Book reviews

REVIEW: ‘How To Beat Trump’ by Mark Halperin

No one wanted it. He wrote it anyway.

No one wanted Mark Halperin to write a book. Shunned from public life in 2017 after numerous (ex-)colleagues at ABC News accused him of sexual misconduct, the disgraced pundit's analysis of the upcoming presidential election was not in particularly high demand. Nevertheless, he persisted, even as the market withheld its consent. 

Review: ‘In Defense of Elitism’ by Joel Stein

In Defense of Elitism: Why I'm Better Than You and You're Better Than Someone Who Didn't Buy This Book is one hell of a title, albeit a bit misleading. Sure, author Joel Stein makes a case for elitism over populism, but, contra what you might expect based on the subtitle, he does so without being condescending, without being smug, without being, well, what that title suggests he’d be. Instead, Stein’s book is one part earnest attempt to get to know and understand those outside of his liberal bubble and one part explaining, rather civilly, the flaws with their worldview and why we actually have it pretty great right now.

Review: ‘Tough Love’ by Susan Rice

SPOILER ALERT: She's not running for president

The 2020 Democratic primary has been such an underwhelming affair that few would be surprised to see another candidate throw her hat into the ring at this late stage in the race. Unfortunately for Susan Rice fans, if they exist, the Obama administration's former United Nations ambassador and national security adviser does not appear to be interested in running for higher office, at least not as a Democrat.

Review: Matt Stoller’s ‘Goliath’

Battling big business for over a century

Thanks to the ascent of tech giants such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon, legislators, policy analysts, and pundits are taking a fresh look at antitrust law. The time is ripe for books laying out both sides of this issue: the populist case that we need to smack down companies that get too big and powerful, and the libertarian case that the government should keep its clumsy hands off our most successful businesses.

Review: ‘For the Record’ by David Cameron

Europe looms large in former PM's memoir

A man buying a shed is rarely newsworthy. But in 2017, Britain's recently departed prime minister David Cameron made headlines for doing exactly that. With plenty of snark, the press reported on the price tag—$30,000—and plush features of this upmarket "shepherd's hut"

Review: ‘The Art of Return’

Remembering the last revolution

Glue Pour (1969) : Holt-Smithson FoundationContemporary visual art has a history problem. It often strikes viewers as disconnected from great works of the past or any kind of context, aiming at originality for originality's sake. What does a barrel of glue poured down a muddy hillside or a light bulb frozen in a cube of ink have to do with art? Fortunately for the perplexed viewer, National Gallery curator James Meyer has noticed the problem. His new book The Art of Return: The Sixties & Contemporary Culture offers a thoughtful account of how art and history inform each other, even in postmodern art.

Review: ‘This Is Not Propaganda’ by Peter Pomerantsev

Too much information is a bad thing

I really wanted to like Peter Pomerantsev's new book, This Is Not Propaganda. His columns in the LRB, the Guardian, and the American Interest (where I was once a staff writer) are almost always incisive and absorbing. And his first book, Nothing Is True and Everything is Possible, established him as a clearheaded capturer of the mind-fogging milieu of Putin Era Russia.

Review: ‘Cold Warriors’ by Duncan White

Anti-communist writers didn't just describe the Cold War; they were part of it

When he fled Spain in the summer of 1937, one step ahead of the secret police, George Orwell lost his personal copy of a pamphlet by Stalin with the ominous title Defects in Party Work and Measures for Liquidating Trotskyite and Other Double Dealers.

Review: ‘Primal Screams’ by Mary Eberstadt

Youth use identity politics to cope with boomers' mistakes, family breakdowns

In her new book Primal Screams, Mary Eberstadt manages the nearly impossible: finding something new—and worthwhile—to say about identity politics. It'd be fair to wonder whether we really needed one more take on the topic. Plenty already exist, many of them either to virtue signal or take swings at the easy punching bag that millennials are. But for all that's already been said about identity politics, there's one big question nobody's answered: Why do young people find it so appealing?

Review: The Mosquito by Timothy Winegard

Timothy Winegard’s history of our most constant pest

Here's an odd, interesting, and mostly useless fact: The word canopy, meaning an awning or covering, derives from kónops, an Ancient Greek word for mosquito. And here's another odd fact: The word canapé—the bite-sized bit of cocktail-party food—derives from the same root. It's mosquitoes, all the way down.