History Book Reviews

SHRINKING THE EARTH by Donald Worster
HISTORY
Released: Feb. 3, 2016

"A bracing, intelligent survey of wealth become immiseration, essential for students of environmental history."
Eminent historian Worster (Emeritus, American History/Univ. of Kansas; A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir, 2008, etc.) offers a concise, often elegiac account of the end of the American centuries.Read full book review >
THE MOST WANTED MAN IN CHINA by Fang Lizhi
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Feb. 2, 2016

"A wonderfully crafted memoir, shimmering with intellectual honesty."
A dissident astrophysicist who died in 2012 offers rare, revealing glimpses inside the opaque Chinese communist system. Read full book review >

EXIT RIGHT by Daniel Oppenheimer
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Feb. 2, 2016

"Whether his subjects are viewed as champions or apostates, Oppenheimer's insightful narrative should inspire some soul-searching among political believers of every stripe."
"A political identity is always a negotiation, between what it demands and who we are," asserts freelance journalist Oppenheimer as he explores "the negotiation of specific left-wing identities…and how those negotiations fell apart." Read full book review >
LIGHT by Bruce Watson
HISTORY
Released: Feb. 2, 2016

"An ingenious combination of science and art history."
The usual popular-science history of light begins with the ancient Greeks and peters out soon after Einstein, but this fine account by Smithsonian contributing writer Watson (Freedom Summer: The Savage Season of 1964 that Made Mississippi Burn and Made America a Democracy, 2010, etc.) paints with a broader brush.Read full book review >
100 MILLION YEARS OF FOOD by Stephen Le
FOOD & COOKING
Released: Feb. 2, 2016

"The book's conclusions about what to eat and drink are common sense, but the journey Le takes to get us there is worth the cover price."
A biology professor traverses the globe to explore the evolution of food. Read full book review >

HISTORY
Released: Feb. 2, 2016

"A delightful book that is just plain fun to read, packed with all kinds of curious facts and oddities."
Gordon (An Empire of Wealth: The Epic History of American Economic Power, 2004) uses a history of the Washington Monument to present an enjoyable tale of Egypt's obelisks, the nations who appropriated them, and how they moved them.Read full book review >
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Feb. 2, 2016

"A fresh look at Eleanor Roosevelt and a fascinating exploration of a cherished, mutually beneficial friendship."
A significant new exploration of the enormously important friendship between two activist crusaders in advancing the cause of civil rights for blacks and women. Read full book review >
HISTORY
Released: Feb. 2, 2016

"Kaplan does not promote Romania, but he has written a journalistic tour de force that will convince readers that it's a fascinating place whose people, past, and current geopolitical dilemma deserve our attention."
Romania was a journalistic backwater when the author's bestselling Balkan Ghosts appeared in 1993. In this equally captivating sequel, veteran journalist Kaplan (Asia's Cauldron: The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific, 2014, etc.) brings matters up to 2015.Read full book review >
THE BLACK PRESIDENCY by Michael Eric Dyson
CURRENT AFFAIRS
Released: Feb. 2, 2016

"Dyson succeeds admirably in creating a base line for future interpretations of this historic presidency. His well-written book thoroughly illuminates the challenges facing a black man elected to govern a society that is far from post-racial."
An early assessment of America's first black presidency. Read full book review >
BLOOD BROTHERS by Randy Roberts
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Feb. 2, 2016

"A page-turning tale from the 1960s about politics and sports and two proud, extraordinary men whose legacies endure."
How Cassius Clay became Muhammad Ali and then an enemy of his mentor and friend Malcolm X. Read full book review >
ONE CHILD by Mei Fong
CURRENT AFFAIRS
Released: Feb. 2, 2016

"Finished just before the announcement of the policy's demise, One Child is a touching and captivating anthropological investigation of one of the most invasive laws ever devised."
Widespread female infanticide and officials jailing pregnant women's families to induce them to surrender to abortions—these are scenes not from a dystopian novel but from China's family planning bureaucracy. Read full book review >
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Feb. 2, 2016

"Fascinating reading about a significant artistic figure and his legacy."
A documentary producer's memoir of the unexpected lessons he learned from a church caretaker about faith, the human condition, and the Italian painter Caravaggio. Read full book review >
Kirkus Interview
Michael Eric Dyson
February 2, 2016

In Michael Eric Dyson’s rich and nuanced book new book, The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America, Dyson writes with passion and understanding about Barack Obama’s “sad and disappointing” performance regarding race and black concerns in his two terms in office. While race has defined his tenure, Obama has been “reluctant to take charge” and speak out candidly about the nation’s racial woes, determined to remain “not a black leader but a leader who is black.” Dyson cogently examines Obama’s speeches and statements on race, from his first presidential campaign through recent events—e.g., the Ferguson riots and the eulogy for the Rev. Clementa Pinckney in Charleston—noting that the president is careful not to raise the ire of whites and often chastises blacks for their moral failings. At his best, he spoke with “special urgency for black Americans” during the Ferguson crisis and was “at his blackest,” breaking free of constraints, in his “Amazing Grace” Charleston eulogy. Dyson writes here as a realistic, sometimes-angry supporter of the president. View video >