Brookhiser’s book may be overshadowed by Joel Richard Paul’s recently published Without Precedent, a lengthy and...

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JOHN MARSHALL

THE MAN WHO MADE THE SUPREME COURT

A brief biography of a legendary chief justice.

When John Marshall (1755-1835) was sworn in as chief justice in 1801, writes National Review senior editor and biographer Brookhiser (Founders' Son: A Life of Abraham Lincoln, 2014, etc.), the Supreme Court met in a small committee room of the U.S. Capitol under the House of Representatives, a strong indication that the judiciary was the weakest of the three branches of the federal government. Yet before his death more than three decades later, “he and the Court he led had…laid down principles of laws and politics that still apply.” The oldest of 15 children, Marshall had only two years of formal schooling; his true education came with his service under George Washington in the Revolutionary War. Marshall thought Washington was “the greatest Man on earth” and used Washington’s selfless patriotism as a guide for the rest of his life. Following the war, Marshall established a law practice and served as a Virginia ratifying convention delegate, congressman, diplomat, and secretary of state. His lengthy tenure as chief justice was marked by vigorous defenses of the sanctity of contracts (Dartmouth College v. Woodward, 1819), the supremacy of the federal judiciary (Marbury v. Madison, 1803), and the protection of federal institutions from state interference (McCulloch v. Maryland, 1819). Yet more important than the individual decisions, notes Brookhiser, were the “dignity” that Marshall gave to the Supreme Court and his defense of the Constitution “as the people’s supreme act.” As for the man himself, Marshall was an affable sort who enjoyed his madeira and was devoted to his long-suffering wife, Polly. The author also provides absorbing character sketches of several of Marshall’s all-but-forgotten legal contemporaries, including Luther Martin, William Pinkney, and Samuel Chase.

Brookhiser’s book may be overshadowed by Joel Richard Paul’s recently published Without Precedent, a lengthy and well-received study of Marshall’s life and times. Nevertheless, those looking for a concise, informative, and at times entertaining biography of our nation’s fourth chief justice would do well to read this one.

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-465-09622-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2018

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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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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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