True believers won’t be swayed, but those inclined to despise Trump and Trumpism will find ample reinforcement.

THE BIG CHEAT

HOW DONALD TRUMP FLEECED AMERICA AND ENRICHED HIMSELF AND HIS FAMILY

The Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and longtime Trump-watcher delivers enough charges to fuel a few hundred indictments.

Johnston opens with a scenario of desperation: In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, great numbers of low-income, poorly informed Americans longed for a savior who “would relieve their financial crisis.” What they got was a “master con artist” who would “cheat them out of what they had, all the while telling them that he was really their friend and helper.” Step 1: Destroy the notion of objective truth. Step 2: Send up a smokescreen of lies. Step 3: Loot the people’s treasury, self-dealing while leaving scraps for other financial predators. Johnston assembles a case that’s full of news and startling incidents. In one, a 29-year-old Trump assaults outgoing New York Mayor Abe Beame to strong-arm a sweetheart deal; though police officers escorted him from Beame’s office, he got what he demanded. The behavioral pattern with the most staying power is not violence, however, but cheating: overstating assets, engaging in phony accounting, not paying taxes. With the power of the presidency, Trump—who, Johnston reminds us, is the only president past or present at the center of a felony investigation—opened the nation’s coffers to his fellow grifters, engaging in “the kind of borrowing that made Trump infamous—money you borrow but never pay back in full and perhaps not at all.” Those fellow grifters are legion, but at the top of the list are daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner as well as former transportation secretary Elaine Chao, poster children “who illustrate the need for strict ethics training and for equally strict enforcement of laws against misusing public office.” Trump’s sole accomplishment, by Johnston’s account, was the failed coup of Jan. 6, 2021, because it “testifies to his incompetence” while shining a light on would-be dictators waiting in the wings.

True believers won’t be swayed, but those inclined to despise Trump and Trumpism will find ample reinforcement.

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982178-03-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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A refreshingly candid, fearless look into a model’s body of work and its impact on her identity and politics.

MY BODY

The international model embarks on a nuanced investigation of her body and identity.

Ratajkowski’s exploration of fame, self-identity, and what it means to be a “beautiful” woman is surprisingly engaging. Originally thrust into the spotlight in 2013 due to her scantily clad appearance in the music video for Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” the author eventually became known for her stances about beauty and sexuality and how they are commodified. Now that she is a wife and mother, she writes, “I feel a tenderness toward my younger self. My defensiveness and defiance are palpable to me now. What I wrote and preached then reflected what I believed at the time, but it missed a much more complicated picture. In many ways, I have been undeniably rewarded by capitalizing on my sexuality….But in other, less overt ways, I’ve felt objectified and limited by my position in the world as a so-called sex symbol.” This short book includes the juicy tidbits that avid celebrity-memoir readers seek, and the author shares how she really felt about the video shoot and how the aftermath affected her. Beyond that, the book is a reflective coming-of-age-in-the-industry tale, a story that is never maudlin but contains a few thick, murky sections. Ratajkowski attempts to break down the construction of her identity and sexuality in relation to the ever present male gaze as well as her relationships with the women in her life. The charm of this book lies in the author’s largely relatable writing, which shows the complex emotions and confusion of a young woman experiencing her sexual development and maturation into a capable adult. Admitting that the “purpose of the book is not to arrive at answers, but honestly to explore ideas I can’t help but return to,” Ratajkowski grapples directly with a host of thorny issues.

A refreshingly candid, fearless look into a model’s body of work and its impact on her identity and politics.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-81786-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 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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