An elegant survey of the causes and effects of polarization in America.

WILDLAND

THE MAKING OF AMERICA'S FURY

The National Book Award–winning journalist examines the ideological gaps that have widened between 9/11 and the Jan. 6, 2021 assault on the U.S. Capitol.

After years of reporting from China, the longtime New Yorker staffer returned to find that America had lost its gift for “the rational approach, reason, the meeting of minds in honorable agreement after open argument” that John Gunther described in his 1947 bestseller, Inside U.S.A. “If American history is a story of constant rebalancing—between greed and generosity, industry and nature, identity and assimilation—then the country had spun so far out of balance it had lost its center of gravity,” writes Osnos. He explores how it happened through stellar reporting that blends a high-altitude view of national changes with close-ups of private citizens in three places he’s lived in the U.S. Osnos is at his best in his superb portrait of Greenwich, Connecticut, where he grew up in the “Golden Triangle” that “represented the highest concentration of wealth in America” and where values shifted along with an influx of hedge fund money. Greenwich grandees once included people like Prescott Bush, the father and grandfather of future presidents, “who believed, fundamentally, in the duty of government to help people who did not enjoy his considerable advantages.” Conversely, the current generation tends to see its wealth as self-justifying and to prefer “targeted private philanthropy” to activities like serving on “local charity boards.” Osnos is slightly less insightful about Chicago, where Black residents have felt stung by the gap between their Obama-era hopes and the persistence of bigotry, and West Virginia, where predatory tactics by so-called vulture investors and others have robbed mineworkers of precious benefits. Other recent books have dealt more astutely with some of his subjects—Chris McGreal’s American Overdose with West Virginia’s opioid epidemic and John Woodrow Cox’s Children Under Fire with gun violence—but as an overview of a fractious ideological landscape, this skillful treatment is hard to beat.

An elegant survey of the causes and effects of polarization in America.

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-374-28667-5

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 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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Red meat, and mighty tasty at that, for baseball fans with an appreciation for the past and power of the game.

THE BASEBALL 100

Longtime sports journalist Posnanski takes on a project fraught with the possibilities of controversy: ranking the 100 best baseball players of all time.

It would steal the author’s thunder to reveal his No. 1. However, writing about that player, Posnanski notes, “the greatest baseball player is the one who lifts you higher and makes you feel exactly like you did when you fell in love with this crazy game in the first place.” Working backward, his last-but-not-least place is occupied by Japanese outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, whose valiant hitting rivaled Pete Rose’s, mostly a base at a time. As for Rose, who comes in at No. 60, Posnanski writes, “here’s something people don’t often say about the young Pete Rose, but it’s true: The guy was breathtakingly fast.” Thus, in his first pro season, Rose stole 30 bases and hit 30 triples. That he was somewhat of a lout is noted but exaggerated. Posnanski skillfully weaves statistics into the narrative without spilling into geekdom, and he searches baseball history for his candidate pool while combing the records for just the right datum or quote: No. 10 Satchel Paige on No. 15 Josh Gibson: “You look for his weakness, and while you’re looking for it he’s liable to hit 45 home runs.” Several themes emerge, one being racial injustice. As Posnanski notes of “the greatest Negro Leagues players....people tend to talk about them as if there is some doubt about their greatness.” There’s not, as No. 94, Roy Campanella, among many others, illustrates. He was Sicilian, yes, but also Black, then reason enough to banish him to the minors until finally calling him up in 1948. Another significant theme is the importance of fathers in shaping players, from Mickey Mantle to Cal Ripken and even Rose. Posnanski’s account of how the Cy Young Award came about is alone worth the price of admission.

Red meat, and mighty tasty at that, for baseball fans with an appreciation for the past and power of the game.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982180-58-4

Page Count: 880

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 20, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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