A knowledgeable, elegant account full of elaborate depictions, complete with a thorough bibliography.

IGNITING THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION

1773-1775

A descriptive account of the people (both rebel and loyalist) and events that propelled the great rupture with Britain.

The period between the Boston Tea Party of December 1773 and the long siege of Boston in 1775 frames this finely delineated history of the buildup to revolution. Former Air Force officer and debut author Beck evidently relishes his subject, and he gives a fully fleshed portrait of the major patriots, both American and British. Dumping the tea in Boston Harbor was an act of destruction of private property, a notion no less sacred to the Americans than their liberty, and though many condemned the vandalism, the resistance to the tea duty had grown among the public as another instance of Parliament trying to “force-feed America a tax it had never consented to.” Fearful of the mob mentality that seemed to be brewing, Gen. Thomas Gage recommended to King George III that regiments earmarked for New York to keep order in Boston would be sufficient to render the Americans docile: they were “Lyons, whilst we are lambs,” he wrote. Little did he know the machinations already put in place by these “sly, artful, hypocritical rascalls [sic],” wrote Gen. Lord Percy of the rebels. Indeed, as Beck moves through the increasing lawlessness of the colonists, he points out the “ugly but very real side” to the American Revolution: “the American rebel seemed at times to take on the role of villain, turning the British into the victim.” The author explores the top-down intelligence network of Gage versus the grass-roots organization of the rebels, each effective in its own way. Beck’s description of the “spreading flames of rebellion” and the taking of the forts at Crown Point and Ticonderoga is as engaging as fiction.

A knowledgeable, elegant account full of elaborate depictions, complete with a thorough bibliography.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4926-1395-4

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Sourcebooks

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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Harari delivers yet another tour de force.

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21 LESSONS FOR THE 21ST CENTURY

A highly instructive exploration of “current affairs and…the immediate future of human societies.”

Having produced an international bestseller about human origins (Sapiens, 2015, etc.) and avoided the sophomore jinx writing about our destiny (Homo Deus, 2017), Harari (History/Hebrew Univ. of Jerusalem) proves that he has not lost his touch, casting a brilliantly insightful eye on today’s myriad crises, from Trump to terrorism, Brexit to big data. As the author emphasizes, “humans think in stories rather than in facts, numbers, or equations, and the simpler the story, the better. Every person, group, and nation has its own tales and myths.” Three grand stories once predicted the future. World War II eliminated the fascist story but stimulated communism for a few decades until its collapse. The liberal story—think democracy, free markets, and globalism—reigned supreme for a decade until the 20th-century nasties—dictators, populists, and nationalists—came back in style. They promote jingoism over international cooperation, vilify the opposition, demonize immigrants and rival nations, and then win elections. “A bit like the Soviet elites in the 1980s,” writes Harari, “liberals don’t understand how history deviates from its preordained course, and they lack an alternative prism through which to interpret reality.” The author certainly understands, and in 21 painfully astute essays, he delivers his take on where our increasingly “post-truth” world is headed. Human ingenuity, which enables us to control the outside world, may soon re-engineer our insides, extend life, and guide our thoughts. Science-fiction movies get the future wrong, if only because they have happy endings. Most readers will find Harari’s narrative deliciously reasonable, including his explanation of the stories (not actually true but rational) of those who elect dictators, populists, and nationalists. His remedies for wildly disruptive technology (biotech, infotech) and its consequences (climate change, mass unemployment) ring true, provided nations act with more good sense than they have shown throughout history.

Harari delivers yet another tour de force.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-51217-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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Not flawless, but one of the best recent analyses of the contemporary woes of American economics and politics.

WHO STOLE THE AMERICAN DREAM?

Remarkably comprehensive and coherent analysis of and prescriptions for America’s contemporary economic malaise by Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Smith (Rethinking America, 1995, etc.).

“Over the past three decades,” writes the author, “we have become Two Americas.” We have arrived at a new Gilded Age, where “gross inequality of income and wealth” have become endemic. Such inequality is not simply the result of “impersonal and irresistible market forces,” but of quite deliberate corporate strategies and the public policies that enabled them. Smith sets out on a mission to trace the history of these strategies and policies, which transformed America from a roughly fair society to its current status as a plutocracy. He leaves few stones unturned. CEO culture has moved since the 1970s from a concern for the general well-being of society, including employees, to the single-minded pursuit of personal enrichment and short-term increases in stock prices. During much of the ’70s, CEO pay was roughly 40 times a worker’s pay; today that number is 367. Whether it be through outsourcing and factory closings, corporate reneging on once-promised contributions to employee health and retirement funds, the deregulation of Wall Street and the financial markets, a tax code which favors overwhelmingly the interests of corporate heads and the superrich—all of which Smith examines in fascinating detail—the American middle class has been left floundering. For its part, government has simply become an enabler and partner of the rich, as the rich have turned wealth into political influence and rigid conservative opposition has created the politics of gridlock. What, then, is to be done? Here, Smith’s brilliant analyses turn tepid, as he advocates for “a peaceful political revolution at the grassroots” to realign the priorities of government and the economy but offers only the vaguest of clues as to how this might occur.

Not flawless, but one of the best recent analyses of the contemporary woes of American economics and politics.

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4000-6966-8

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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