A character-rich historical biography that will have special appeal to young students of history.

CLEOPATRA

THE QUEEN WHO CHALLENGED ROME AND CONQUERED ETERNITY

A readable narrative of the legendary Egyptian queen that combines scholarship with novelistic detail and character depth.

First published in Italy in 2018, this popular history captures the essence of one of the most iconic figures in world history, a “stunning-looking, intelligent, and elegant woman with a deep gaze, and oozing sensuality.” Italian scholar, paleontologist, and journalist Angela focuses his inquiry on a key question, one that Cleopatra scholars have explored for centuries: “How did a delicate, lone woman, in an ancient world dominated by men, lead the kingdom of Egypt to its greatest expansion ever and become one of history’s brightest stars?” The author devotes the first 100 pages of his lengthy study building up to the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 B.C.E., showing how the watershed event affected Cleopatra’s own vulnerable standing in the geopolitical realm. She took protection under Rome to stabilize her position of power in relation to her ambitious brothers and ensure Egypt’s autonomy. Upon Caesar’s death, however, she had to cultivate good standing with the new leadership. Using her singular combination of beauty, confidence, intelligence, and cunning, she was able to seduce Mark Antony, a process that Angela re-creates with fairly over-the-top description. Notwithstanding the author’s lapses into overheated language (“we can picture the queen on her bed, her curves rising with every breath, as she gazes at Antony confidently, intensely, invitingly, her full lips half open”), he effectively draws on previous scholarship, wading through legend and myth to get at the truth of what actually occurred. Angela engages readers with rhetorical questions and emphasizes that Cleopatra was a thoroughly modern woman, instrumental in paving the way for the Roman Empire under the ruthless Octavian. “Cleopatra is not only an alluring woman and a queen very capable of managing power,” he writes, “but also an incredible historical catalyst.”

A character-rich historical biography that will have special appeal to young students of history.

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-298421-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: HarperVia/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

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A PROMISED LAND

In the first volume of his presidential memoir, Obama recounts the hard path to the White House.

In this long, often surprisingly candid narrative, Obama depicts a callow youth spent playing basketball and “getting loaded,” his early reading of difficult authors serving as a way to impress coed classmates. (“As a strategy for picking up girls, my pseudo-intellectualism proved mostly worthless,” he admits.) Yet seriousness did come to him in time and, with it, the conviction that America could live up to its stated aspirations. His early political role as an Illinois state senator, itself an unlikely victory, was not big enough to contain Obama’s early ambition, nor was his term as U.S. Senator. Only the presidency would do, a path he painstakingly carved out, vote by vote and speech by careful speech. As he writes, “By nature I’m a deliberate speaker, which, by the standards of presidential candidates, helped keep my gaffe quotient relatively low.” The author speaks freely about the many obstacles of the race—not just the question of race and racism itself, but also the rise, with “potent disruptor” Sarah Palin, of a know-nothingism that would manifest itself in an obdurate, ideologically driven Republican legislature. Not to mention the meddlings of Donald Trump, who turns up in this volume for his idiotic “birther” campaign while simultaneously fishing for a contract to build “a beautiful ballroom” on the White House lawn. A born moderate, Obama allows that he might not have been ideological enough in the face of Mitch McConnell, whose primary concern was then “clawing [his] way back to power.” Indeed, one of the most compelling aspects of the book, as smoothly written as his previous books, is Obama’s cleareyed scene-setting for how the political landscape would become so fractured—surely a topic he’ll expand on in the next volume.

A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6316-9

Page Count: 768

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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The definitive biography of the woman who drove her husband’s presidential ambitions—a shoo-in for the silver screen.

THE TRIUMPH OF NANCY REAGAN

A deep dive into the life of Nancy Reagan (1921-2016).

In a luminous and exhaustive biography, Washington Post political columnist Tumulty chronicles the private life and political influence of Ronald Reagan’s wife. Drawing on interviews with surviving figures from the Reagan years, including George Shultz and James A. Baker, the author vividly captures the personality and impact of the Chicago Gold Coast debutante who became a Hollywood star and then first lady. Tumulty shows us a shrewd, savvy woman. “Hers was the power that comes with intimacy,” writes the author. “The first lady was the essential disinterested observer of the ideological battles and power struggles that went on in the White House, because she had but one preoccupation: Ronald Reagan’s well-being and success.” She was tasked with running the household and keeping up the family’s clean, conservative image: “Ronnie…left all the difficult and contentious parts of parenting to Nancy.” Fostering a strong interest in astrology, she insisted that her husband’s schedule, including dates and even desirability of visits from foreign leaders, align with the readings of San Francisco astrologer Joan Quigley. Tumulty’s riveting narrative transcends such oddities as she leads us through the White House years, with colorful portraits of all of the relevant political players as well as the Reagan children. The author’s chapter on the AIDS crisis is a gem, as she clearly portrays the neglect by the White House, the complexity of the Reagans’ view of homosexuality, and the engagement of Surgeon General C. Everett Koop to anchor the administration’s belated response. Another standout section follows the grim tale of the Iran-Contra scandal, culminating in the Tower report and Reagan’s public apology. Tumulty also assesses some tell-all books from departing staffers as well as Nancy’s own memoir, My Turn (1989). Through it all, Nancy maintained her abiding love for her husband. After his death, she would see visions of him at night.

The definitive biography of the woman who drove her husband’s presidential ambitions—a shoo-in for the silver screen.

Pub Date: April 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6519-1

Page Count: 672

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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