A lesser work from Brands but a solid introduction to a post-revolutionary generation whose members, great and small, are...

READ REVIEW

HEIRS OF THE FOUNDERS

THE EPIC RIVALRY OF HENRY CLAY, JOHN CALHOUN AND DANIEL WEBSTER, THE SECOND GENERATION OF AMERICAN GIANTS

Prolific historian Brands (Chair, History/Univ. of Texas; The General vs. the President: MacArthur and Truman at the Brink of Nuclear War, 2016, etc.) continues his project of retelling the American national story through its principal actors.

The author’s return to the “great man” school of history is somewhat problematic, since those presumed great men of American history are mostly white and seldom women. Still, the approach has virtues in making for a neat, character-driven history of the sort that nonspecialist readers like to read, in the manner of Douglas Brinkley, Steven Ambrose, and other popularizers. Brands goes a little farther afield to deal with three contemporaries who were rivals and occasional allies in the business of deciding what America was going to become at the time when the Founding Fathers were leaving the political field. Daniel Webster, by the author’s account, was a mesmerizing orator and debater, a man who “had a way with words that seemed almost supernatural.” John Calhoun of South Carolina was almost as gifted as his Massachusetts peer, with a fiery devotion to his home state, while plain-spun Henry Clay of Kentucky had his eyes on the opening West. None of the “great triumvirate,” as they were known, lived long enough to reckon with the Civil War and its aftermath, but all were principal players in the great post-Jacksonian debate over slavery and states’ rights. The greatest contribution of this book, full of historical set pieces and debates, is the author’s parsing of the regional and sectional differences that would lead to conflict, with the South enjoying undue influence. “The South,” writes Brands, “acting through the national government, had repeatedly secured the admission of new slave states: nine since the ratification of the Constitution, with Texas likely to spawn more.” Given the sectional and ideological divides at work today, the book is oddly timely—and unlikely in the moments when the three politicians managed to forge compromises.

A lesser work from Brands but a solid introduction to a post-revolutionary generation whose members, great and small, are little remembered today.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-385-54253-1

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

OPEN BOOK

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: Feb. 16, 2020

Did you like this book?

more