An engaging resurrection of Grant featuring excellent maps and character sketches.

AMERICAN ULYSSES

A LIFE OF ULYSSES S. GRANT

This scholarly but readable biography of the Civil War general and president finds some new facets in understanding “the silent man.”

Deriving much of his scholarship from Grant’s extensive letters to his wife, Julia Dent, and from The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant, edited by John Y. Simon, White (A. Lincoln: A Biography, 2009, etc.) offers a fresh assessment of this enigmatic leader, who, like his Homeric namesake, failed at many things before he succeeded in life. Indeed, the author rebuts many of the long-held notions about Grant—e.g., that he was nonintellectual and that he was a heavy drinker. He was first and foremost a reader, though largely self-educated. He certainly could not have graduated from West Point without an extensive intellect, and while he was never a hunter, he had a magical way with horses, in particular. Both these traits endeared him to his longtime love and wife, Julia, who was also a horsewoman and avid reader. Grant was raised by fervent Methodist parents and was a churchgoing man himself. Though he probably had to resign from the army in 1854 at age 32 because of a drinking episode, he was henceforth known to inflict strict discipline on his troops regarding alcohol. (Smoking cigars seemed to have been his vice, and he died of throat cancer.) While White does not provide a nuanced chronicle of the Civil War, which can be found in countless other histories, he does ably portray a sense of the transformation of his subject from civilian to soldier and, from there, to reluctant hero. Northerners and President Abraham Lincoln were clamoring for victories, and Grant actually delivered, most spectacularly in seizing control of the Mississippi at Vicksburg. The author portrays a humble, gentle, independent soul—a writer, in the end, who found his voice writing his extraordinary memoirs just before his death in 1885.

An engaging resurrection of Grant featuring excellent maps and character sketches.

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4000-6902-6

Page Count: 880

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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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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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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