A good choice for readers interested in the Cold War, the space race, and the 1960s American political landscape.

MERCURY RISING

JOHN GLENN, JOHN KENNEDY, AND THE NEW BATTLEGROUND OF THE COLD WAR

A gripping, exhaustively detailed chronicle of America’s initial sprint in the space race seen through the eyes of the first American to orbit the Earth.

Feb. 20, 1962, was the climax of John Glenn’s storied career as a decorated Marine fighter pilot, astronaut, and, later, senator from Ohio. His journey to the Friendship 7 spacecraft from New Concord—“a town that defined him but threatened to trap him”—serves an apt representation of the mythic American dream. In his latest, historian Shesol, a former speechwriter for Bill Clinton, relates how Glenn got there by navigating the politics of a young world power populated by experienced generals (Dwight Eisenhower), political operators (Lyndon Johnson), young Turks (the Kennedys), and cautious NASA administrators (T. Keith Glennan and James Webb) and bureaucrats caught up in the Cold War and a space race that was often less about science than “the outward projection of power” and “a reflection of the American character.” Similar to his first two books, Mutual Contempt: Lyndon Johnson, Robert Kennedy, and the Feud That Defined a Decade (1998) and Supreme Power: Franklin Roosevelt vs. The Supreme Court (2010), this one is steeped in historical detail that enlivens the major politicians and the first cohort of NASA astronauts, clearly illustrating how they all both shaped and responded to an American society in transition. The author makes a compelling case that Glenn was a central figure in this transition, noting how his combination of arrogance, drive, and down-home folksiness made him a “flesh-and-blood” example of American ideals. Though Shesol could have tightened the narrative by shaving around 100 pages, this is a welcome retelling of a significant piece of the Cold War saga and the opening of the space frontier.

A good choice for readers interested in the Cold War, the space race, and the 1960s American political landscape.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-324-00324-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: April 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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Red meat, and mighty tasty at that, for baseball fans with an appreciation for the past and power of the game.

THE BASEBALL 100

Longtime sports journalist Posnanski takes on a project fraught with the possibilities of controversy: ranking the 100 best baseball players of all time.

It would steal the author’s thunder to reveal his No. 1. However, writing about that player, Posnanski notes, “the greatest baseball player is the one who lifts you higher and makes you feel exactly like you did when you fell in love with this crazy game in the first place.” Working backward, his last-but-not-least place is occupied by Japanese outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, whose valiant hitting rivaled Pete Rose’s, mostly a base at a time. As for Rose, who comes in at No. 60, Posnanski writes, “here’s something people don’t often say about the young Pete Rose, but it’s true: The guy was breathtakingly fast.” Thus, in his first pro season, Rose stole 30 bases and hit 30 triples. That he was somewhat of a lout is noted but exaggerated. Posnanski skillfully weaves statistics into the narrative without spilling into geekdom, and he searches baseball history for his candidate pool while combing the records for just the right datum or quote: No. 10 Satchel Paige on No. 15 Josh Gibson: “You look for his weakness, and while you’re looking for it he’s liable to hit 45 home runs.” Several themes emerge, one being racial injustice. As Posnanski notes of “the greatest Negro Leagues players....people tend to talk about them as if there is some doubt about their greatness.” There’s not, as No. 94, Roy Campanella, among many others, illustrates. He was Sicilian, yes, but also Black, then reason enough to banish him to the minors until finally calling him up in 1948. Another significant theme is the importance of fathers in shaping players, from Mickey Mantle to Cal Ripken and even Rose. Posnanski’s account of how the Cy Young Award came about is alone worth the price of admission.

Red meat, and mighty tasty at that, for baseball fans with an appreciation for the past and power of the game.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982180-58-4

Page Count: 880

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 20, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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A cogent overview of the court’s crucial role, the application of which is sure to be discussed among scholars.

THE AUTHORITY OF THE COURT AND THE PERIL OF POLITICS

Why the Supreme Court deserves the public’s trust.

Based on his 2021 lecture at Harvard Law School, Supreme Court Justice Breyer offers a selected history of court cases, a defense of judicial impartiality, and recommendations for promoting the public’s respect for and acceptance of the role of the judiciary in the future. The author regrets that many Americans see the justices as “unelected political officials or ‘junior varsity’ politicians themselves, rather than jurists,” asserting that “nearly all” justices apply “the basic same interpretive tools” to decide a case: “They will consider the statute’s text, its history, relevant legal tradition, precedents, the statute’s purposes (or the values that underlie it), and the relevant consequences.” Although Breyer maintains that all try to avoid the influence of ideology or political philosophy, he acknowledges that suggesting “a total and clean divorce between the Court and politics is not quite right either,” since a justice’s background, education, and experiences surely affect their views, especially when considering the consequences of a decision. The judicial process, Breyer explains, begins as a conference held once or twice each week where substantive discussion leads to preliminary conclusions. Sometimes, in order to find a majority, the court will take a minimalist perspective, allowing those who differ “on the broader legal questions to come together in answering narrower ones.” Noting that, in 2016, only 1 in 4 Americans could name the three branches of federal government, Breyer suggests a revival of civics education in schools so that students can learn how government works and what the rule of law is. He believes that confidence in government will result from citizens’ participation in public life: by voting, taking part in local governance such as school boards, and resolving their differences through argument, debate, cooperation, and compromise, all of which are “the embodiment of the democratic ideal.”

A cogent overview of the court’s crucial role, the application of which is sure to be discussed among scholars.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-674-26936-1

Page Count: 104

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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