Books by Fred Kaplan

Released: Jan. 28, 2020

"A well-written, exhaustively researched history of American leaders' efforts to manage their nuclear arsenal."
A comprehensive review of American nuclear policy from the Truman administration to the present. Read full book review >
Released: June 13, 2017

"An eye-opening biography from a trusted source on the topic."
A fresh look at John Quincy Adams, Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War, abolitionism, and other related American history. Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 2016

"An important, disturbing, and gripping history arguing convincingly that, as of 2015, no defense exists against a resourceful cyberattack."
For centuries, spies could only listen to enemy communications. In this thoughtful, opinionated history, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist warns that in today's cyberage, "once they hacked a computer, they could prowl the entire network…they could not only read and download scads of information, they could change its contents—disrupt, corrupt, or erase it—and mislead or disorient the officials who relied on it." Read full book review >
Released: May 6, 2014

"A lofty work that may propel readers back to Quincy Adams' own ardent writings."
In this elegant study, Kaplan (Emeritus, English/Queens Coll.; Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer, 2008, etc.) portrays our sixth president as a deeply literary man, devout husband, orator, diplomat and teacher who had grand plans for the country's future, including the building of national infrastructure and the abolition of slavery. Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 15, 2013

"A compelling story combined with thoughtful analysis of the development, application and limitations of a new model of applying American military power. EDITOR'S NOTE: This review was completed prior to the news of the Petraeus scandal."
How a group of farsighted Army officers gradually forced competence in fighting insurgents upon a hostile military establishment. Read full book review >
LINCOLN by Fred Kaplan
Released: Nov. 3, 2008

"A highly readable, often insightful analysis of an unequaled prose master for whom writing was 'the supreme artifact of human genius.'"
How the 16th president used—and transformed—the English language. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 21, 2003

"No real surprises here, but a welcome reminder of the contributions of a great American social critic."
An argument that the native adventurer and high Victorian author's life was not "twain," as it is sometimes presented, but unified by an unflagging belief in his own luck, a fierce social conscience, and a never-ending quest for money. Read full book review >
GORE VIDAL by Fred Kaplan
Released: Nov. 1, 1999

Although Kaplan has declared, "I prefer my subjects dead," such as Dickens (1988) and Henry James (1992), he more than rises to the task in this lively biography of the prolific, controversial author. Vidal's own anecdotal, rather pitiless memoir, Palimpsest (1995), covered a little over halfway through his life, having beaten one failed biographic attempt, and left many wanting more. Kaplan delivers a volume almost as long as his The Essential Gore Vidal (1999) and longer than his previous well-received efforts. With Kaplan's near-total access to Vidal's papers, reams of interviews, and assured editorial independence, Vidal's privileged Washingtonian background and ever-changing literary career, plus his talent for literary blood sports, make him as natural and fascinating a subject for a biography as for headlines. Grandson of Oklahoma's first senator and son of a Roosevelt cabinet director, Eugene Luther Gore Vidal Jr. showed little promise despite exclusive schooling, had a noncombatant tour of duty in WWII, and then immediately succeeded with his first novel, Williwaw. In Vidal's metamorphosis from promising young writer to perennial enfant terrible, only a few holes arise here and there, such as his breaking off an engagement with his high school sweetheart and his depression after the mixed reception of his third novel. Kaplan's talent for setting social milieus keeps up with the innumerable names that drop in and out of Vidal's life (including Tennessee Williams, Anaãs Nin, Paul Bowles, and Paul Newman, to name just a few), though he refrains from assessing in depth Vidal's place in the assorted creative scenes in which he figured so prominently, such as playwriting, screenwriting, the bestseller, and the polemical essay. While frank about Vidal's homosexuality, Kaplan tastefully avoids psychologizing, though the psychodramas of Vidal's relationship with his narcissistic mother and his feuds with William F. Buckley Jr., Truman Capote, and Norman Mailer are juicily tempting. A rich chronicle of a celebrated career not yet in past tense. (50 b&w photos, not seen) Read full book review >
HENRY JAMES by Fred Kaplan
Released: Oct. 16, 1992

Subtle, complex, elusive Henry James—a writer who saw life as a history of changing perceptions and changing masks—demands all the formidable scholarly skills and narrative art that Kaplan demonstrated in his biographies of two other monumental 19th- century figures, Charles Dickens (1988) and Thomas Carlyle (1983). More intimate than Leon Edel's magisterial Henry James (1985), this version of the novelist's life is implicitly Freudian: Flawed (a sexually nonfunctioning, hypochondriacal stammerer) but talented, James compensated through his art for his personal failings, seeking (and luckily finding) love, fame, wealth, and power through publication—though at great personal cost. After a rootless childhood, a random education, and a bewildering set of religious beliefs derived from his father, James spent his life travelling for his health and his fiction. He moved repeatedly from New York to London, Paris, Switzerland, Rome, and Venice, avoiding intimate connections, the lure of young men especially, and inventing himself as a writer among the writers he met: William Morris, George Eliot, Anthony Trollope, Stephen Crane, Joseph Conrad, Edith Wharton—to whom, in a memorable scene here, James reads Walt Whitman's poetry. Known to his family as the ``angel in the house,'' sentimental and emotional toward his male friends (at least in letters), James was rigid and artificial in public, his accent and manners an odd combination of the European culture he admired and the American values he claimed to believe in. Intensely private and self-controlled, his life was a quest for refinement and nuance, undermined by his own excess, the afflictions of his ``bowels and his back,'' and his immense hungers. Kaplan has a fine sense of scene: James trying to drown the dresses of a deceased friend, or looking at himself in the mirror. And it's as a mirror—a very Jamesian one, with its center of consciousness and unobtrusive narrator—that this fine and readable biography functions. (Twenty-four pages of b&w photographs—not seen.) Read full book review >