An entirely fascinating biography of one of America’s most important legal minds.

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OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES

A LIFE IN WAR, LAW, AND IDEAS

A top-notch new biography of Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. (1841-1935).

Turning the influential judge’s life into a page-turner seems a highly difficult task, but journalist and historian Budiansky (Code Warriors: NSA's Codebreakers and the Secret Intelligence War Against the Soviet Union, 2016, etc.) succeeds admirably. The son of a well-known physician and an abolitionist, Holmes dropped out of Harvard to enlist in 1861. During three years of Civil War service, he suffered terribly and almost died. The war eliminated his youthful ideals but may have contributed to his judicial philosophy. Recovering from injuries, he completed law school and launched a legal career, impressing colleagues with his charm and legal scholarship. His writing is still quoted, and his briefs were more succinct than most. Appointed to the Massachusetts Supreme Court in 1882 and U.S. Supreme Court in 1902, Holmes became a major figure in overturning the traditional view that law stems from authority—codes, the Bible, the Constitution—in favor of legal realism, which interprets law through its effect on society. Although still known as the “great dissenter” (not exactly a mark of success), his decisions made him popular among progressives and provided legal support for economic regulation and the expansion of personal freedom. Conservatives may cringe at his quip, “I really like paying taxes. With them, I buy civilization,” but Budiansky emphasizes that Holmes’ vaunted liberalism was evident only in his legal decisions and sometimes not even there. An abolitionist before the war, he showed little sympathy for African-Americans afterward. He opposed women’s suffrage and despised labor unions, socialists, and other movements that claimed to oppose injustice. Yet, a man of “skeptical temperament to the core…he never mistook his own views for eternal truth.” Absent a clear danger, he maintained that obnoxious opinions deserved the same rights as his own. This remains a minority view in America, and legal realism, in decline since the 1960s, shows no signs of reviving.

An entirely fascinating biography of one of America’s most important legal minds.

Pub Date: May 28, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-393-63472-3

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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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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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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