Not likely to sway established opinions about Trump but offers plenty of damning evidence.

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UNDAUNTED

MY FIGHT AGAINST AMERICA’S ENEMIES, AT HOME AND ABROAD

Former CIA director Brennan gives a fly-on-the-wall view of life in Langley as well as a host of global hot spots.

After the usual autobiographical preliminaries—“While my birth roots are in the urban jungle of Hudson County, I come from 100 percent rural Irish stock”—Brennan recounts a few formational encounters abroad: landing in Indonesia not long after the government had murdered untold numbers of suspected communists, with CIA support; or chasing down bad guys who might wind up in an offshore rendition site being tortured—though, writes the author, “Agency officers who carried out their covert-action responsibilities consistent with…lawful interrogation procedures, by definition, were not involved in the unlawful activity of ‘torture.’ ” Two principal events figure in the text. The first, ably narrated, is the hunt for Osama bin Laden and the subsequent negotiations about what to do with his bullet-riddled body; Brennan reveals that the Saudi leadership, offered the chance to bury him in his homeland, were perfectly fine with dumping him in the Indian Ocean. The second is the question of Russian interference in the 2016 election; here, the author is unsparing, as when he describes an intelligence briefing to high-level members of Congress: “The fact that the Russians attempted to undermine the integrity of the presidential election was well known to all those gathered around the conference table that morning, even if most of the Republicans were following Donald Trump’s lead in publicly downplaying, if not denying, the Russian role.” Brennan goes out of his way to scorn Trump, whose victory in 2016 threw him for a loop: “I could not understand how so many voters thought he was qualified—intellectually, morally, ethically, temperamentally, or experientially—to be president of the United States.” His scorn, of course, was reciprocated when, against all precedent, Trump removed his security clearance after Brennan retired.

Not likely to sway established opinions about Trump but offers plenty of damning evidence.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-24177-1

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: tomorrow

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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An essential account of a chaotic administration that, Woodward makes painfully clear, is incapable of governing.

RAGE

That thing in the air that is deadlier than even your “strenuous flus”? Trump knew—and did nothing about it.

The big news from veteran reporter Woodward’s follow-up to Fear has been widely reported: Trump was fully aware at the beginning of 2020 that a pandemic loomed and chose to downplay it, causing an untold number of deaths and crippling the economy. His excuse that he didn’t want to cause a panic doesn’t fly given that he trades in fear and division. The underlying news, however, is that Trump participated in this book, unlike in the first, convinced by Lindsey Graham that Woodward would give him a fair shake. Seventeen interviews with the sitting president inform this book, as well as extensive digging that yields not so much news as confirmation: Trump has survived his ineptitude because the majority of Congressional Republicans go along with the madness because they “had made a political survival decision” to do so—and surrendered their party to him. The narrative often requires reading between the lines. Graham, though a byword for toadyism, often reins Trump in; Jared Kushner emerges as the real power in the West Wing, “highly competent but often shockingly misguided in his assessments”; Trump admires tyrants, longs for their unbridled power, resents the law and those who enforce it, and is quick to betray even his closest advisers; and, of course, Trump is beholden to Putin. Trump occasionally emerges as modestly self-aware, but throughout the narrative, he is in a rage. Though he participated, he said that he suspected this to be “a lousy book.” It’s not—though readers may wish Woodward had aired some of this information earlier, when more could have been done to stem the pandemic. When promoting Fear, the author was asked for his assessment of Trump. His reply: “Let’s hope to God we don’t have a crisis.” Multiple crises later, Woodward concludes, as many observers have, “Trump is the wrong man for the job.”

An essential account of a chaotic administration that, Woodward makes painfully clear, is incapable of governing.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982131-73-9

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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