Presidential reputations often improve with time and rarely decline. Aware of this, Mann delivers a remarkably evenhanded...

The latest in the admirable American Presidents series is premature because too little time has passed to evaluate our 43rd president, but Mann (Fellow in Residence/Johns Hopkins Univ. School of Advanced International Studies; The Obamians: The Struggle Inside the White House, 2012, etc.) writes an insightful biography without much partisanship.

Before he was elected in 2000, George W. Bush’s life gave few hints of what would follow. Son of a moderate Republican president, his intemperate youth gave way after marriage and conversion to evangelical Christianity. He gained experience helping with his father’s campaigns, and he won the Texas governorship in 1994. His conservative administration favored business and law and order but lacked the confrontational approach that came later. Mann maintains that, as president, Bush followed the lead of advisers, mostly veterans of his father’s term, but proved a quick study and soon exercised effective leadership. When he entered office, the United States budget was running surpluses. Eight years later, two tax cuts and two multitrillion-dollar wars financed entirely by borrowing left a gigantic deficit that frightens even Republicans (although they blame it on Democratic social programs). After the devastating events of 9/11, Bush faced the rage that swept the nation and its leaders. The result was not an attack on terrorism (largely a police matter) but a massive, expensive military buildup and pugnacious foreign policy that seemed aimed at demonstrating America’s fighting prowess. Sheltered from traditional wartime inconveniences (higher taxes, conscription), anti-war opinion remained muted until years of frustration in Iraq and Afghanistan finally eroded Bush’s popularity.

Presidential reputations often improve with time and rarely decline. Aware of this, Mann delivers a remarkably evenhanded account, eschewing the painful emotions many readers will feel until historians sort matters out.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0805093971

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Times/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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