A compelling, cleareyed portrait of a dictator whose politics have unfortunate relevance for today.




An illuminating new biography of the cold, calculating ruler on whom the subsequent Soviet state modeled itself.

“Secretive, suspicious, intolerant, acetic, intemperate.” Such is the essence of the portrait of his subject that Budapest-born journalist Sebestyen (1946: The Making of the Modern World, 2015, etc.) extracts from the considerable record. The author does not overwhelm with detail, and he focuses especially on how Lenin’s most important relationships were with women, such as his mother, his wife, Nadya, and his mistress, Inessa Armand. From his beginnings as a brilliant youth to his maturation as a driving, relentless intellectual whose favored method of leadership was merciless carping, Lenin was consistently concerned with the nitty-gritty of power and how to attain it. He was also criticized for fleeing from trouble, as he believed he was too important to the struggle to get arrested. Radicalized at the age of 18 after the “violent drama” of his beloved older brother Sasha’s execution by the czar’s police force in 1887 for attempting to assassinate the czar, Vladimir Ulyanov, as he was then known, “was heir to a long tradition of revolutionary opposition to the Tsars.” Prohibited from studying at university, sent briefly to Siberia, closely monitored by the czar’s police state, the Okhrana (from which Lenin’s Cheka would subsequently and ironically derive its model), and largely supported in every way by his mother and wife, Lenin moved about in exile honing the revolutionary message. Although not as eloquent a writer as Marx or Trotsky, Lenin created a style of argument altogether his own; as the author writes, “he was nearly always domineering, abusive, combative and often downright vicious.” Operating brutally but haphazardly, rather than by a truly coordinated effort, and not averse to using a “criminal gang” to steal on the party’s behalf, Lenin prevailed by sheer force of will. Sebestyen ably captures the man, “the kind of demagogue familiar to us in Western democracies.”

A compelling, cleareyed portrait of a dictator whose politics have unfortunate relevance for today.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-87163-8

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: Sept. 25, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller


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

Did you like this book?

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.


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

Did you like this book?