A 120-page monograph cannot replace a complete biography, the best being Jean Edward Smith’s Eisenhower in War and Peace...

EISENHOWER

A LIFE

When he left office in 1961, historians considered Dwight Eisenhower (1890-1969) a second-rate president. His reputation’s steady rise is not interrupted by this admiring, opinionated account by veteran British journalist and historian Johnson (Mozart, 2013, etc.).

Although he remained in the United States during World War II and spent two decades in the shrunken peacetime Army, Eisenhower’s talents were well-known. Gen. Douglas MacArthur kept him as an aide for nine years, and George Marshall summoned him to Washington a week after Pearl Harbor. Commanding the largest military force in history (20 times the size of MacArthur’s), Eisenhower kept Allied generals focused on the effort against the Nazis, even when they were often fighting among themselves. Victory made him a national hero, and he easily won the 1952 election over Democratic nominee Adlai Stevenson. During the 1950s, the prospect of World War III seemed imminent. Several joint chiefs wanted to get on with it, but Eisenhower kept the military firmly under his thumb. He receives credit for ending the Korean War but little for refusing to strike back at China’s threats to Formosa; his military advisers were raring to go. Despite national panic that followed the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik in 1957, Eisenhower quashed efforts to launch crash military programs. John F. Kennedy, a far more aggressive Cold Warrior, spent the 1960 campaign denouncing Eisenhower for underestimating the communist threat. Johnson astutely points out that Eisenhower enjoyed being president since, unlike generals Washington, Jackson and Grant, his best qualities were not those of a warrior but a staff officer: efficiency, administration, economy and flexibility.

A 120-page monograph cannot replace a complete biography, the best being Jean Edward Smith’s Eisenhower in War and Peace (2012). Though Johnson’s well-known right-wing views deliver an occasional jolt, this book remains a thoroughly entertaining introduction.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-670-01682-2

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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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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