The book is an easy read and contains a number of insights — though it’s still a quickie book ... Joe Biden: The Life, the Run, and What Matters Now recaps a lot of what people who’ve been following the campaign already know ... Joe Biden ably takes the measure of the man and the politician, presenting a picture of the Democratic nominee that is in a few ways unexpected ... Osnos also makes a point of granting the sincerity of Biden’s appeals to unity — both party unity and national unity ... Osnos doesn’t dismiss the prospect of a legislatively productive Biden presidency altogether. He points out that Biden’s fluency in the language of moderates could make it easier for him than it was for Obama to build a consensus behind a liberal agenda.
Osnos’s concise biography treads back along the trail of horrendous tragedies, dashed hopes and dramatic implosions that preceded Biden’s improbable third run at the presidency, and gives at least some clues to the kind of leader he will become if he wins ... It is impossible to come away from the Osnos’s biography without a sense of awe at what Biden has overcome to arrive at this point, so late in life and so close to achieving a prize he had assumed was lost ... Osnos has written a fast-paced biography that draws on extensive interviews with his subject, as well as with Obama and a host of Democratic party heavyweights. In pursuit of brevity it races through the many personal dramas of a tumultuous life and deals only perfunctorily with Biden’s surviving son ... This book suggests Biden has the capacity for self-reinvention.
... it’s refreshing—even cleansing—to be here again, to read an admiring biography about a normal politician. Of course it is dull too ... Here we see the journalist in sync with the aspirations and craft of the politician, admiring, often in awe of, his subject’s driving ambition to rise in the political structure, and his skills in accomplishing this. There isn’t, traditionally, much of an ideological basis to such political portraiture. All winners are due their attentive books, and such special-access tracts (Osnos is granted quite a bit of one-on-one time with Biden the candidate) tend to be produced by those who have shown their relative deference. Only the most gullible reader might miss the clear partnership between the politician and political writer in a traditional campaign biography ... Osnos is an old-fashioned political writer ... Osnos the younger is not setting out to look for deficiencies or expose scandal but to set out virtues. And not, mind you, ideological virtues but political ones: his subject’s astuteness, acumen and fortune as a politician ... Osnos’s lacklustre prose suggests he didn’t know he had such a big story, even as Biden began to prosper in the primaries, and in fact there is a sense of the author feeling somewhat lumbered with the Biden beat. His subject emerges as a worthy but default figure, the best all-purpose, anybody-but-Trump candidate.
There’s something deeper going on here. It seems that many liberal journalists in America no longer see it as their duty to ask tough questions, if there’s any chance of them rebounding to Trump’s benefit. They believe too much is at stake. Perhaps they are right, but it doesn’t make for compelling journalism. In this case, the result is 190 pages of eloquent and well-informed puffery that effectively doubles up as a campaign advert.
The book is strongest on Biden’s relationship with Obama, where the author draws on interviews he conducted with both men when they were in the White House ... As Osnos moves to Biden’s most recent political chapter, his analysis of how a Biden presidency might work is fascinating ... While the book is a timely and stylish work at a key juncture in US history, the speed at which it was published sometimes shows. It is short – arguably too short at 170 pages – and includes some errors ... Nonetheless, Osnos’s fluid style, access to Biden, and insightful analysis makes it a worthwhile and eminently readable portrait of a man who may become the 46th president of the United States.
Osnos presents Joe Biden as someone whose career has been a basic story of a different kind – grounded in shared suffering and commiseration with others, not inflated by preordained conceit ... Although Osnos has his doubts about Biden’s dazzling regular teeth and his replanted hairline, the cosmetic rejuvenation of this good, comfortingly ordinary man is just one more proof of America’s enviable capacity for making a fresh start.
This is certainly not a definitive biography of Biden. It could hardly be, coming in at under two hundred pages. Yet in a relatively few chapters, ho[m]ing in on a few key periods in Biden’s life, Osnos has presented us with significant insights into the life of a singular man who has been in national public life for over forty-seven years. In trying to present the long political life of Biden to a present-day audience, Osnos has succeeded admirably in showing us both his political and personal strengths and weaknesses ... What we see ultimately in Biden’s life is a mind-bending dichotomy between someone who has experienced events of remarkable luck countered by episodes of horrendous tragedy. The end result of Osnos’s endeavor is to capture the essence of Biden with all his accomplishments, failures, strengths and frailties ... Osnos has done an exceptional job of capturing the essence of Biden with all his strengths and weaknesses, from his lengthy and sometimes meandering answers to questions, his inappropriate tactile relationship with female supporters, his working relationships with segregationist senators in the past, his knowledge of foreign relations and many of their leaders, and his general ability to relate to the common working man and woman.
Osnos, who has been writing about Biden for years for The New Yorker, believes he could be more radical in office than people who have tracked his career might believe ... As Osnos shows in his beautifully written short volume, coronavirus has opened up a vast new political space for action. Osnos compares the conditions of Biden’s ascent to Franklin Delano Roosevelt inheriting the Great Depression.
... a breezy account of Joe Biden’s life and politics ... The book does not go into much depth about Biden’s early life but includes insight into how tragedies—his first wife’s and infant daughter’s 1972 death in a car accident and his son Beau’s 2015 death from brain cancer—instilled within Biden a sense of empathy that enables him to relate to those suffering adversities. More attention is devoted to Biden’s political life ... This useful account will help readers understand Biden’s mindset and suggests a blueprint for the next four years.
[A] concise narrative that hits the highlights of Biden’s public service career and lands lightly on private touchstones, such as the family tragedies that comprise a large part of his biography ... Lacking the molecular depth of a full-fledged biography, Osnos’ finely honed depiction nevertheless devotes sufficient attention to the essential aspects of Biden’s personal and political philosophies to offer a solid foundation.
The author clearly admires his subject, though he oddly begins his account of the man who would be the oldest president in U.S. history with the aneurysm Biden suffered in 1988 ... Mostly drawn from the author’s New Yorker pieces, the text retains the feel of the originals, which occasionally detracts from the cohesion of the narrative. This book may age fast, but if you need a rapid and readable Biden briefing, it’s for you.
Journalist Osnos (Age of Ambition) draws on vivid reportage from his New Yorker profiles of Biden to paint him as an unprepossessing but effective politician who is good at connecting with voters and wrangling with congressional leaders and foreign potentates ... a portrait of the candidate that’s smart and evocative, but not immune to wishful thinking.