An unusually pleasing and affecting guide to Europe through the eyes of two tourists separated by more than 230 years.

IN PURSUIT OF JEFFERSON

TRAVELING THROUGH EUROPE WITH THE MOST PERPLEXING FOUNDING FATHER

This jaunty, inventive approach to an old question—who was Thomas Jefferson?—turns out to be a wise, readable, and altogether satisfying work.

In his first book, Baxter relates his numerous European journeys following in Jefferson’s footsteps, guided by the Virginian’s little-known 1788 book, Hints to Americans Traveling in Europe. Accompanied by his wife and children, the author traveled through England and much of Western Europe. Voraciously curious, he visited farms, vineyards, and towns while observing, among other things, architecture, cheese making, and viticulture, all with the engaging ingenuousness of a youngster. Baxter also unhesitatingly departed from Jefferson’s Hintsto follow his guide’s itineraries in the eastern U.S. Open to everything, the author remained full of good humor—until, with growing discomfort, he realized that the life and ease of his guide and hero was at every turn built on slavery. Consequently, this often chatty, light-spirited book about a citizen scientist turns into a somber reflection on the contradiction at the heart of American history. Readers shouldn’t expect the measured gravity of the Odysseyor the bite of Paul Theroux’s travelogues. This is travel writing in a different mode: chatty, sometimes corny, unfailingly warmhearted. Baxter’s earnestness, most evident in his encounters with the people that he met along the way, was always grounded in a serious purpose—to see and learn what Jefferson saw and learned. The author also takes on another aim: to figure out how to make sense in the early 21st century of a slaveholding author who wrote a world-historical testament to freedom. Here, Baxter, his easy nature sobered, is at his honest and most candid best. What’s particularly refreshing is that he captures his own amateur historian’s growth in knowledge, then in confusion, and finally in rueful, disenthralled acknowledgement of the inconsistencies, hypocrisy, blindness, and selfishness that existed side by side with Jefferson’s greatness.

An unusually pleasing and affecting guide to Europe through the eyes of two tourists separated by more than 230 years.

Pub Date: March 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-72822-538-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Sourcebooks

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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A refreshing celebrity memoir focused not strictly on the self but on a much larger horizon.

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WILL

One of Hollywood’s biggest stars delivers a memoir of success won through endless, relentless work and self-reckoning.

“My imagination is my gift, and when it merges with my work ethic, I can make money rain from the heavens.” So writes Smith, whose imagination is indeed a thing of wonder—a means of coping with fear, an abusive father with the heart of a drill instructor, and all manner of inner yearnings. The author’s imagination took him from a job bagging ice in Philadelphia to initial success as a partner in the Grammy-winning rap act DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. Smith was propelled into stardom thanks to the ministrations of Quincy Jones, who arranged an audition in the middle of his own birthday party, bellowing “No paralysis through analysis!” when Smith begged for time to prepare. The mantra—which Jones intoned 50-odd times during the two hours it took for the Hollywood suits to draw up a contract for the hit comedy series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air—is telling, for hidden within this memoir lies a powerful self-help book. For Smith, all of life is a challenge in which one’s feelings are largely immaterial. “I watched my father’s negative emotions seize control of his ample intellect and cause him over and over again to destroy beautiful parts of our family,” he writes, good reason for him to sublimate negativity in the drive to get what he wanted—money, at first, and lots of it, which got him in trouble with the IRS in the early 1990s. Smith, having developed a self-image that cast him as a coward, opines that one’s best life is lived by facing up to the things that hold us back. “I’ve been making a conscious effort to attack all the things that I’m scared of,” he writes, adding, “And this is scary.” It’s a good lesson for any aspiring creative to ponder—though it helps to have Smith’s abundant talent, too.

A refreshing celebrity memoir focused not strictly on the self but on a much larger horizon.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984877-92-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2021

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A sharp, entertaining view of the news media from one of its star players.

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GOING THERE

The veteran newscaster reflects on her triumphs and hardships, both professional and private.

In this eagerly anticipated memoir, Couric (b. 1957) transforms the events of her long, illustrious career into an immensely readable story—a legacy-preserving exercise, for sure, yet judiciously polished and insightful, several notches above the fray of typical celebrity memoirs. The narrative unfolds through a series of lean chapters as she recounts the many career ascendency steps that led to her massively successful run on the Today Show and comparably disappointing stints as CBS Evening News anchor, talk show host, and Yahoo’s Global News Anchor. On the personal front, the author is candid in her recollections about her midlife adventures in the dating scene and deeply sorrowful and affecting regarding the experience of losing her husband to colon cancer as well as the deaths of other beloved family members, including her sister and parents. Throughout, Couric maintains a sharp yet cool-headed perspective on the broadcast news industry and its many outsized personalities and even how her celebrated role has diminished in recent years. “It’s AN ADJUSTMENT when the white-hot spotlight moves on,” she writes. “The ego gratification of being the It girl is intoxicating (toxic being the root of the word). When that starts to fade, it takes some getting used to—at least it did for me.” Readers who can recall when network news coverage and morning shows were not only relevant, but powerfully influential forces will be particularly drawn to Couric’s insights as she tracks how the media has evolved over recent decades and reflects on the negative effects of the increasing shift away from reliable sources of informed news coverage. The author also discusses recent important cultural and social revolutions, casting light on issues of race and sexual orientation, sexism, and the predatory behavior that led to the #MeToo movement. In that vein, she expresses her disillusionment with former co-host and friend Matt Lauer.

A sharp, entertaining view of the news media from one of its star players.

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-53586-1

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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