For those wondering what happened to America between 2017 and 2021, Schiff offers a key firsthand account.

MIDNIGHT IN WASHINGTON

HOW WE ALMOST LOST OUR DEMOCRACY AND STILL COULD

A full-throated denunciation of Donald Trump and his congressional enablers.

Every small-d democratic institution in America was threatened during Trump’s years in the White House. But as Schiff notes, “no institution suffered more under the Trump presidency than Congress, which saw its oversight powers emasculated and its impeachment power rendered obsolete.” The problem was that much of the damage was “self-inflicted” by members of the GOP, a party that has “become an antitruth, antidemocratic cult organized around the former president.” That Schiff was a leading Trump critic and manager of the first impeachment did not endear him to the president. Though Trump sent an odd signal of admiration by way of Jared Kushner, whom Schiff pegs as a “smooth operator,” the former president spent most of his energies in infantile calumniation, calling the author “Shifty Schiff” and the like. Schiff repaid the attention by assembling a careful case against Trump, one that, Schiff avers, proved the president’s guilt but did not convince enough Republicans that there was a good answer to the questions, “Why should I be the one to remove him? Why should I risk my seat, my position of power and influence, my career and future?...Why should I?” Most of this book, bracketed by horrific scenes from the Jan. 6 mob attack on the Capitol—of which Trump, Schiff insists, was the prime mover—is a long, densely detailed account of the discovery process in the first impeachment trial. It would threaten to become tedious reading, due to all the minutiae, were it not for Schiff’s skill as a storyteller, a skill useful for a trial attorney to have, and for his habit of peppering his narrative with withering assaults on McConnell, Gosar, Barr, et. al. He also offers the revelation that many leading Republicans have urged him in private (while publicly disavowing having said any such thing), “Keep doing what you’re doing.”

For those wondering what happened to America between 2017 and 2021, Schiff offers a key firsthand account.

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-23152-4

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

THE COMFORT BOOK

Bestselling author Haig offers a book’s worth of apothegms to serve as guides to issues ranging from disquietude to self-acceptance.

Like many collections of this sort—terse snippets of advice, from the everyday to the cosmic—some parts will hit home with surprising insight, some will feel like old hat, and others will come across as disposable or incomprehensible. Years ago, Haig experienced an extended period of suicidal depression, so he comes at many of these topics—pain, hope, self-worth, contentment—from a hard-won perspective. This makes some of the material worthy of a second look, even when it feels runic or contrary to experience. The author’s words are instigations, hopeful first steps toward illumination. Most chapters are only a few sentences long, the longest running for three pages. Much is left unsaid and left up to readers to dissect. On being lost, Haig recounts an episode with his father when they got turned around in a forest in France. His father said to him, “If we keep going in a straight line we’ll get out of here.” He was correct, a bit of wisdom Haig turned to during his depression when he focused on moving forward: “It is important to remember the bottom of the valley never has the clearest view. And that sometimes all you need to do in order to rise up again is to keep moving forward.” Many aphorisms sound right, if hardly groundbreaking—e.g., a quick route to happiness is making someone else happy; “No is a good word. It keeps you sane. In an age of overload, no is really yes. It is yes to having space you need to live”; “External events are neutral. They only gain positive or negative value the moment they enter our mind.” Haig’s fans may enjoy this one, but others should take a pass.

A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-14-313666-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Penguin Life

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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