A consummate political observer keenly dissects the machinations of Lincoln’s incredible rise to power.

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A SELF-MADE MAN

THE POLITICAL LIFE OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN, 1809-1849

The first volume in a study of Abraham Lincoln, professional politician.

In this minutely detailed work, Blumenthal (The Strange Death of Republican America, 2008, etc.), a former senior adviser to Bill Clinton and national staff reporter for the Washington Post, sifts through Lincoln’s early influences to take the sum of the later politician. The humble rail splitter recognized from an early age what slavery meant, beginning in his childhood among the anti-slavery dissidents in backwoods Kentucky and Indiana and continuing with his practical experience as his father’s hireling until the age of 21. Indeed, at an early campaign event, Lincoln announced, “I used to be a slave,” and although he made the audience laugh, he was deeply serious. As Blumenthal shows, he was “constantly transforming himself through self-education and political aspiration.” He was a new kind of man, a professional politician who delighted in the messy give-and-take of the party ring, unlike earlier historians’ portrayal of the Great Emancipator (for example, by James G. Randall) as someone “too noble” to get his hands dirty. Blumenthal sees in Lincoln’s striving a method of calculation—e.g., his cultivation of the stories of the common man and his courting of the press. Practicing law was the first step in becoming a politician, and Lincoln modeled himself consciously on the image of statesman Henry Clay. Blumenthal works his way through mentors and early influences, such as Springfield’s leading attorney John Todd Stuart; former president and now Massachusetts anti-slavery Congressman John Quincy Adams, “old man eloquent” arguing constantly against the gag rule in Congress; and especially future wife Mary Todd, who believed in Lincoln as no other did. While the author often seems so swept up in his historical research as to lose sight of his subject, he delves deeply into the incremental building of Lincoln’s anti-slavery views, flourishing in the debates with Stephen Douglas.

A consummate political observer keenly dissects the machinations of Lincoln’s incredible rise to power.

Pub Date: May 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4767-7725-2

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 28, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 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

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 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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