History Book Reviews

BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Feb. 9, 2016

"Far less edifying than the Constitutional Convention but equally crucial, the colorful machinations of our first Congress receive a delightful account that will keep even educated readers turning the pages."
While the Constitution outlined the theory of our nation, the obstreperous first Congress converted it to reality. It was not a pretty picture, and popular historian Bordewich (America's Great Debate: Henry Clay, Stephen A. Douglas, and the Compromise that Preserved the Union, 2012, etc.) delivers an entertaining description of how "it transmuted the Constitution from a paper charter and a set of hopeful aspirations into the machinery of a functioning government."Read full book review >
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Feb. 2, 2016

"A fresh look at Eleanor Roosevelt and a fascinating exploration of a cherished, mutually beneficial friendship."
A significant new exploration of the enormously important friendship between two activist crusaders in advancing the cause of civil rights for blacks and women. Read full book review >

HISTORY
Released: Feb. 2, 2016

"A delightful book that is just plain fun to read, packed with all kinds of curious facts and oddities."
Gordon (An Empire of Wealth: The Epic History of American Economic Power, 2004) uses a history of the Washington Monument to present an enjoyable tale of Egypt's obelisks, the nations who appropriated them, and how they moved them.Read full book review >
LIGHT by Bruce Watson
HISTORY
Released: Feb. 2, 2016

"An ingenious combination of science and art history."
The usual popular-science history of light begins with the ancient Greeks and peters out soon after Einstein, but this fine account by Smithsonian contributing writer Watson (Freedom Summer: The Savage Season of 1964 that Made Mississippi Burn and Made America a Democracy, 2010, etc.) paints with a broader brush.Read full book review >
BLOOD BROTHERS by Randy Roberts
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Feb. 2, 2016

"A page-turning tale from the 1960s about politics and sports and two proud, extraordinary men whose legacies endure."
How Cassius Clay became Muhammad Ali and then an enemy of his mentor and friend Malcolm X. Read full book review >

EXIT RIGHT by Daniel Oppenheimer
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Feb. 2, 2016

"Whether his subjects are viewed as champions or apostates, Oppenheimer's insightful narrative should inspire some soul-searching among political believers of every stripe."
"A political identity is always a negotiation, between what it demands and who we are," asserts freelance journalist Oppenheimer as he explores "the negotiation of specific left-wing identities…and how those negotiations fell apart." Read full book review >
THE MOST WANTED MAN IN CHINA by Fang Lizhi
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Feb. 2, 2016

"A wonderfully crafted memoir, shimmering with intellectual honesty."
A dissident astrophysicist who died in 2012 offers rare, revealing glimpses inside the opaque Chinese communist system. Read full book review >
THE BLACK PRESIDENCY by Michael Eric Dyson
CURRENT AFFAIRS
Released: Feb. 2, 2016

"Dyson succeeds admirably in creating a base line for future interpretations of this historic presidency. His well-written book thoroughly illuminates the challenges facing a black man elected to govern a society that is far from post-racial."
An early assessment of America's first black presidency. Read full book review >
1916 by Keith Jeffery
HISTORY
Released: Jan. 26, 2016

"A brilliant compendium of everything-you-didn't-know-about World War I, which, for many readers, will be a great deal."
A World War I-focused history of 1916, when "all the major belligerents…stepped up to regulate domestic manpower and mobilize all sectors of the community behind the war." Read full book review >
OSTEND by Volker Weidermann
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Jan. 26, 2016

"Evocative, sharply drawn portraits and a wry, knowing narrative voice make for an engrossing history."
A summer of sun for despondent exiles. Read full book review >
REPUBLIC OF SPIN by David Greenberg
HISTORY
Released: Jan. 25, 2016

"At once scholarly, imaginative, and great fun."
From William McKinley to Barack Obama, a prizewinning historian looks at the tortured marriage of public relations and the modern presidency. Read full book review >
A SPLENDID SAVAGE by Steve Kemper
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Jan. 25, 2016

"Thrilling adventures presented with the flair they deserve."
Freelance journalist Kemper (A Labyrinth of Kingdoms: 10,000 Miles through Islamic Africa, 2012, etc.) revives a legendary adventurer, "one of the only people who could turn [his] garrulous…friend Theodore Roosevelt into a listener."Read full book review >
Kirkus Interview
Michael Eric Dyson
February 2, 2016

In Michael Eric Dyson’s rich and nuanced book new book, The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America, Dyson writes with passion and understanding about Barack Obama’s “sad and disappointing” performance regarding race and black concerns in his two terms in office. While race has defined his tenure, Obama has been “reluctant to take charge” and speak out candidly about the nation’s racial woes, determined to remain “not a black leader but a leader who is black.” Dyson cogently examines Obama’s speeches and statements on race, from his first presidential campaign through recent events—e.g., the Ferguson riots and the eulogy for the Rev. Clementa Pinckney in Charleston—noting that the president is careful not to raise the ire of whites and often chastises blacks for their moral failings. At his best, he spoke with “special urgency for black Americans” during the Ferguson crisis and was “at his blackest,” breaking free of constraints, in his “Amazing Grace” Charleston eulogy. Dyson writes here as a realistic, sometimes-angry supporter of the president. View video >