Written with verve, Katz’s history is distinguished from a trove of Twain biographies by its 300 illustrations, including...




A richly illustrated life of an American icon.

Former Library of Congress curator Katz (Civil War Sketch Book, 2012, etc.) has reached deeply into the library’s archives for this commemoration of the enormously popular and prolific author. Besides offering a detailed—if familiar—narrative of Twain’s work, family and personality, Katz traces social, political and economic changes from 1850, when Twain first began publishing, until his death in 1910. After a few years in newspaper work in Hannibal, Missouri, 20-year-old Samuel Clemens set out to become a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi, but when the Civil War stopped river traffic, he decided to avoid the conflict by heading West. In Nevada and California, he became a miner, prospector and newspaper reporter, all while writing his own stories. His tall tale “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” published in 1865 under his pen name, won accolades, leading to a multicity lecture tour. A political and cultural gadfly, Twain “challenged monarchies, autocracies, plutocracies, and leaders of the civilized world to free, educate, and employ their subjects,” writes Katz. “He railed against his Christian God…for fostering ignorance and suffering, creating havoc in the lives of humankind.” He became “a cultural lightning rod” and an outspoken shaper of public opinion. Twain loved performing, but he also depended on tours for money. Notoriously bad with finances, he repeatedly made unsound investments and ended up in debt, despite his book earnings. By the time The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn appeared in 1885—generating immediate controversy—Twain had already cemented his reputation with Innocents Abroad (1869), Roughing It (1872), The Gilded Age (1873), The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), and volumes of stories and sketches.

Written with verve, Katz’s history is distinguished from a trove of Twain biographies by its 300 illustrations, including photographs, cartoons and artwork, drawn from the LOC’s inestimable collection.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-316-20939-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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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: yesterday

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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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