Better Grant biographies are not in short supply; readers should seek them out instead of this one.

TO RESCUE THE REPUBLIC

ULYSSES S. GRANT, THE FRAGILE UNION, AND THE CRISIS OF 1876

The latest book of pop history from the chief political anchor for Fox News.

The Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, which Baier witnessed in his capacity as a political reporter and anchor, gave new meaning to the turmoil surrounding the 1876 presidential election. In this conventional biography of Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885) designed for general readers who have not studied the era, the election occupies only 50 pages near the end. A mediocre West Point cadet, Grant achieved little glory in the Mexican-American War, resigned his commission, and struggled to earn a living. The beginning of the Civil War found him clerking in a leather goods shop and farming. The only West Point graduate in the area, he was chosen to lead local units; after six months of intense activity against minor Confederate posts and lobbying by his congressman, a friend of Lincoln, Grant became a general. He turned out to be the most aggressive and imaginative Union commander. A national idol after Appomattox in 1865, he easily won presidential elections in 1868 and 1872. Recent historians have upgraded his performance in office, but Baier holds the traditional view that Grant was an honorable man but a poor politician surrounded by scoundrels. Scandals occurred regularly, and his final months in office were preoccupied by the mess following the 1876 election, which saw a closely contested battle that the Republican candidate, Rutherford B. Hayes, barely won. As in his previous books on FDR, Eisenhower, and Reagan, Baier relies heavily on other biographies, including Ron Chernow’s superior Grant (2017), and Grant’s own memoirs, a straightforward and plainspoken history. Throughout, the author can’t resist the use of invented dialogue and conjectures of historical figures’ inner thoughts, but he gets the facts right.

Better Grant biographies are not in short supply; readers should seek them out instead of this one.

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-303954-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Custom House/Morrow

Review Posted Online: Aug. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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A solid work of investigation that, while treading well-covered ground, offers plenty of surprises.

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PERIL

An account of the last gasps of the Trump administration, completing a trilogy begun with Fear (2018) and Rage (2020).

One of Woodward and fellow Washington Post reporter Costa’s most memorable revelations comes right away: Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, calling his counterpart in Beijing to assure him that even after Jan. 6 and what Milley saw as an unmistakable attempt at a coup d’état, he would keep Trump from picking a war with China. This depiction has earned much attention on the talking-heads news channels, but more significant is its follow-up: Milley did so because he was concerned that Trump “might still be looking for what Milley called a ‘Reichstag moment.’ ” Milley emerges as a stalwart protector of the Constitution who constantly courted Trump’s ire and yet somehow survived without being fired. No less concerned about Trump’s erratic behavior was Paul Ryan, the former Speaker of the House, who studied the psychiatric literature for a big takeaway: “Do not humiliate Trump in public. Humiliating a narcissist risked real danger, a frantic lashing out if he felt threatened or criticized.” Losing the 2020 election was one such humiliation, and Woodward and Costa closely track the trajectory of Trump’s reaction, from depression to howling rage to the stubborn belief that the election was rigged. There are a few other modest revelations in the book, including the fact that Trump loyalist William Barr warned him that the electorate didn’t like him. “They just think you’re a fucking asshole,” Barr told his boss. That was true enough, and the civil war that the authors recount among various offices in the White House and government reveals that Trump’s people were only ever tentatively his. All the same, the authors note, having drawn on scores of “deep background” interviews, Trump still has his base, still intends vengeance by way of a comeback, and still constitutes the peril of their title.

A solid work of investigation that, while treading well-covered ground, offers plenty of surprises.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982182-91-5

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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