Hitler biographies are not in short supply, but this one is worthy of study.


TRIUMPH, 1933-1939

The first volume of a new Hitler biography.

McDonough provides an expert, disheartening account of the first seven years of Hitler’s chancellorship, during which he seemed to have the golden touch. The author reminds readers that in 1932, Germany’s establishment had long viewed Hitler as a lowbrow demagogue, but the Nazis were the largest political party. Certain that they could control him, leading conservatives persuaded the president, Paul von Hindenburg, to appoint Hitler as chancellor. He took office on Jan. 30, 1933, and swiftly proposed the Enabling Act “to end parliamentary democracy now and forever.” This required an election. Many historians pronounce the Nazi’s 44% minority in the March 5 voting a disappointment, but it was a spectacular achievement for a multiparty system, the “highest vote of any party” in any German election since 1919. Passing the act required 66% of the Reichstag, which Hitler accomplished by banning communist deputies and threatening the Centre Party. McDonough offers an insightful chronological account of what followed: brutal persecution and packed concentration camps inside Germany and a pugnacious foreign policy that produced easy, bloodless takeovers of Austria, the Sudetenland, and Czechoslovakia before the invasion of Poland persuaded a reluctant Britain and France to declare war. Few historians fail to denounce the refusal to take Hitler seriously until it was almost too late, but McDonough emphasizes that his frenzied public persona disguised a sophisticated diplomat. By the 1930s, almost everyone deplored the Treaty of Versailles and sympathized with his denunciation of Germany’s persecution. After interviews, Western journalists wrote fawning articles; face to face, most politicians found him reasonable. Western leaders refused to believe that Hitler always intended to go to war, not only because they hated the thought of conflict, but also because wars are often pointless. Of course, Hitler was deeply determined and pugnacious, and the catastrophic results of his ambition will likely become apparent in the second volume.

Hitler biographies are not in short supply, but this one is worthy of study.

Pub Date: June 22, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-27510-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: April 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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