Books in Brief

Books reviewed in The Atlantic Monthly in 2005

Louis I. Kahn, by Robert McCarter (Phaidon)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("He Found It at the Movies," September 2005)

"[A] nearly 500-page triumph of bookmaking—handsomely designed, clearly and perceptively written, comprehensive in scope, luxuriantly graced with photographs and illustrations."


Confessions of a Slacker Mom, by Muffy Mead-Ferro (Da Capo Press)
Reviewed by Sandra Tsing Loh ("Marshal Plan," March 2005)

"Mead-Ferro ... practices such control over rampant familial consumerism that it's almost Zen. The Slacker Mom, among other things, does not childproof, buy educational toys, make memory scrapbooks, pick superior preschools, drive her kids to a flurry of after-school lessons, or videotape athletic events—or even, particularly, show up at them."


The Three-Martini Playdate, by Christie Mellor (Chronicle Books)
Reviewed by Sandra Tsing Loh ("Marshal Plan," March 2005)

"If the nineties were the romantic, feelings-centered, nurture-over-nature era of child-rearing, in the aughts Three-Martini Playdate advocates a highly structured return to civilization, if not actually its discontents."


The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution 1763-1789, by Robert Middlekauff (Oxford University Press)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("Clothes-Minded," March 2005)

"First released twenty-three years ago, this book, just published in an expanded and thoroughly revised edition, remains the best one-volume history of the American Revolution, and among the best narrative American histories of the past half century."


The Meaning of Independence: John Adams, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, by Edmund Sears Morgan (University Press of Virginia)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("Clothes-Minded," March 2005)

"There's simply no better way of comprehending Washington and Adams than reading this book, which has been reissued in an updated edition."


Against the Beast, by John Nichols (Nation Books)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("The Lost Crusade," April 2005)

"Nichols too often lets his political prejudices get the better of his professed non-interventionism—and in so doing shirks his editorial responsibilities. Hence we're treated to the less than penetrating sloganeering of Tim Robbins and Patti Smith regarding the war in Iraq; but in a chapter devoted to post-Cold War foreign policy Nichols skips from opposition to the first President Bush's adventures in the Gulf to opposition to the second's."


Seize the Fire: Heroism, Duty, and the Battle of Trafalgar, by Adam Nicholson (HarperCollins)
Reviewed by Christopher Hitchens ("Triumph at Trafalgar," October 2005)

"Adam Nicholson's masterly reconstruction of this event stresses one thing above all: that it was a victory of the Protestant ethic, and to a lesser extent a victory of the spirit of capitalism... he devotes a good deal of space to the economic and religious substrata of the combat between Britain and its French and Spanish foes."


Isherwood: A Life Revealed, by Peter Parker (Random House)
Reviewed by Thomas Mallon ("Darling Me," January/February 2005)

"[Isherwood] did of course have a character, however often he blurred it in fiction, and the elements from which it cohered are given vivid if delayed expression by Parker's huge book."


Video Poker Optimum Play, by Dan Paymar (ConJelCo)
Reviewed by Marc Cooper ("Sit and Spin," December 2005)

"In his straightforward Video Poker Optimum Play the retired computer expert and part-time poker-dealer instructor Dan Paymar starkly outlines the [dismal odds of winning].... If you are willing to risk $24,000 a day, over the long term you might make a little more than $150 a day."


Because I Said So, by Camille Peri and Kate Moses (HarperCollins)
Reviewed by Sandra Tsing Loh ("Kiddie Class Struggle," June 2005)

"I am suffering from Women's Anthology Fatigue. The subtitle of Because I Said So is '33 Mothers Write About Children, Sex, Men, Aging, Faith, Race & Themselves,' which alone exhausted me... [But] there are individual essays in the book that I really enjoy."


New Art City, by Jed Perl (Knopf)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("Passion in Fashion," December 2005)

"This almost impossibly rich book evokes, explores, illuminates, and analyzes the Manhattan art world of the 1940s through the early 1960s, a period that famously saw the 'triumph of American painting' and New York's concomitant rise to supremacy as the world's artistic capital."


The Truth Behind the Mommy Wars, by Miriam Peskowitz (Seal Press)
Reviewed by Sandra Tsing Loh ("Kiddie Class Struggle," June 2005)

"The Mommy Wars of which Peskowitz writes ... pit working moms against stay-at-homes. But Peskowitz argues that this is a false division."


California Rising: The Life and Times of Pat Brown, by Ethan Rarick (California)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("Golden State," June 2005)

"This sometimes excruciatingly detailed chronicle of [California Governor Pat] Brown's political history admiringly describes the infrastructure and programs, but omits analysis of their ultimate costs.... Rarick's unintentionally nostalgic account confirms what longtime residents of this most forward-looking state in the Union know in their bones: the Golden State's best days are behind it."


Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her, by Melanie Rehak (Harcourt)
Reviewed by Sandra Tsing Loh ("The Secret of the Old Saw," October 2005)

"Nancy's essential Drewness ... lies in her ability to tie villains up and make tea sandwiches—the perfect legacy from her two very different mommies. Out of the fiery editorial marriage of rough-and-tumble Mildred and refined Harriet came a perfectly behaved, kick-ass goddess-sleuth."


In Command of History, by David Reynolds (Random House)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("War Without End," November 2005)

"Reynolds carefully and engagingly separates what actually happened in 1939-1945 from Churchill's version of those events."


John Brown, Abolitionist, by David S. Reynolds (Knopf)
Reviewed by Christopher Hitchens ("The Man Who Ended Slavery," May 2005)

"[Reynolds] succeeds admirably in showing that Brown, far from being a crazed fanatic, was a serious legatee of the English and American revolutions who anticipated the Emancipation Proclamation and all that has ensued from it."


The Command of the Ocean, by N.A.M. Rodger (Norton)
Reviewed by Benjamin Schwarz ("Eminent Domains," May 2005)

"The second installment of Rodger's projected three-part naval history of Britain is one of very few books that actually warrant the adjective 'magisterial.' In this 900-plus-page volume ... Rodger elucidates the Royal Navy's rise to global preponderance and its consolidation as the single most influential institution in the nation's life."

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