Page by Page: Book Reviews

Causes At War

“It may be important for historians to shift more attention to eastern Europe and to increase the Russian share of the collective responsibility for the war, but one cannot allow this to outweigh Germany’s primary guilt for converting a Balkan War into a “world war” rather than a regional war. McMeekin still disagrees: “Important as the German violation of Belgium was, it did not cause the First World War.” (The House of Commons would have been fascinated to learn this.)”

To Be Like Mike

“Ultimately, Lazenby is content to define Jordan by his pathological competitiveness, as reified publicly in his 2009 Hall of Fame induction speech. In it, “Jordan chose to unburden himself and reveal his competitive heart, to address all of the things, real or imagined, that had driven him.” The result was a speech that seemed so bitter as to be “surprising, and even disappointing” to those who knew Jordan, and “shocking” to the public. For Lazenby, it merely affirms that “the things that had spurred Jordan on in his life were hugely negative,” that this man who brought billions of people joy was in fact defined by anger and hurt feelings.”

Doctored By Details

“Pasternak remarked in late 1957, ‘Everybody’s writing about it, but who in fact has read it?’ This seems the crucial question never pursued. What would have happened if more people in power had actually read ‘Doctor Zhivago’? Could much, if not all, of the persecution of Pasternak have been avoided? The question of whether or not the book, when read, stands up as a piece of anti-Soviet propaganda comes up a few times in the text, but never as anything more than a superficial thought.”

Do The Right Thing

“Most blacks, without question, would rather be successful capitalists, however “exploitative” of land and labor, than wards in an egalitarian socialist state because, in the end, even members of a persecuted group, the dream is to have power, not justice. Or put another way, the acquisition of power becomes its own form of justice. The problem with Riley’s book is not its conservative message, but that the message is not sufficiently framed to appeal to black folk’s sense of racial destiny and pride. In short, it is insufficiently chauvinistic, less chauvinistic than the title promises.”

Building For Race

Hayward recommends shifting political authority away from local communities where powerful private interests exert control over zoning decisions to regional or metropolitan levels of governance, which could facilitate coalition-building and more inclusive urban planning initiatives.


“Rosengren constantly nudges readers to realize both men do not exist in a vaccum—void of any connection to other people, traditions, or social factors. Thus, chapter five is titled “Summer of Fury” to make the reader privy to the Watts Riots that erupted a few weeks earlier and to serve as a reminder that the 1960s was an intense, unique decade in American history, fraught with declarations of redefinition that created social turbulence that forged dramatic social reforms in the United States. This is a story of heroism, cowardice, miscommunication, racism, the 1960s, and reconciliation. It is about much more than a fight.”

Sixth Sense

“Kaplan weaves Adams’ personal life and public career into an interrelated portrait of the man and his times. His singular appreciation of the importance of literature, especially Shakespeare, the theatre and poetry (including that composed by Adams himself) to his subject’s intellect, psyche and convictions about politics, religion, philosophy, love and nature, provides readers with a transparent and penetrating portrayal and assessment of Adams. This exceptional approach modifies conventional depictions of Adams solely as a man of “cold austere and forbidding manners, a gloomy misanthropist,” a description Adams once even applied to himself.”

Capital Concerns

“If we thought that the distribution of income among individuals in an economy is determined in a similar manner to the distribution of income across countries in the world, we would then look primarily for explanations which attach importance to knowledge, education, and skills. But Piketty’s theory of income and wealth distribution, contrary to what we might anticipate, is startlingly simple, and can be boiled down to a couple of ’laws.’ Piketty first argues, by appealing to the data, that capital income is more important than labor income in concentrating income and wealth at the top of the distribution.”

Trial of the (Mid) Century

The Twelfth Victim arises out of a 1950s Crime of the Century known as the Starkweather Rampage. Its namesake, Charles Starkweather, was hardly a poster boy for, well, a Most Wanted poster. He was a short, red-headed, bow-legged, nineteen-year-old from Lincoln, Nebraska. Nevertheless, during the space of two months he murdered eleven people in Nebraska and Wyoming, terrified the citizens of those states, and horrified the nation.”

Say It Ain’t So, Bill

To say that the good Cosby has done outweighs the bad is, at best, to oversimplify matters and, at worst, to make a morally dubious statement. (Try saying that about a philanthropist who raped your sister, daughter, or wife.) It is of limited use, too, to say that we must always separate the artist from the art if we are to enjoy art at all. That is because, in this case, the person we took to be Cosby is—was?—his art. Maybe, maybe, it is possible to hang onto that persona, a positive force in the world, even as we know that it is the creation of that other Cosby; but between the two of them, they have broken my heart.