The occasional shoehorning of academic theories into the Bogle narrative barely mars an outstanding book of sociology and...




A follow-up of sorts to All God’s Children, the author’s 1995 book about an African-American family mired in multiple generations of imprisonment. This time, the author chronicles a “a white family with a sizable number of inmates to illustrate this perverse legacy while removing race as a factor in the discussion.”

Based on an extraordinary research effort that combined years of building trust with outlaws as well as searching law enforcement records, longtime New York Times reporter and bureau chief Butterfield, who won the National Book Award for China: Alive in the Bitter Sea (1982), located at least 60 members of the extended Bogle family who have been arrested and sentenced beginning in the early 1920s. Although 60 may seem like an extraordinarily large number, “some oddity out of Ripley’s Believe It or Not,” the author notes that roughly five percent of families account for approximately half of all crime in the United States. While fascinated with the Bogles, Butterfield never loses sight of a significant question: Why is the intergenerational transmission of violence so powerful in countless specific families? Though the Bogles don’t necessarily present a simple answer to the author’s inquiry, he learned that numerous Bogle fathers and mothers encouraged their children to choose a life of crime, usually at the expense of education. Being sent to prison was viewed by Bogle family members as a rite of passage, even an honor. Certainly for some Bogle crime careerists, prison served as a school for honing skills to become more skilled robbers and burglars. (Butterfield found only one homicide during his research.) Near the end of the book, the author focuses on Ashley, the first Bogle to attend college. How Ashley broke free from a career of crime is such a remarkable saga that it reads like fiction. However, Butterfield provides persuasive documentation about his subjects and also delivers an epilogue that is at least as unexpected.

The occasional shoehorning of academic theories into the Bogle narrative barely mars an outstanding book of sociology and criminology.

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4000-4102-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.


Noted number cruncher Sperling delivers an economist’s rejoinder to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Former director of the National Economic Council in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the author has long taken a view of the dismal science that takes economic justice fully into account. Alongside all the metrics and estimates and reckonings of GDP, inflation, and the supply curve, he holds the great goal of economic policy to be the advancement of human dignity, a concept intangible enough to chase the econometricians away. Growth, the sacred mantra of most economic policy, “should never be considered an appropriate ultimate end goal” for it, he counsels. Though 4% is the magic number for annual growth to be considered healthy, it is healthy only if everyone is getting the benefits and not just the ultrawealthy who are making away with the spoils today. Defining dignity, admits Sperling, can be a kind of “I know it when I see it” problem, but it does not exist where people are a paycheck away from homelessness; the fact, however, that people widely share a view of indignity suggests the “intuitive universality” of its opposite. That said, the author identifies three qualifications, one of them the “ability to meaningfully participate in the economy with respect, not domination and humiliation.” Though these latter terms are also essentially unquantifiable, Sperling holds that this respect—lack of abuse, in another phrasing—can be obtained through a tight labor market and monetary and fiscal policy that pushes for full employment. In other words, where management needs to come looking for workers, workers are likely to be better treated than when the opposite holds. In still other words, writes the author, dignity is in part a function of “ ‘take this job and shove it’ power,” which is a power worth fighting for.

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7987-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.


The chief White House and Washington correspondent for ABC provides a ringside seat to a disaster-ridden Oval Office.

It is Karl to whom we owe the current popularity of a learned Latin term. Questioning chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, he followed up a perhaps inadvertently honest response on the matter of Ukrainian intervention in the electoral campaign by saying, “What you just described is a quid pro quo.” Mulvaney’s reply: “Get over it.” Karl, who has been covering Trump for decades and knows which buttons to push and which to avoid, is not inclined to get over it: He rightly points out that a reporter today “faces a president who seems to have no appreciation or understanding of the First Amendment and the role of a free press in American democracy.” Yet even against a bellicose, untruthful leader, he adds, the press “is not the opposition party.” The author, who keeps his eye on the subject and not in the mirror, writes of Trump’s ability to stage situations, as when he once called Trump out, at an event, for misrepresenting poll results and Trump waited until the camera was off before exploding, “Fucking nasty guy!”—then finished up the interview as if nothing had happened. Trump and his inner circle are also, by Karl’s account, masters of timing, matching negative news such as the revelation that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election with distractions away from Trump—in this case, by pushing hard on the WikiLeaks emails from the Democratic campaign, news of which arrived at the same time. That isn’t to say that they manage people or the nation well; one of the more damning stories in a book full of them concerns former Homeland Security head Kirstjen Nielsen, cut off at the knees even while trying to do Trump’s bidding.

No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4562-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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