New York Times Review
ATTICUS FINCH: The Biography, by Joseph Crespino. (Basic Books, $27.) This biography of the much-loved fictional character from Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" brings to life the inconsistencies of the South and of Lee's father, who was the model for the real Atticus. BEARSKIN, by James A. McLaughlin. (Ecco/HarperCollins, $26.99.) Terrible things are happening to black bears in this debut mystery set in western Virginia. And the humans facing off against the novel's ex-con hero, now charged with protecting a wilderness preserve, are just as terrible. THE WORLD AS IT IS: A Memoir of the Obama White House, by Ben Rhodes. (Random House, $30.) In this humane and amiable insider's account of the Obama years, Rhodes traces his intellectual evolution as a key adviser to the president. Starry-eyed at the beginning, he learns to temper his idealism, but in a crass political era, he impressively avoids becoming a cynic. TYRANT: Shakespeare on Politics, by Stephen Greenblatt. (Norton, $21.95.) The noted Shakespeare scholar finds parallels between our political world and that of the Elizabethans - and in his catalog of the plays' tyrannical characters, locates some very familiar contemporary types. THERE THERE, by Tommy Orange. (Knopf, $25.95.) Orange's devastatingly beautiful debut novel, about a group of characters converging on the San Francisco Bay Area for an event called the "Big Oakland Powwow," explores what it means to be an urban Native American. A VIEW OF THE EMPIRE AT SUNSET, by Caryl Phillips. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $27.) Set in England, France and the Caribbean, Phillips's fragmented novel uses the difficult, lonely life of the half-Welsh, half-West-Indian writer Jean Rhys (author of "Wide Sargasso Sea") to explore themes of alienation, colonialism and exile. THE MORALIST: Woodrow Wilson and the World He Made, by Patricia O'Toole. (Simon & Schuster, $35.) O'Toole focuses on the public deeds of a president who has become a source of almost endless controversy. She describes a politician deft at shifting his views to gain power and achieve important reforms. PURE HOLLYWOOD: And Other Stories, by Christine Schutt. (Grove, $23.) These expert stories by a Pulitzer finalist are awash in money, lush foliage and menace, in prose so offbeat it's revelatory. DRAWN TOGETHER, by Minh Le. Illustrated by Dan Santat. (Hyperion, $17.99; ages 4 to 8.) In this picture book, a boy and his grandpa, who doesn't speak English, sit glumly until they begin to draw a comic-book epic together, bridging the language and generational divide in a way that's at once touching and thrilling. The full reviews of these and other recent books are on the web:
Publishers Weekly Review
O'Toole (The Five of Hearts: An Intimate Portrait of Henry Adams and His Friends, 1880-1918) offers a comprehensive biography of Woodrow Wilson and a fresh perspective on his moral vision and legacy. The book provides an intimate portrait of Wilson's life and identifies his "deep sense of moral responsibility" as the guiding factor behind his actions and decision-making: his extensive domestic reforms to broaden economic security, his invasion of Mexico to stave off revolution and dictatorship there, his belief in U.S. neutrality after the outbreak of war in Europe, his eventual decision to send troops to make the world "safe for democracy," and his fight for the League of Nations. O'Toole writes with compassion and impartiality, and does not fail to note Wilson's self-righteousness, his political blunders, and the more sordid aspects of his administration-his "immoral bargain" of segregating the civil service in return for Southern Democratic votes, his "refusal to budge on women's suffrage," and his stifling of wartime dissent. Unfortunately, Wilson's interventions in Central America and the Caribbean are only granted a couple of passing mentions; scholars and students of foreign policy will notice that glaring omission. Nevertheless, this gracefully written account will likely renew debates on Wilson's role in a century of U.S. foreign policy and the role of the United States in international affairs. (Apr.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.