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Let Them Eat Candy

By 2.15.14

Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure
By Samira Kawash
Faber, 416 pages, $27

I love candy. Last year I turned 21 and had my fun, but any pleasure gained from legal drink pales in comparison with the thrill I felt at 14; employed at a local butcher’s and deli, I would take my little paychecks and peruse the candy aisles. Charleston Chews, Haribo Gummi Bears, Necco Wafers, Sour Blue Raspberry Bubble Tape: The fruits of the modern world were mine. My tastes in clothes, poets, and people changed as I matured, but I continue to appreciate the sweet stuff.

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Portrait of a Lady

By From the January-February 2014 issue

Margaret Thatcher: Power and Personality
By Jonathan Aitken

(Bloomsbury, 764 pages, $35)

In his splendid Nixon: A Life (1993), the book many credit with setting in motion the serious reevaluation of Richard Nixon and his presidency, Jonathan Aitken writes in a note: “Nixon’s childhood duties as a junior shopkeeper bear an intriguing similarity to the upbringing of Margaret Thatcher….who was raised in a small, family grocery store in Grantham, Lincolnshire, working hard in both shop and school with after-hours tuition from her highly political father, Alderman Roberts.”

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An Abuse of Discretion, An Issue Unresolved

By 1.21.14

This week’s annual March for Life in Washington, Obama’s HHS mandate, and the ongoing battle over state regulation of abortion clinics offer evidence that the matter of abortion remains unresolved in the body politic. Even liberal feminist Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has expressed regret over Roe v. Wade, claiming “it seemed to have stopped the momentum on the side of change.” Whether change is going her way is an interesting question.

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Franco, Dear

By From the December 2013 issue

Franco’s Crypt: Spanish Culture and Memory Since 1936
By Jeremy Treglown

(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 320 pages, $30) 

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The Great American Novel

By From the December 2013 issue

Norman Mailer: A Double Life
By J. Michael Lennon

(Simon & Schuster, 948 pages, $40)

This thick block of a book is packed with facts, literary analysis, and well-drawn portraits of the people who played roles in Norman Mailer’s life and career, all written in a carefully modulated and steady prose, with no wasted words.

J. Michael Lennon, professor emeritus of English at Wilkes University, met Norman Mailer in 1972, and since that meeting has been involved in collecting, collating, and editing various Mailer works. As Mailer’s literary executor, he is now editing Mailer’s correspondence for publication.

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Royalties and Royal Ties

By From the December 2013 issue

Mr. Churchill’s Profession: The Statesman as Author and the Book That Defined the “Special Relationship"
By Peter Clarke

(Bloomsbury Press, 347 pages, $30)

Churchill and the King: The Wartime Alliance of Winston Churchill and George VI
By Kenneth Weisbrode

(Viking, 208 pages, $26.95)

The same question has been asked of almost every book on Winston Churchill published over the past three decades (excepting Sir Martin Gilbert’s official biography): Do we really need another book on Churchill? When the book in question is of the caliber of Peter Clarke’s Mr. Churchill’s Profession or Kenneth Weisbrode’s Churchill and the King, the answer is yes indeed.

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Get Smart

By From the December 2013 issue

Smart Power: Between Diplomacy and War
By Christian Whiton

(Potomac Books, 304 pages, $29.95)

Christian Whiton is a man with his country in mind. A shrewd patriot and a master of national security history, he is intent on a root-and-branch reform of America’s foreign policy. Indeed, he would not only renovate some of the current principles of foreign policy as it has been recently practiced, but also clean out the stovepipe bureaucracies of our current foreign policy establishment in order to mobilize and coordinate smart power to vindicate American national interests. His sense of urgency stems from the fact that “the closer one gets to…the biggest challenges to U.S. security—especially China, Iran, and Islamism—the more one must contend…with reasons why we should do nothing.” He concludes that the State Department cannot lead the reform, not least because it is the oldest, most ossified labor union in America. 

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Warrior Diplomat

By 12.11.13

The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, An American Legend
By Bob Drury and Tom Clavin
(Simon & Schuster, 432 pages, $30)

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Christmas Books

By 12.10.13

As Christmas approaches, the shopping mall can become a shopping maul. One of the ways of buying gifts for family and friends, without becoming part of a mob scene in the stores, is to shop on the Internet. However, for many kinds of gifts, you want to be able to see it directly, and perhaps handle it, before you part with your hard-earned cash for it.

One gift for which that is unnecessary is a book. Books are ideal Christmas presents from the standpoint of saving wear and tear on the buyer.

There are the traditional coffee table books, featuring marvelous photographs by Ansel Adams or the moving human scenes in the paintings of Norman Rockwell, both of which are very appropriate books for the holiday season. But there are also more serious, or even grim, books that some people will appreciate as they read them in the new year.

One of these latter kinds of books is the recently published "Why We Won't Talk Honestly About Race" by Harry Stein. It is a bracing dose of truth, on a subject where sugarcoated lies have become the norm.

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