A deftly balanced memoir, depicting both grand-scale breakthroughs, and one grateful citizen-scientist’s immersion in the...

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ADVENTURES IN THE ATOMIC AGE

FROM WATTS TO WASHINGTON

An engaging if technically dense memoir by a pioneer of the nuclear age.

Seaborg (1912–99), whose final work was completed by his son, led a remarkable scientific life. A child of a first-generation Swedish immigrant family, he depicts an idyllic childhood in pre-boom California, darkened by the Depression. Fortunately, he was a quick study in the nascent field of atomic chemistry; at Berkeley in 1934, a series of fellowships saved him from abject poverty and he participated in the earliest advances in nuclear science with Robert Oppenheimer and Ernest Lawrence, who had just built the Berkeley Radiation Laboratory cyclotron. Despite the ominous implications of their work, Seaborg’s depiction of the 1930s scientific community is wholesome, centered on his courtship of his eventual wife and communal dining with future Nobel laureates. WWII transformed this insular universe: Seaborg’s scientific circle, including European refugees like Enrico Fermi, was rapidly absorbed by the Army’s top-secret “Manhattan Engineer District.” Depicting the war years, Seaborg recalls the era when Axis victory seemed possible, provoking an unprecedented collaboration between scientists and the military. He conveys the great scale of such projects as the Oak Ridge, Hanford, and Los Alamos laboratories, all of which contributed to atomic arms development. Seaborg himself was in the vanguard in such dangerous realms as plutonium production (following his team’s virtual invention of it). He also details the convulsions of the Cold War, noting that he and his colleagues anticipated the arms race in 1945. While scientists like Oppenheimer renounced nuclear weaponry (and then stripped of their security clearances), the author’s career followed a more conservative course. He received the Nobel Prize in 1951, and was later recruited by President Kennedy to chair the Atomic Energy Commission, where his attempts to slow the US-Soviet buildup culminated in the 1968 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. He concludes with sober advocacy of nuclear power, noting with typical dryness, “The public tends to be illogical in evaluating risks.”

A deftly balanced memoir, depicting both grand-scale breakthroughs, and one grateful citizen-scientist’s immersion in the tumultuous postwar geopolitical landscape.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-374-29991-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2001

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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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  • New York Times Bestseller

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UNTAMED

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 Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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