Finely delineated history, authoritative and skillfully fashioned.

FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT

ROAD TO THE NEW DEAL, 1882-1939

A vigorous, thorough examination of the New Deal programs, pinpointing Franklin Roosevelt’s successes and failures and much improvisation.

A retired scholar with specializations in immigration and ethnicity, Daniels (Emeritus, History/Univ. of Cincinnati; Guarding the Golden Door: American Immigration Policy and Immigrants Since 1882, 2004, etc.), like many other historians, revered Roosevelt and intended always to write a biography. However, writing frankly that his subject’s “inner essence” was inscrutable, Daniels concentrates on the “public discourses” the voluble governor and president made as he began to fashion the New Deal agenda. In a dense but consistently informative narrative, the author incorporates a great deal of FDR’s “direct discourse.” Moving chronologically, though swiftly through his childhood, early career in the New York Legislature (where he first encountered the enormous talent of reporter Louis Howe), and years as assistant secretary of the Navy, Daniels devotes his astute observations to FDR’s thrust into politics. He skirted aside a reputation as “a playboy and idler” and dug into the issues he would have to deal with as president (e.g., “mass poverty and its relief”), and he honed his effective communication and management styles. Although Herbert Hoover had been delivering the same kind of confidence-bolstering speeches as FDR when the latter won election in 1932, Roosevelt had by then “transformed the mood of a nation.” Daniels emphasizes that there was no blueprint for the New Deal; FDR, who believed in balanced budgets and never called himself Keynesian, was flying by the seat of his pants in 1933. His first priority was to “stop the bleeding” in the financial sector, support farm policy, and get people back to work via wildly popular programs geared more to the middle class than the “forgotten man.” While some programs succeeded, the severe 1937 economic downturn probably resulted from his stopping the spending too early.

Finely delineated history, authoritative and skillfully fashioned.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-252-03951-5

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Univ. of Illinois

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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