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AMERICAN GUN

THE TRUE STORY OF THE AR-15

A riveting exploration of the cost of the nation’s fascination with an iconic weapon.

How an influential gun design became central to debates over Second Amendment rights.

In this superb history of an innovative weapon, McWhirter and Elinson, who both cover the gun industry for the Wall Street Journal, track the invention of the AR-15 rifle in the 1950s, adoption by the American military in the 1960s (where it was known as the M16), and gradual rise to notoriety toward the end of the 20th century and into the 21st as it became, in the semiautomatic form in which it was sold to the public, a favored choice of mass shooters. The authors begin with an exploration of the life and career of Eugene Stoner (1922-1997), a gifted engineer who sought to create a weapon superior to those used by American soldiers in World War II. The authors then give insightful commentary on the evolution of Stoner’s signature creation, disastrous deployment in Vietnam after ill-considered modifications, slow introduction to civilian gun aficionados and gradually rising profile in pop culture, provocation of outrage after being used in notorious crimes, and eventual transformation into a symbol of freedom embraced by the National Rifle Association and hard-line gun-rights advocates. This is a meticulously researched and impressively informed book; despite careful explanations of technical details, the narrative moves along briskly and engagingly. Furthermore, McWhirter and Elinson clearly and fairly handle the sometimes-complex motivations of those seeking to promote the AR-15 along with the frequently base impulses of those looking to profit without moral concern. What emerges, too, through accounts of individuals who have fallen victim to gun violence, is a harrowing sense of the enormous suffering wrought by this invention and the seemingly insurmountable political resistance to mitigating it in any significant way. Ultimately, readers gain an unsettling and timely understanding of how “a device created to protect America [is] wounding it.”

A riveting exploration of the cost of the nation’s fascination with an iconic weapon.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2023

ISBN: 9780374103859

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2023

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2017


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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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WHAT THIS COMEDIAN SAID WILL SHOCK YOU

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

The comedian argues that the arts of moderation and common sense must be reinvigorated.

Some people are born snarky, some become snarky, and some have snarkiness thrust upon them. Judging from this book, Maher—host of HBO’s Real Time program and author of The New New Rules and When You Ride Alone, You Ride With bin Laden—is all three. As a comedian, he has a great deal of leeway to make fun of people in politics, and he often delivers hilarious swipes with a deadpan face. The author describes himself as a traditional liberal, with a disdain for Republicans (especially the MAGA variety) and a belief in free speech and personal freedom. He claims that he has stayed much the same for more than 20 years, while the left, he argues, has marched toward intolerance. He sees an addiction to extremism on both sides of the aisle, which fosters the belief that anyone who disagrees with you must be an enemy to be destroyed. However, Maher has always displayed his own streaks of extremism, and his scorched-earth takedowns eventually become problematic. The author has something nasty to say about everyone, it seems, and the sarcastic tone starts after more than 300 pages. As has been the case throughout his career, Maher is best taken in small doses. The book is worth reading for the author’s often spot-on skewering of inept politicians and celebrities, but it might be advisable to occasionally dip into it rather than read the whole thing in one sitting. Some parts of the text are hilarious, but others are merely insulting. Maher is undeniably talented, but some restraint would have produced a better book.

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

Pub Date: May 21, 2024

ISBN: 9781668051351

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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