painful obsessive-compulsive disorder can be to those in its grip, Begley elegantly explains the difference between compulsive behavior and O.C.D ... Ultimately, however, Begley undercuts herself with the sort of sweeping, overgeneralized assertions that seem to be endemic among popular science books these days. Her facile tendency to view historical figures through the lens of her subject matter is, at times, almost farcical ... Even more confounding are those times when Begley fails to provide readers with enough evidence for her claims.
MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewPatient H.M., the overstuffed result of Dittrich’s six years of reporting, tries to be many things at once: a lyrical meditation on the nature of memory, an excavation of a disturbing and dark family history, and a damning illustration of the consequences of sacrificing ethics in the name of scientific inquiry. The end result is both spellbinding and frustrating, a paradox of a book that is simultaneously conscientious and careless, engrossing and digressive, troubling and troublesome.