A top-notch dual biography of two presidents who deserved better.

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THE PROBLEM OF DEMOCRACY

THE PRESIDENTS ADAMS CONFRONT THE CULT OF PERSONALITY

An unsettling yet well-presented argument that the failures of John and John Quincy Adams illustrate a disturbing feature of American politics.

John Adams (1735-1826) became an early proponent of independence in the Continental Congress. Isenberg (White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America, 2016, etc.) and Burstein (Democracy's Muse: How Thomas Jefferson Became an FDR Liberal, a Reagan Republican, and a Tea Party Fanatic, All the While Being Dead, 2015, etc.), professors of history at Louisiana State University who co-authored Madison and Jefferson (2010), show how he disliked aristocracy but worried equally about the problems of a mass electorate. He believed that selfish humans would look after their own interests and persecute minorities they disliked. His solution was a strong president to oppose powerful interests and keep the majority from abusing fellow citizens. Missing the point, Thomas Jefferson considered Adams a closet monarchist. He entered office in 1797 as an independent in a nation with two parties: Hamilton’s Federalists and Jefferson’s Democratic-Republicans. Both worked successfully to ensure his defeat in 1800. It did not help that Adams was quarrelsome and insecure, lacking Jefferson’s cosmopolitan appeal. John Quincy Adams (1767-1848) became his father’s secretary as an adolescent and spent a lifetime serving the nation as a diplomat, senator, and secretary of state. Equally testy and independent, he suffered the misfortune of running in the 1824 presidential election, finishing second to Andrew Jackson. No one obtained a majority, so the House of Representatives determined the president, choosing Adams. Of course, this enraged Jackson and his Democratic Party, which controlled Congress, ensuring that Adams endured an unhappy presidency. Besides lively, warts-and-all portraits of the men and the surprisingly nasty politics of the young nation, the authors delve deeply into their philosophies and those of Enlightenment thinkers who influenced them. They conclude that both were more intelligent and experienced than most two-term presidents but lacked the common touch, essential in America, where we “glorify equality but ogle self-made billionaires and tabloid royalty.”

A top-notch dual biography of two presidents who deserved better.

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-55750-0

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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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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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

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

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The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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