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Reviews of new books
REVIEW: A beautifully crafted book on a mesmerizing but ugly topic, "Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, & the Prison of Belief" by Lawrence Wright (ISBN: 9780307745309) is a shocking investigation into the cult of Scientology. As with today's torture-porn horror films, its followers are berated, degraded, and psychologically harmed.
REVIEW: The fundamental principles of the United States were honored and extended by Frances Perkins, who was "The Woman Behind the New Deal: The Life and Legacy of Frances Perkins - Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, and the Minimum Wage" (ISBN: 9781400078561). A tireless worker for justice, Perkins has too long been hidden from history. Kirstin Downey seeks to remedy the oversight in her fascinating book.
BOOK REVIEW: The collection of essays called “Divided: The Perils of Our Growing Inequality” (ISBN 978-1-59558-923-1) covers its important topic from a variety of viewpoints. While a valuable book, it's also a bit of a hit-or-miss affair because editor David Cay Johnston selected articles that emphasize facts and data whether or not there was any entertainment value in the writing.
BOOK REVIEW: The first of a two-part biography of Charlie 'Yardbird' Parker, Stanley Crouch's “Kansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker” (ISBN: 9780062005595) is as multi-layered and exciting as many of Bird's great alto sax solos.
BOOK REVIEW: The inside story of the woman poised to become the next U.S. President, "HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton" (ISBN: 978-0-8041-3675-4; Crown Publishers) by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes is a delightful rarity: a serious book that is fun to read.
BOOK REVIEW: In the most important American book of the year so far, Ian Haney Lopez presents a ton of facts and a mountain of logical deductions about race, politics and the nation's future in 'Dog Whistle Politics' (ISBN: 9780199964277). Reading it is like pulling off a scab.
BOOK REVIEW: It isn't easy getting a handle on a genre that ranges from the smooth swing of a Benny Goodman to the jagged edges of an Ornette Coleman but Gary Giddins' 'Visions of Jazz' (ISBN: 0-19-507675-3) is a beautiful book that makes delightful reading for any jazz lover.
Book Review: Breezy Writing about ‘Windfall’ Profits in ‘Windfall: The Booming Business of Global Warming’
BOOK REVIEW: Reading even a few pages of “Windfall: The Booming Business of Global Warming” (ISBN: 9781594204012) reveals heretofore hidden facts about the business aspects of climate change. Author McKenzie Funk takes you around the globe to reveal the gnarled hand of the marketplace at work.
BOOK REVIEW: Considering the filth-in-human-form known as Roger Ailes, the despicable lead character in "The Loudest Voice in the Room: How the Brilliant, Bombastic Roger Ailes Built Fox News -- and Divided a Country" (ISBN: 978-0-8129-9285-4), you might expect to come away from each chapter feeling demeaned. Instead, author Gabriel Sherman just leaves you shaking your head in shock and shame.
BOOK REVIEW: Books about World War II rarely discuss probability theory, mathematics, and observation of logistics procedures, which makes "Blackett's War: The Men Who Defeated the Nazi U-Boats and Brought Science to the Art of Warfare" (ISBN-13: 978-0307595966) by Stephen Budiansky, a refreshing change. But the horrors of combat are not overlooked (warning; graphic descriptions ahead).
Book Review: ‘The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and the Golden Age of Journalism’
BOOK REVIEW: With the soul of America at stake, Teddy Roosevelt formed a rough alliance with crusading journalists to battle for workers’ rights and a better nation for everyone. Their foes were a familiar group: the vested interests of big corporations and their trusts. In Doris Kearns Goodwin's book "The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and the Golden Age of Journalism" (ISBN: 9781416547860), the skirmishes are exciting even if the writing is tepid.
Book Review: Music Career Guide Number 1,245,834, ‘The Artist’s Guide to Success in the Music Business’
BOOK REVIEW: When seeking a book about careers in music, you will find plenty of choices. Many of them seem to have titles similar to "The Artist's Guide to Success in the Music Business" (ISBN-13: 9781608325788), but Loren Weisman's volume emphasizes the practical things over which you can exercise some control.
BOOK REVIEW: Was FDR a great president or the greatest president? That's one of the questions dealt with by Conrad Black in his lengthy (500,000+ words) biography of FDR -- “Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom” (ISBN: 978158648184) -- a man who even today is known just by his initials.
BOOK REVIEW: Recent events are made to feel like a Hollywood thrill-ride movie in “Double Down: Game Change 2012” (ISBN 9781594204401) a look at the 2012 presidential election from "Game Change" authors Mark Halperin and John Heilemann. Spoiler Alert: the book has a happy ending.
REVIEW: Despite a disturbing right-wing bias, "Extortion: How Politicians Extract Your Money, Buy Votes, and Line Their Own Pockets" is an eye-opening disclosure of the ways that money flows in Washington, D.C., as well as how the principles of Democracy are subverted and perverted by members of the "permanent political class." Because writer Peter Schweizer is a right-wing nut job whose fawning and boot-licking of the putrid memory of Ronald Reagan is thoroughly disgusting.
BOOK REVIEW: Techno thrillers have got nothing on this true-life account of the United States' misadventures with nuclear weaponry. There is genuine heart-in-your-throat suspense in Eric Schlosser's accounting of the big hits and near-misses during the past half-century of the nuclear age. Just a few pages into "Command and Control" (ISBN 978-1-59420-227-8) a Titan II missile begins leaking fuel inside its launch silo and The Scare begins to wrap itself around you.
BOOK REVIEW: Perhaps nothing could have lived up to the anticipation for Malcolm Gladwell's new book but unfortunately "David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants" (ISBN: 9780316204361) is limp, frivolous, a little silly, and unnecessary. The only saving grace is that it is written with a fluid style so it won't take you too long to read.
BOOK REVIEW: Author, revolutionary, liar. Wait, perhaps 'creative assembler of semi-factual data' might be a better way to describe the extraordinary life of Andre Malraux. ("Malraux: A Life" by Olivier Todd; Alfred A. Knopf, ISBN-13: 978-0375407024.)
BOOK REVIEW: Anarchy gets a new and more positive definition in Nathan Schneider's book about the Occupy movement, "Thank You, Anarchy: Notes from the Occupy Apocalypse." Part history, part on-the-scene reporting, and part hope for a better future, the work is valuable and delightfully controversial.
BOOK REVIEW: Joseph P. Kennedy was a curious mixture of good and bad: sometimes a hero but oft-times a scoundrel. His incredible life gets a close examination from writer-teacher-historian David Nasaw in "The Patriarch" (ISBN: 978-1-59420-376-3). The dichotomies pile atop one another in a fascinating portrait.
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