PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewEngrossing and suspenseful ... Picaresque ... Even as Smith refuses to canonize his protagonists, Nick Denton (the founder of Gawker Media) and Jonah Peretti (the co-founder of HuffPost and BuzzFeed), they occasionally alight on the odd eureka moment that a more earnest writer could have styled as world-changing. Sometimes Smith even becomes that earnest write ... Moral seriousness is what lifts Traffic above other accounts of adventures in start-up land.
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review... sharp and disturbing ... Chafkin’s chronicle of Thiel’s wild abandon during the Obama years contains some of the most suspenseful passages in the book, as the narrative hurtles toward his acquisition of actual political power ... Chafkin is especially interested in the friction between Zuckerberg and Thiel, who drifted apart for a time as Thiel became more involved in conservative politics. The words spent on discord in this relationship — and on tension between Thiel and other tech titans — distract from the more urgent chronicle of Thiel’s rise as one of the pre-eminent authors of the contemporary far-right movement ... chilling — literally chilling. As I read it, I grew colder and colder, until I found myself curled up under a blanket on a sunny day, icy and anxious. Scared people are scary, and Chafkin’s masterly evocation of his subject’s galactic fear — of liberals, of the U.S. government, of death — turns Thiel himself into a threat. I tried to tell myself that Thiel is just another rapacious solipsist, in it for the money, but I used to tell myself that about another rapacious solipsist, and he became president.
Mary L. Trump
PositiveLos Angeles TimesHorror clouds every page. I expected to encounter some seamy stuff in any history of the Trump family’s fortune ... But I also expected at least a little gritty urban romance. If not the sumptuous passions of The Godfather, the Trump saga would—I hoped—contain a moment or two of Sopranos-style wit. Nothing doing ... As a piece of writing, Mary Trump’s book is less investigative exposé than gruesome family memoir ... even if Trump’s cheating on the SAT is not exactly shocking, it’s nonetheless satisfying to confirm what we guessed all along: The president never acquired baseline competence in math or vocabulary ... What’s most intriguing about Mary Trump’s book is not juicy revelations but its thesis: her idea that the Trumps were so deceitful and corrupt that growing up among them meant growing up \'institutionalized,\' stuck in an m.o. that cripples a person emotionally and cognitively ... It’s a bleak story, and there’s no redemption ... Refusing to flinch from the darkness of Trump’s story is no small accomplishment. We should all be so brave.
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewWonderland makes a swashbuckling argument for the centrality of recreation to all of human history. The book is a house of wonders itself. Marvelous circuits of prose inductors, resistors and switches simulate ordinary history so nearly as to make readers forget the real thing ... If Wonderland inspires grins and well-what-d’ya-knows of legitimate wonder — and it does — it also liberates its audience to wantonly savor them ... This is not a book to be a stickler about; that would be like pontificating about microbrews instead of just getting drunk. But for sterner historians, it’s worth noting that our ringmaster in Wonderland plays fast and loose with his central definition ... My resistance to optimism, never formidable, dissolves by the “Wonderland” preface. But optimist-pessimist is a useful enough binary of character, and Johnson must read differently to pessimists, who might fight the intoxicating Wonderland, arguing that 'fun' is a tool of the surveillance state, petrochemical dealers or something equally sinister. No matter. Intoxication is the way of Johnson. His loyal readers will cotton to the idea — calico to it! — that the future lies in the fun, and thus that the future is fun.
Nancy Jo Sales
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalListening to the voluble and repetitive verbal traffic of teen girls is not for the faint of heart. After all, who over 25 really wants to be initiated into the ways of the adolescent iPhone? Yet Ms. Sales doesn’t mind listening—and she’s exquisitely unobtrusive as she does it. Conversations that are not safe for adults seem to open like apps under her fingertips. She has sophisticated methods of infiltration, a willingness to stick with infinite scrolls of text threads and mobile chat, and a high tolerance for amateur pornography.