Woodward’s book will shock only those who haven’t been paying attention. For those who have, it reinforces a strongly...

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2018

  • New York Times Bestseller

FEAR

TRUMP IN THE WHITE HOUSE

A dish-filled tiptoe through the current White House in the company of an all-knowing tour guide, legendary Washington Post investigative reporter and definitive insider Woodward (The Last of the President’s Men, 2015, etc.).

“He’s always looking for adult supervision.” So says big-money donor Rebekah Mercer to alt-right mastermind Steve Bannon of Donald Trump early on in Woodward’s book, setting a theme that will be sounded throughout the narrative. By the author’s account, Trump, sensitive and insensitive, out of his element and constantly enraged, cannot be trusted to act on his own instincts while anywhere near the Oval Office. Indeed, the earliest and instantly newsworthy moment of the book comes when economic adviser Gary Cohn spirits away a letter from Trump’s desk that would have broken the U.S. alliance with South Korea. Trump demanded the letter but then, it seems, forgot about it in its absence. “It was no less than an administrative coup d’état,” writes Woodward, “an undermining of the will of the president of the United States and its constitutional authority.” It’s not the sole instance, either, as the author steadily recounts. Drawing on deep background, meaning that sources cannot be identified—the reasons are immediately evident—Woodward ticks down a long list of insiders and their various ways of adapting to the mercurial president, sometimes successfully but more often not. One figure who can be seen constantly walking that line is South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, whom former staffer Reince Priebus sold on Trump by saying, “you’re a lot of fun. He needs fun people around him.” Trump emerges as anything but fun—but also rather easily managed by those around him, so long as he is able to sign documents (“Trump liked signing. It meant he was doing things, and he had an up-and-down penmanship that looked authoritative in black Magic Marker”) and otherwise look presidential.

Woodward’s book will shock only those who haven’t been paying attention. For those who have, it reinforces a strongly emerging narrative that there’s a serious need for grown-ups on Pennsylvania Avenue—grown-ups who have read the Constitution.

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7551-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A potent depiction of grief, but also a book lacking the originality and acerbic prose that distinguished Didion’s earlier...

  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

  • National Book Award Winner

  • National Book Critics Circle Finalist

THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING

A moving record of Didion’s effort to survive the death of her husband and the near-fatal illness of her only daughter.

In late December 2003, Didion (Where I Was From, 2003, etc.) saw her daughter, Quintana Roo Dunne, hospitalized with a severe case of pneumonia, the lingering effects of which would threaten the young woman’s life for several months to come. As her daughter struggled in a New York ICU, Didion’s husband, John Gregory Dunne, suffered a massive heart attack and died on the night of December 30, 2003. For 40 years, Didion and Dunne shared their lives and work in a marriage of remarkable intimacy and endurance. In the wake of Dunne’s death, Didion found herself unable to accept her loss. By “magical thinking,” Didion refers to the ruses of self-deception through which the bereaved seek to shield themselves from grief—being unwilling, for example, to donate a dead husband’s clothes because of the tacit awareness that it would mean acknowledging his final departure. As a poignant and ultimately doomed effort to deny reality through fiction, that magical thinking has much in common with the delusions Didion has chronicled in her several previous collections of essays. But perhaps because it is a work of such intense personal emotion, this memoir lacks the mordant bite of her earlier work. In the classics Slouching Toward Bethlehem (1968) and The White Album (1979), Didion linked her personal anxieties to her withering dissection of a misguided culture prey to its own self-gratifying fantasies. This latest work concentrates almost entirely on the author’s personal suffering and confusion—even her husband and daughter make but fleeting appearances—without connecting them to the larger public delusions that have been her special terrain.

A potent depiction of grief, but also a book lacking the originality and acerbic prose that distinguished Didion’s earlier writing.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2005

ISBN: 1-4000-4314-X

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2005

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

Did you like this book?

more