An engrossing biography that is highly relevant in today’s America.

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THE MAN WHO RAN WASHINGTON

THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JAMES A. BAKER III

A penetrating portrait of a powerful Washington insider.

New York Times chief White House correspondent Baker and New Yorker staff writer Glasser bring political acumen and thorough research to their absorbing biography of James Addison Baker III (b. 1930), who served presidents Ford, Reagan, and both Bushes, decisively shaping American policies at home and abroad. Drawing on prodigious sources, including more than 210 interviews (70 hours with Baker), the authors offer a balanced view of a man praised for being pragmatic, scrupulously organized, and authoritative, and derided as manipulative, self-aggrandizing, and cynical. He habitually leaked information and “cunningly took credit for something he actually opposed in order to pocket a chit.” One political columnist noted, “taking responsibility isn’t Jim Baker’s style.” Born into an influential Texas family, he followed his father into corporate law, where he felt bored. In 1975, his longtime friend George H.W. Bush recommended him for undersecretary of commerce in Ford’s administration. His impressive political savvy led Ford to tap Baker to run his 1976 presidential campaign; although Ford lost to Jimmy Carter, Baker saw his own reputation rise. When Reagan took office in 1981, he made Baker his White House chief of staff. The authors portray Reagan as distracted and distant but also “a man of driving ambition and more calculation than his public image suggested.” Baker, too, was ambitious, and he could be ruthless in pursuing his goals. After running the White House, Baker became secretary of the treasury and, in George H.W. Bush’s administration, secretary of state. Although he spoke no foreign languages and had no international relations experience, he succeeded in helping to reunify Germany, organize a crucial Middle East peace conference, deal with the Iran-Contra scandal and Iraq’s incursion into Kuwait, and preside over the end of the Cold War. He later served as chief counsel for George W. Bush during the 2000 election recount. With Baker as their focus, the authors afford a sharp, insightful view into Washington dealmaking.

An engrossing biography that is highly relevant in today’s America.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-385-54055-1

Page Count: 732

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 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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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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