An expert account of a particularly horrific Civil War battle.

A FIRE IN THE WILDERNESS

THE FIRST BATTLE BETWEEN ULYSSES S. GRANT AND ROBERT E. LEE

Documenting the first clash between two of the Civil War’s most iconic figures.

“Not since Napoleon fought the Duke of Wellington at Waterloo in 1815,” writes historian Reeves, “had two such celebrated commanders faced one another in the field.” The author sets the scene in the spring of 1864, when the Army of the Potomac, huge and well equipped but not terribly confident after three years of mostly painful experiences at the hands of Robert E. Lee’s smaller Army of Northern Virginia, began the year’s campaign. Perhaps the North’s principal advantage was its commander, Ulysses Grant, who understood that wars are won by resources and persistence, both of which he possessed. He faced a very aggressive commander who focused on battlefield victories when preserving his army might have been a better idea. Marching south in early May, Grant’s army entered the Wilderness, “a tangled forest of underbrush and thickets.” He hoped to pass through quickly, but the Army of the Potomac did nothing quickly, and Lee attacked the following day. Thick brush restricted visibility to a few yards, and copious rifle smoke restricted it even more. Units became lost or panicked or attacked into the unknown with suicidal results. Communications were worse than usual; messages were delayed or lost, units attacked piecemeal. At the end of the second day, the advance seemed stalled, and the Union had suffered greater losses. But instead of imitating his predecessors by retreating north to recover, Grant continued on toward Richmond. Another year of fighting remained, but Lee’s shrunken army never attacked again. Reeves offers visceral descriptions of the fires that spread through the dry forest, burning to death hundreds of wounded soldiers, as well as vivid accounts of movements, battles, debates between commanding generals, and a generous helping of anecdotes from individual soldiers. He has clearly absorbed the confused geography of the Wilderness, but the maps could use improvement. Readers should keep a Civil War military atlas on hand.

An expert account of a particularly horrific Civil War battle.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64313-700-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

A PROMISED LAND

In the first volume of his presidential memoir, Obama recounts the hard path to the White House.

In this long, often surprisingly candid narrative, Obama depicts a callow youth spent playing basketball and “getting loaded,” his early reading of difficult authors serving as a way to impress coed classmates. (“As a strategy for picking up girls, my pseudo-intellectualism proved mostly worthless,” he admits.) Yet seriousness did come to him in time and, with it, the conviction that America could live up to its stated aspirations. His early political role as an Illinois state senator, itself an unlikely victory, was not big enough to contain Obama’s early ambition, nor was his term as U.S. Senator. Only the presidency would do, a path he painstakingly carved out, vote by vote and speech by careful speech. As he writes, “By nature I’m a deliberate speaker, which, by the standards of presidential candidates, helped keep my gaffe quotient relatively low.” The author speaks freely about the many obstacles of the race—not just the question of race and racism itself, but also the rise, with “potent disruptor” Sarah Palin, of a know-nothingism that would manifest itself in an obdurate, ideologically driven Republican legislature. Not to mention the meddlings of Donald Trump, who turns up in this volume for his idiotic “birther” campaign while simultaneously fishing for a contract to build “a beautiful ballroom” on the White House lawn. A born moderate, Obama allows that he might not have been ideological enough in the face of Mitch McConnell, whose primary concern was then “clawing [his] way back to power.” Indeed, one of the most compelling aspects of the book, as smoothly written as his previous books, is Obama’s cleareyed scene-setting for how the political landscape would become so fractured—surely a topic he’ll expand on in the next volume.

A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6316-9

Page Count: 768

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

  • National Book Award Winner

BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

Did you like this book?

more