Cooper exhibits complete command of his materials, a sure knowledge of the man and a nuanced understanding of a presidency...

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WOODROW WILSON

A BIOGRAPHY

A noted Woodrow Wilson expert comprehensively examines the life and career of America’s 28th president.

Generally acknowledged among the country’s great presidents, Wilson’s proper placement within the pantheon nevertheless creates more argument among scholars than perhaps any other. While acknowledging Wilson’s dismal record on race and civil liberties, Cooper (History/Univ. of Wisconsin; Reconsidering Woodrow Wilson, 2008, etc.) comes down firmly on the president’s side, rejecting the caricature of the high-minded intellectual out of his depth in the messy political arena. The author believes, as Wilson himself did, that his academic background—first as an exceedingly popular professor, then as Princeton’s reform-minded president—prepared him perfectly for the political battles he later faced as New Jersey’s governor and, of course, as president. Above all, Cooper stresses, Wilson was a teacher, his goal not so much to inspire the American people in the fashion of his greatest rival, Teddy Roosevelt, but rather to educate them, appealing to public opinion through his writing and oratory. Domestically, he enacted progressive legislation that prefigured some of the New Deal. After maneuvering to keep the country neutral during World War I—he was narrowly reelected on the slogan, “He kept us out of war”—Wilson proved a surprisingly energetic commander in chief. By the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, he was arguably the world’s most acclaimed leader, but from there his presidency turned tragic. In part because of his disinclination to compromise, but largely because of a debilitating stroke that literally paralyzed his last year and a half in office, Wilson failed to persuade Congress to ratify the Treaty of Versailles or to join the League of Nations. Cooper is especially good on this “worst crisis of presidential disability in American history”; Wilson’s uncommonly close attachment to the women in his life; his Civil War–era boyhood in Virginia; the battle for educational reform at Princeton; and the role played by important presidential advisors like Joe Tumulty and Colonel House.

Cooper exhibits complete command of his materials, a sure knowledge of the man and a nuanced understanding of a presidency almost Shakespearean in its dimensions.

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-307-26541-8

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2009

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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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BECOMING

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

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UNTAMED

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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