An engaging, illuminating biography of a captivating figure.

YOUNG BENJAMIN FRANKLIN

THE BIRTH OF INGENUITY

For his first four decades, Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) strived for success as a printer, publisher, and journalist.

Franklin’s fame as a statesman and scientist, based on his achievements in the last half of his life, far overshadows his early business career in London and Philadelphia. Bunker (An Empire on the Edge: How Britain Came to Fight America, 2014, etc.), a former reporter for the Financial Times and an award-winning historian, creates a vibrant, perspicacious, and well-researched portrait of a man hungry for knowledge and ambitious for financial success. Unhappy as an apprentice to a candle and soap maker in Boston, the adolescent Franklin became an assistant to his brother, a printer, which at least put him in proximity to words and ideas. A printer’s boy by day, he became a “scholar” at night, devouring books he borrowed from a local bookstore. In addition to Milton, Pope, and Socrates, Franklin read with delight Joseph Addison’s daily publication The Spectator, rewriting items to teach himself style. Soon, the “scandalous ideas about God and the cosmos” that Franklin gleaned from his readings “opened a rift between the boy and his family,” never to be healed. When Franklin “put the Christian God to the test of dialectic,” God failed. No wonder Franklin escaped from Boston to more open-minded Philadelphia, where he found work with a printer. Inexperienced and somewhat credulous, he sometimes “tipped headlong into adult situations he was too naive to comprehend.” In the 1720s, he decided to launch himself in London, a teeming, squalid city aptly captured by William Hogarth. Leaving Philadelphia, Franklin broke off a relationship with Deborah Read. Married and abandoned by the time Franklin returned, she became his common-law wife, raising his illegitimate son (the child of a relationship that Franklin kept secret for the rest of his life) along with their own children. Bunker adroitly describes Franklin’s involvement in the religious and political controversies of the day, including slavery, as well as in the scientific projects for which he became renowned.

An engaging, illuminating biography of a captivating figure.

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-101-87441-7

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more