A nostalgic portrait of the last presidency.



The chronicle of a political “bromance.”

Journalist Levingston (Kennedy and King: The President, the Pastor, and the Battle Over Civil Rights, 2017, etc.), nonfiction book editor of the Washington Post, examines the partnership between Barack Obama and Joe Biden, which, the author gushes, “evolved into a friendship of profound depth, one never before witnessed in the history of the American presidency.” His admiration for this relationship serves to justify this book. Unfortunately for Levingston, neither Obama nor Biden consented to interviews or replied to emails, although he did manage to interview sources such as Obama’s senior adviser David Axelrod, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken. From those responses, along with videos, blogs, twitter posts, various media reports, speeches, and the protagonists’ memoirs—all public documents—Levingston weaves a lively narrative about an unlikely alliance between the taciturn Obama and gregarious, voluble Biden. After an initially cool assessment of one another, growing mutual respect led Obama to choose Biden for vice president due to his experience and skill working with Congress, his popularity among working-class voters, and their agreement “on matters of international import.” Obama, Levingston maintains, admired Biden’s personal story: “his character in the face of profound setbacks,” his willingness to question “the meaning of life and his place in it,” and his “devotion to his family,” traits that Obama felt he shared. The author stretches to include any commonalities he can identify—for example, that both men used sports metaphors. Nevertheless, as Levingston recounts their relationship during the campaign’s high and low points and throughout eight years of facing economic, social, and military crises, he points out many occasions when the two men seemed close. In particular, Obama’s demonstrative sympathy for Biden when his son Beau died of brain cancer is compelling evidence of the sincerity of his friendship and love. But the author is at a loss to explain Obama’s reticence in supporting Biden’s current campaign for the presidency, and he ends simply by proclaiming the bromance mesmerizing and inspiring.

A nostalgic portrait of the last presidency.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-48786-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Hachette

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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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 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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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