PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewCleareyed and honest, Rasenberger portrays a complicated figure who combined real mechanical insight with a talent for hucksterism. His book has flaws, of course: overlong passages, too much speculation, an absence of endnotes in the print edition. (Rasenberger is posting them online.) A familiarity with recent scholarship might have produced a more sophisticated depiction of Native Americans’ shrewd responses to repeating firearms. But Revolver is rewarding biography, highlighting Colt’s place in the history of industrialization.
MixedThe Washington PostTo rise above craftsmanship, one must work with abundant, varied and complicated facts. Chernow does that, presenting research that bulks Grant to nearly 1,000 pages of narrative. It allows him to write a rich and sensitive portrait of the inner Grant — from reluctant West Point cadet to civilian failure to triumphant general ... As a historian, Chernow proves somewhat uneven. His research into Grant’s struggles with alcohol would be better if he discussed the scale and intensity of the temperance movement; that would explain contemporaries’ obsession with drink and Grant’s personal shame. Chernow’s account of Grant’s military career, however, works well, particularly in exploring his closest relationships. Most important, the book centers on the story of black liberation, from Grant’s embrace of emancipation as a general to his enforcement of civil rights as president. If African Americans play too passive a role in this telling, Chernow’s emphasis is exactly right, and his account of Grant’s views is revealing ... His design does not delight with artful structure and delivers no pleasures of expectation, revelation or surprise. He rarely opens a chapter with sentences that hum the themes to come. He does not switch the point of view to allow a secondary character to expand the book’s scope. He stacks up adjectives, cliches and stock phrases ... Yet, [Virginia] Woolf herself liked good craftsmanship, which Chernow delivers. He guides us into the character of a famously reticent man, revealing how he could be both a failure and a conqueror, principled yet surprisingly naive.
MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewDenton begins [The Profiteers] with a bang, itemizing amoral investments, environmental damage, exploitation of labor and chummy relationships with policy makers. Whether she persuades on all points or not, she shows that it’s a conversation we must have.