…deft and persuasive…Zakaria brings the reader swiftly and surely through the noble history of the liberal education ideal and describes with alarm how it is buckling under pressure from rising college tuition and students who are understandably concerned about acquiring marketable skills…his book is an accessible, necessary defense of an idea under siege.
Natural Born Heroes: How a Daring Band of Misfits Mastered the Lost Secrets of Strength and Endurance by Christopher McDougall
“A mash note to physical endurance. . . . McDougall redefines the heroic ideal, establishing heroism as a skill set rather than a virtue. . . . [And] schools the reader in the art of the champion. . . . The essential narrative here, the twisty tale of a kidnapping that incredibly goes right, is exciting. It is balanced out with the journalistic account of McDougall’s entry into the world of the hero. His personal quest to ‘rewild the psyche’ might seem an awkward fit with war storytelling. But under McDougall’s sure hand the combination improbably works. Kind of like kidnapping a German general on an island swarming with Nazi troops.”
…the choice of subject for So You've Been Publicly Shamed turns out to be gutsy and smart. Without losing any of the clever agility that makes his books so winning, [Ronson] has taken on truly consequential material and risen to the challenge. His overall point is something we already understand: Public shaming in the age of social media has the kind of power that no form of shaming ever had before.
The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House by Kate Andersen Brower
Anecdotes both touching and hilarious about living and working in the White House, "the country's most potent and enduring symbol of the presidency." While journalist Brower moves by theme in presenting the memories of select long-running staff at the White House—"Controlled Chaos," "Discretion," "Extraordinary Demands," "Dark Days," etc.—there is an irresistible, charmingly pell-mell quality to the arrangement of these dishy stories. The author has managed to track down numerous former staffers—ushers, electricians, maids, butlers, chefs, and florists—to share their mostly loyal thoughts on the illustrious families they served. ... Brower is keen to sympathize with the plight of the hardworking help. For example, in her chapter "Race and the Residence," the author reveals the first "revolt" by the largely African-American staff to push for salary equality in the late 1960s. A work of great historical interest that is also quite entertaining.
With UNFORGETTABLE, Simon reveals not the possibilities of social media but its limits. Those 140-character bursts...seem inadequate compared with the skilled unspooling of this memoir. This book is about family secrets revealed...because a moment arrives when they're all that matter and secrecy no longer does. [Reading this] you realize that the tears have been flowing...easing your way through a book that easily matches its title.