Fits well alongside such politico-aspirational books as Barack Obama’s Dreams from My Father, and better written than most...

THE TRUTHS WE HOLD

AN AMERICAN JOURNEY

California’s junior senator limbers up “to be a joyful warrior in the battle to come.”

Harris (Smart on Crime: A Career Prosecutor's Plan to Make Us Safer, 2009, etc.), who recently announced her candidacy for president, follows immediately with an entry in the genre that might be called the Obligatory Campaign Biography, blending how-did-we-get-here memoir with political platform. In that sense, this book is by-the-numbers, with all the expected elements. Yet the author’s background is unusual enough on many scores to set her autobiography apart: She is the first American of Indian or Jamaican descent to serve in the Senate and the first African-American senator from California, having served prominently and sometimes controversially as the state’s attorney general. Countering the whispering birther movement surrounding her early campaign, Harris recounts that she was born in Oakland of mixed descent, with an Indian immigrant mother who “understood very well that she was raising two black daughters” and took pains to “make sure we would grow into confident, proud black women.” The author excelled in school but, she recounts in a moment of reversal, failed her first effort at the bar, overcoming defeat to take a visible role in the Bay Area legal community. Her efforts at judicial reform figure in her timely call for an overhaul of sentencing procedures, all as part of a platform of “what I see as women’s issues: the economy, national security, health care, education, criminal justice reform, climate change.” Harris also reveals a policy-wonk side, enthusiastically addressing issues such as cybersecurity (“a new front in a new kind of battle”) and economic inequality (“with millions of Americans hanging by a thread,” she deftly writes of the current president, “the White House reached for scissors”). The talking points of the book are surely those she’ll be revisiting in speeches and debates to come, and suffice it to say that you can bet Jamie Dimon won’t be endorsing her.

Fits well alongside such politico-aspirational books as Barack Obama’s Dreams from My Father, and better written than most in the category.

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-56071-5

Page Count: 370

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2019

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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 48 LAWS OF POWER

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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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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