A stately, knowledgeable study jostling for space among the groaning bookshelves devoted to the third president.



A fully fleshed biography of Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) that emphasizes his creative paradoxes and accomplishments.

As presented by Boles (History/Rice Univ.; University Builder: Edgar Odell Lovett and the Founding of the Rice Institute, 2007, etc.), Jefferson, “in all his guises,” displayed an industrious commitment to public service in the young republic, passionate devotion to personal relationships and copious letter writing, and dedication to his state and Monticello homestead. Above all, Jefferson possessed enormous intellectual curiosity, starting from his studies of philosophy and science at the College of William and Mary, and later law, continuing through his years living in Paris as commissioner and later secretary of state, and climaxing in his creation of the University of Virginia. Boles elegantly delineates the milestones of Jefferson’s life and the expression of his mind—e.g., in the writing of the Declaration of Independence, in which, “with consummate artistry, [he] summarized years of thinking and political philosophizing in about two hundred words.” A man of his time, Jefferson was steeped in the revolutionary ideals of the Enlightenment, such as the need for religious tolerance and the belief (ultimately struck from the Declaration) that slaves “had rights identical to those of the rest of the American people”—and yet he notoriously held on to his own slaves. Boles treats Jefferson’s relationship with his young slave Sally Hemings with the same discretion that Jefferson did, though after she bore him five children, the secret was certainly well-known, both at Monticello and publicly. Curiously, Jefferson never traveled farther than 50 miles west of Monticello, yet as president, he was obsessed with America’s western expansion and famously secured the Louisiana Purchase. The author devotes a chapter to Jefferson’s “Living with Paradox” and reminds readers not to judge the sage of Monticello by 21st-century terms. Still, regarding emancipation, “in no other aspect of his life does Jefferson seem more distant from us or more disappointing.”

A stately, knowledgeable study jostling for space among the groaning bookshelves devoted to the third president.

Pub Date: April 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-465-09468-4

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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

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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 Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...


The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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