The author doesn’t pull punches, but all involved should find it fair as well as comprehensive.

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ONE WAY OUT

THE INSIDE HISTORY OF THE ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND

“I have viewed everything with the eyes and ears of a journalist but the heart and soul of a fan,” writes Guitar World senior writer Paul (Big in China: My Unlikely Adventures Raising a Family, Playing the Blues, and Becoming a Star in Beijing, 2011), who spent decades and hundreds of interviews earning the trust of musicians who didn’t always trust each other.

“The Allman Brothers Band, I believe, has no equal.” One need not share the author’s belief in the band’s supremacy to find its story engrossing. The majority of the book takes the form of oral history, which on other projects might sometimes seem slapdash and lazy but here proves crucial, for there are so many different perspectives—on everything from the band’s name to leadership and songwriting credits—that having dozens of different voices serves readers well. Nobody disagrees on the overwhelming talent, inspiration and legacy of guitarist Duane Allman, who formed the band, saw it coalesce into something special, and died recklessly and young before the music reached its popular peak. Explains one fellow musician, “Duane died just on the downstroke of the diving board, as the band was about to launch.” The loss of Duane and founding bassist Berry Oakley a year later would have brought an end to a less determined band, but the ABB somehow flourished despite a leadership void and decades of tensions exacerbated by drugs and alcohol. Perhaps the most complex relationship was between Gregg Allman and Dickey Betts, as the former was never considered an equal partner with his brother, and the latter resented the implications of the band’s name as he attempted to fill the guitar void and rule more by dictatorship than the universal respect Duane commanded. In the wake of Betts’ departure and Gregg’s sobriety, the responsibility has largely shifted to a new generation of guitarists, as the band improbably boasts its strongest dynamic since its original leader’s death.

The author doesn’t pull punches, but all involved should find it fair as well as comprehensive.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-250-04049-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2013

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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