Hansen ably shows us a life filled with unrivaled success and deep end-of-life disappointment.



Hansen (First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong, 2005, etc.) returns with the complicated story of the celebrated golf course architect Robert Trent Jones Sr. (1906-2000).

The author has clearly inhaled the extensive Jones archive at Cornell (which he attended and where he designed nine holes of the university course) and delivers a narrative rich in detail (sometimes over-rich) about a transformational figure in the history of golf. There are really several stories here. Hansen relates the biography of Jones (no relation to golfing legend Bobby Jones, though the two were friends and sometimes worked together), the cultural and social histories of golf in the United States and beyond, the processes of designing and building a golf course and, sadly, the internecine warfare that erupted between his two sons, Bobby and Rees, both of whom entered the business, as well. Young Jones’ interest in golf began in mercenary fashion (he was caddying for cash); then he discovered he could play well but not well enough to prosper. He got interested in design, went to Cornell for some courses in landscape architecture and then embarked on a career in golf course design and construction. He made and lost fortunes but by the 1960s was generally acknowledged as the best in the world. Players weren’t always happy, however, since his courses were/are demanding. Hansen tells us about the construction of some of his great courses—and redesigns—including Baltusrol, Oak Hill, Firestone and myriads of others. (The author appends a list of them all.) Golf aficionados will appreciate the detail about the courses and about some of the key matches he recounts. Those interested in the business aspects of Jones’ enterprises will sigh about his questionable judgment at key points in his career, and those interested in family dynamics will find much to ponder—e.g., a bitter filial rivalry and an embittered mother whose will caused problems for everyone.

Hansen ably shows us a life filled with unrivaled success and deep end-of-life disappointment.

Pub Date: May 8, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-59240-823-8

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Gotham Books

Review Posted Online: April 10, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2014

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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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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