A well-delineated portrait of an accomplished leader.



Los Angeles Times reporter, columnist, and editor Newton brings his deep knowledge of California politics to an engaging, sympathetic biography of the state’s 34th and 39th governor, Jerry Brown (b. 1938).

Drawing on abundant media coverage, archival sources, and interviews with key figures, including Brown himself, the author, who has written biographies of Earl Warren and Dwight Eisenhower, recounts the career of an unconventional, influential political figure. The son of politician Pat Brown, Jerry entered a Jesuit seminary in 1955 to study for the priesthood. He left after a few years, bristling under the “rules of obedience.” He enrolled at the University of California, where an activist counterculture swirled around him, inspiring him “to bring the liturgical Catholicism of his training” and his “searching, restless intellect” to addressing real-world problems. After graduating from Yale Law School, he returned to California to work in politics. First elected to the Los Angeles School Board, in 1970, he campaigned as a reformer for secretary of state, winning by a small margin. A run for governor followed, and in 1974, after a narrow victory, he ascended to the State House, promising “energy, youth, clean and constructive government.” Although supporters praised the “rambunctious, ambitious and unorthodox aspects” of his personality, his popularity waned. After a second term, Brown reflected, “I believe the people of California would like a respite from me. And in some ways, I would like a respite from them.” He lost a Senate race, failed three times to win nomination for president, and took a few years for introspection before staging a comeback, facing down 10 opponents to win election as mayor of the benighted city of Oakland. What he learned from being mayor, he admitted, shaped his return to the governorship in 2011. He was older and, he believed, wiser than he had been decades earlier. Climate change became his overriding issue, for which he earned accolades at home and abroad. Newton follows all of Brown’s ups and downs in a fluid, highly readable biography.

A well-delineated portrait of an accomplished leader.

Pub Date: May 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-39246-4

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 7, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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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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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

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