In the News, September 2021
Posted 08.12.21: Donald Kagan, Sterling Professor Emeritus of Classics and History, prominent for his scholarship, teaching, and social and political commentary died Aug. 6 at age 89. His monumental four-volume history of the Peloponnesian War (1969–1987) was described by George Steiner as “the foremost work of history produced in North America in the 20th century.”... Kagan's gift was narrative: he was a superb story teller.... His other scholarly works include Pericles of Athens and the Birth of Democracy (1990), which one critic called “lively and thoughtful...learned and passionate;” On the Origins of War and the Preservation of Peace (1995), praised as “vivid and vastly informative.... One of the most incisive books written on the causes of war;” his later one-volume synthesis of the war that sundered the ancient world, The Peloponnesian War (2003), of which one critic wrote, “Kagan's sumptuous style will enthrall readers who had not imagined that they would find the topic so absorbing;” and his most recent, Thucydides: The Reinvention of History (2009). (Yale News, 8.10.21)
Posted 08.06.21: "The Words That Made Us: America's Constitutional Conversation, 1760–1840 is Akhil Amar's most ambitious work yet, the first book of what he envisions to be a definitive three-volume reinterpretation of constitutional history and legal analysis. The work, with its comprehensive scope, incisive analysis, and storyteller's gifts, is frequently provocative and sweeping in its simultaneous grasp of politics and law.... Amar's use of biography and narrative history brings these stories to life."—Joel Seligman, Los Angeles Review of Books
Posted 07.30.21: A starred Kirkus review for The Secret of Life: Rosalind Franklin, James Watson, Francis Crick, and the Discovery of DNA's Double Helix by Howard Markel: "A medical historian offers a new history of one of the 20th century's most significant scientific quests.... Markel, a Guggenheim fellow and professor of medicine at the University of Michigan, has written one of the best.... A brilliant addition to the literature on the history of biological discovery."
Posted 07.27.21: Publishers Weekly on The Secret of Life: Rosalind Franklin, James Watson, Francis Crick, and the Discovery of DNA's Double Helix by Howard Markel: “One of the greatest scientific discoveries of the 20th century was also the scientific heist of the century, according to this action-packed history.... Markel skillfully explains the knotty science behind the breakthrough and highlights the clash of outsize personalities.... Tart, sharp-eyed prose....This wonderfully evocative tale sings.”
Posted 06.30.21: The New Yorker on Geniuses at War: Bletchley Park, Colossus, and the Dawn of the Digital Age by David A. Price: "Colossus, the first digital, electronic computer, was developed by British intelligence during the Second World War, to decipher encrypted messages between Hitler and his generals. This history places the famous achievements of the computer scientist Alan Turing alongside the work of his mentor Max Newman and of Tommy Flowers, the engineer who designed the machine. Price describes the complexity of the codes produced by Germany's cipher machines and recounts Colossus's triumph in obtaining military intelligence before the Normandy landings. Noting that Colossus marked the beginning of the digital age, Price observes that it was the product 'not of impersonal forces but of the joining of extraordinary individuals within an extraordinary institution.'"
Posted 06.24.21: “Akhil Reed Amar's fascinating book The Words That Made Us: America's Constitutional Conversation, 1760–1840 [is] a masterly synthesis of history and law, Mr. Amar's tome delivers, as the author describes it, a wide-angled, multigenerational narrative of ‘the American constitutional project.' Revolutionary America is remembered for its physical action: ‘bullets flew, tea chests splashed, cannons roared.' Yet, Mr. Amar argues, that's only half the story. ‘A cannon can roar but it cannot speak.' Listening in on the Founding Fathers, Mr. Amar traces ‘America's constitutional conversation' from 1760 to 1840.... Readers of The Words That Made Us will rightly marvel at its breadth and depth and at Mr. Amar's scholarly acumen. Sequel volumes—covering 1840 to 1920 and 1920 to 2000—are planned, making for a constitutional trilogy.”—Mark G. Spencer, The Wall Street Journal
Posted 06.17.21: A New York Times Paperback Bestseller! Marty Makary's The Price We Pay: What Broke American Health Care—and How to Fix It. As Booklist wrote in a starred review: "He found that working Americans feel that the system is stacked against them; it seems that they're right. He also critiques the workplace 'wellness' industry, with experts unnecessarily screening healthy people, leading to 'false positives and harmful medical procedures.' Consider this book a powerful call to action for more information about health costs and for restoring the 'noble mission' of treating everyone with fairness and dignity."
Posted 06.02.21: A starred review from Library Journal for Geniuses at War: Bletchley Park, Colossus, and the Dawn of the Digital Age by David A. Price: “Price puts his expertise in history and technology to excellent use in his latest book. Following the exploits of the motley collection of geniuses installed at Bletchley Park during the Second World War, he weaves a superb narrative, at once compelling and relatable, about the technological innovations used to break the Nazis' many military and police codes and ciphers. In this book, the code breakers come to life as people grappling with personal conflicts and politics while working together (and sometimes against each other) in the relatively egalitarian environment at Bletchley.... VERDICT: Incredibly well-written and well-researched, this fast-paced book reads like a novel. Highly recommended.”
Posted 05.21.21: "Every once in a while a book comes along that can simultaneously enlighten and engross you by taking a seemingly esoteric subject and turning it into an absorbing page-turner. Professor Amar has penned a marvelous tale of how our uniquely American Constitution came to be and the larger than life characters that conceived, gave birth, and nurtured our system of self-government.... The chapters seem to fly by with Professor Amar's engaging and conversational writing style along with his incisive and balanced analysis of the critical events, people, and documents that made America not merely a collection of states, but truly the United States of America"—Jerry Lenaburg, New York Journal of Books, on The Words That Made Us: America's Constitutional Conversation, 1760–1840 by Akhil Reed Amar
Posted 05.20.21: Winner of the 2021 Silver Gavel Award from the American Bar Association! Marriage Equality: From Outlaws to In-Laws by William N. Eskridge, Jr. and Christopher R. Riano: "A comprehensive account of the long struggle for same-sex marriage.... A compelling narrative....The work is beautifully and accessibly written.... An essential work."—Library Journal
Posted 05.04.21: “Akhil Reed Amar, the Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale, explores this territory brilliantly in The Words That Made Us: America's Constitutional Conversation, 1760–1840, his deeply probing, highly readable study.... The book has a generous spirit that can be a much-needed balm in these troubled times.”—Adam Cohen, The New York Times
Posted 04.29.21: On The Words That Made Us: America's Constitutional Conversation, 1760–1840 by Akhil Reed Amar: "Consider the magnitude of Amar's achievement. He has written a book both popular and learned, one that is fast-paced enough to hold the attention of the general reader and yet makes enough new points about fundamental matters to engage the serious scholar. And it comes a critical time. Amar shows why the Founding and the early republic deserve our continued respect even if many of the great men responsible for its creation had flaws of character and moral blind spots, as do we all. It a book not only of a scholar but a patriot. If widely read, it may make the difficulty of finding appropriate professional historians to teach our children less of a threat to our common future." — John O. McGinnis, Law & Liberty
Posted 04.27.21: A starred review from Library Journal for The Words That Made Us: America's Constitutional Conversation, 1760–1840 by Akhil Reed Amar: “This first volume of a proposed trilogy about the U.S. Constitution (each book to treat an 80-year span) sweeps forward from 1760 to 1840 in an audacious review of the Constitution's origins, growth, development, and implementation, and the experiences and exchanges that produced its core principles and precedents.... Amar's original work offers general readers an accessible and often entertaining narrative and lessons to glean from the founding document of the United States.”
Posted 04.12.21: A starred review from Kirkus Reviews for Geniuses at War: Bletchley Park, Colossus, and the Dawn of the Digital Age by David A. Price: “Page-turning.... Price delivers a fascinating account.... He tells a terrific story. An entertaining history of brilliant minds at work against the Nazi behemoth.”
Posted 03.23.21: Winner of the 2021 Goldsmith Book Prize! An Aristocracy of Critics: Luce, Hutchins, Niebuhr, and the Committee That Redefined Freedom of the Press by Stephen Bates has won the Goldsmith Book Prize, which is awarded to a book "that best fulfills the objective of improving democratic governance through an examination of the intersection between the media, politics and public policy."
Posted 03.08.21: "Harold Bloom's final books reflect one of the most personal and distilled versions of the moral code that sustained his idea of poetic thinking as the highest path to universal truth.... It is not difficult to see why this belief, which Bloom has repeated in one way or another for decades, has found so much resonance outside the academy, where there is still a community of readers seeking truth and solace in reading."—Ignacio M. Sánchez Prado in the Los Angeles Review of Books on The Bright Book of Life: Novels to Read and Reread and Take Arms Against a Sea of Troubles: The Power of the Reader's Mind over a Universe of Death by Harold Bloom
Posted 03.06.21: A starred review from Publishers Weekly for The Words That Made Us: America's Constitutional Conversation, 1760–1840 by Akhil Reed Amar: “The U.S. collectively talked and wrote its way into being, according to this dazzling constitutional history…. Amar ties searching constitutional analysis into a gripping narrative of war, popular tumults, political intrigue, and even fashion, highlighted by vivid profiles of statesmen…. The result is a fresh, invigorating take on America's founding that puts epic deliberation at the heart of democracy.”
Posted 02.18.21: A starred review from Kirkus Reviews for The Words That Made Us: America's Constitutional Conversation, 1760–1840 by Akhil Reed Amar: “A page-turning doorstop history of how early American courts and politicians interpreted the Constitution. A Yale professor of law and political science, Amar has written numerous books on constitutional matters. In his latest excellent analysis, the author…delivers a fascinating, often jolting interpretation…. Brilliant insights into America's founding document.”
Posted 01.26.21: "Harold Bloom was the formidable Yale professor...whose massive and magisterial if quirky Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human is the finest one-volume assessment of the plays at our disposal."—Robert Gottlieb, The New York Times Book Review
Posted 01.26.21: "Here's what The Bright Book of Life: Novels to Read and Reread isn't: It isn't a handy list of the 50 or 100 novels 'you must read before you die.' Nor is it a collection of painless expositions of 'the world's greatest works of fiction.' Nor is it an introduction to the world's greatest writers. It's a series of meditations on what Bloom believes to be the most important novels we have, and it takes for granted that its readers already know the books under consideration; in other words, that they have already absorbed 'the canon,' and are eager to reconsider it later in their lives. For those with the rage for reading and rereading, it is something of a feast; for others, it will be daunting.... Harold Bloom is not only a master educator, he has been a central figure in today's culture wars. As early as 1994, in his book The Western Canon — a book I wholeheartedly recommend — he is wading into battle to save the academy from what he challengingly labels the School of Resentment. His argument is dense, difficult, but in my view irrefutable. And although he is not optimistic, he has not abandoned hope."—Robert Gottlieb, The New York Times Book Review