Deeply researched, telling moments in the life of arguably the most written-about man in American history.




Six little-known anecdotes about President Abraham Lincoln during fraught times and what they show about his character.

Former U.S. senior diplomat Pryor (Reading the Man: A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters, 2007, etc.), who died in a car accident in 2015, painstakingly unearths hidden episodes in the life of Lincoln as he was trying to manage a riven republic and civil war. The author gets beyond the hagiographic portrayals of Lincoln (one contemporary noted, “the murderer’s bullet opens to him immortality”), allowing rare glimpses of the man as vulnerable, clumsy, inarticulate, and very human. In his new role as head of the armed forces on March 12, 1861—just days after his inauguration and the secession of the Confederate states—Lincoln had to view the parade of federal troops through the White House, led by Gen. Winfield Scott, who was not entirely trusted. Unfortunately, the meeting underscored the inexperience of the new leader. Another odd incident: during Lincoln’s ceremonial role of hoisting the U.S. flag over a new Marine bandstand set up on the South Lawn of the White House in late June 1861, the huge flag ripped, severing the upper stripe and four of its stars—not a good omen. From here, Pryor launches into an elucidating look at Lincoln’s “legacy of fun” and his love of storytelling—not to mention how his face was ripe for caricature. In August 1862, Sgt. Lucien P. Waters, who “abhorred slavery,” managed an interview with the president to air his grievances about the Union’s frustratingly slow advances and ask for a furlough; Lincoln, glum and exasperated over the issue of slavery, muttered about the “damned or Eternal niggar, niggar,” shocking Waters and revealing Lincoln's conflicted state at the time. Another anecdote demonstrates his discomfort engaging one-on-one with women. Kudos to Pryor for offering readers something fresh about our 16th president—no small feat.

Deeply researched, telling moments in the life of arguably the most written-about man in American history.

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-670-02590-9

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Nov. 23, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.


The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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