A must-read for political junkies but not compelling enough for the large, but exhausted, population of never-Trumpers.

TRUMPOCALYPSE

RESTORING AMERICAN DEMOCRACY

Following up Trumpocracy (2018), Frum looks at the Trump administration’s effect on the country and the possible consequences of the 2020 election.

In his previous book, the author, a speechwriter and special assistant to George W. Bush and now a staff writer for the Atlantic, showed how the Trump campaign and administration had already seriously damaged American institutions during his first year in office. Here, Frum uses his powers of analysis—and his outrage—to flesh out the myriad examples of what he considers to be a toxic combination of perfidy and stupidity. This includes Trump’s relentless bullying of individuals, groups, and countries; his poorly conceived foreign policy via Twitter; his threats to unleash his rabid followers on a supposedly disloyal electorate; and, above all, his harm to American judicial and security agencies. Still, the author has hopes for a brighter, Trump-free future. Examining elements of social reform, health care, and climate change, Frum lays out potential solutions that are surprisingly progressive, especially for a self-styled conservative. His political swing from loyal Republican to independent thinker is, he asserts, shared by others. “Former allies find themselves at dagger’s point; former adversaries find more in common,” he writes. “It’s much more likely that George W. Bush and Barack Obama will vote for the same candidate in 2020 than it is that George W. Bush and Donald Trump will vote for the same candidate.” This is a thoughtful analysis of current troubles and future opportunities, but it will interest only those who aren’t sated by the constant analysis offered by newspapers and cable TV. While Frum is more eloquent than many, he covers much of the same ground, and his suggested policy points, though interesting, are a relatively small part of the book.

A must-read for political junkies but not compelling enough for the large, but exhausted, population of never-Trumpers.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-297841-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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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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