Fans of Wright will have already encountered these pieces, but the collection represents yet more great work from a...

THE TERROR YEARS

FROM AL-QAEDA TO THE ISLAMIC STATE

Pulitzer Prize winner Wright (Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin, and Sadat at Camp David, 2014, etc.) pulls together 10 in-depth pieces he originally wrote for the New Yorker and fashions them, somewhat updated and otherwise revised, into a cohesive book.

Three of the 10 chapters constitute portraits that became part of The Looming Tower (2006), one of the most compelling investigative books published in the aftermath of 9/11. One of those three focuses on the life of Ayman al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian terror planner who at the time served as the chief lieutenant to Osama bin Laden. The other two pieces focus on agents in the FBI. The first, John O'Neill, a counterterrorism expert, more or less predicted the 9/11 attacks, but he could not persuade his superiors to react appropriately. After leaving the FBI, he became security chief at the World Trade Center and died during the attacks on the towers. The other profile explores the life of Ali Soufan, one of the few Arabic-speaking Muslims in the FBI. Like O'Neill, Soufan had gained insights into the terrorist network that planned 9/11, but he could not gain the support of the tragically negligent CIA. In the other chapters, Wright displays his top-notch reporting in stories about a disintegrating Syria, the never-ending conflicts between Israelis and Palestinians, the faith-based beliefs that undergird al-Qaida and the Islamic State group, and the massive failures of American intelligence agencies. In another chapter, Wright focuses on Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence during portions of the George W. Bush and Barack Obama presidencies. One of the most chilling passages in this nicely linked anthology occurs in the Prologue, in which Wright discusses his role as a screenwriter for the 1998 movie The Siege. He had no idea that the fictional plot would foreshadow 9/11 and that The Siege would morph from box-office failure to the most-rented movie in the U.S. a few years later.

Fans of Wright will have already encountered these pieces, but the collection represents yet more great work from a dedicated journalist.

Pub Date: Aug. 23, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-385-35205-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: April 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.

FRONT ROW AT THE TRUMP SHOW

The chief White House and Washington correspondent for ABC provides a ringside seat to a disaster-ridden Oval Office.

It is Karl to whom we owe the current popularity of a learned Latin term. Questioning chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, he followed up a perhaps inadvertently honest response on the matter of Ukrainian intervention in the electoral campaign by saying, “What you just described is a quid pro quo.” Mulvaney’s reply: “Get over it.” Karl, who has been covering Trump for decades and knows which buttons to push and which to avoid, is not inclined to get over it: He rightly points out that a reporter today “faces a president who seems to have no appreciation or understanding of the First Amendment and the role of a free press in American democracy.” Yet even against a bellicose, untruthful leader, he adds, the press “is not the opposition party.” The author, who keeps his eye on the subject and not in the mirror, writes of Trump’s ability to stage situations, as when he once called Trump out, at an event, for misrepresenting poll results and Trump waited until the camera was off before exploding, “Fucking nasty guy!”—then finished up the interview as if nothing had happened. Trump and his inner circle are also, by Karl’s account, masters of timing, matching negative news such as the revelation that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election with distractions away from Trump—in this case, by pushing hard on the WikiLeaks emails from the Democratic campaign, news of which arrived at the same time. That isn’t to say that they manage people or the nation well; one of the more damning stories in a book full of them concerns former Homeland Security head Kirstjen Nielsen, cut off at the knees even while trying to do Trump’s bidding.

No one’s mind will be changed by Karl’s book, but it’s a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4562-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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