Quick Review: LEADERSHIP by Doris Kearns Goodwin (Simon & Schuster)

GoodwinDK-LeadershipUSAn excellent examination of four presidents, their development into leaders, and how they overcame the challenges they faced

Are leaders born or made? Where does ambition come from? How does adversity affect the growth of leadership? Does the leader make the times or do the times make the leader?

In Leadership, Goodwin draws upon the four presidents she has studied most closely — Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Lyndon B. Johnson (in civil rights) — to show how they recognized leadership qualities within themselves and were recognized as leaders by others. By looking back to their first entries into public life, we encounter them at a time when their paths were filled with confusion, fear, and hope.

Leadership tells the story of how they all collided with dramatic reversals that disrupted their lives and threatened to shatter forever their ambitions. Nonetheless, they all emerged fitted to confront the contours and dilemmas of their times.

No common pattern describes the trajectory of leadership. Although set apart in background, abilities, and temperament, these men shared a fierce ambition and a deep-seated resilience that enabled them to surmount uncommon hardships. At their best, all four were guided by a sense of moral purpose. At moments of great challenge, they were able to summon their talents to enlarge the opportunities and lives of others.

This seminal work provides an accessible and essential road map for aspiring and established leaders in every field. In today’s polarized world, these stories of authentic leadership in times of apprehension and fracture take on a singular urgency.

Doris Kearns Goodwin is one of the best presidential historians working today. Best known for her superb, exhaustive biography of Abraham Lincoln’s Cabinet and presidency, Team of Rivals, Goodwin has also written substantial biographies of Lyndon B. Johnson (who she worked for), Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. In Leadership, she examines how Lincoln, Johnson, FDR and TR developed into the leadership roles they inhabited. It is an excellent distillation of her previous scholarship with that specific question in mind. Engaging, rigorous, and illuminating, this is an excellent history. Continue reading

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Upcoming: THRAWN — ALLIANCES by Timothy Zahn (Century)

ZahnT-SW-Thrawn2-AlliancesTimothy Zahn‘s Thrawn novels are considered many to be among the best (if not the best) of the original Expanded Universe (now “Legacy”) Star Wars novels. The author has brought this fan-favourite character into the new Star Wars canon in Thrawn, and now Thrawn: Alliances. Here’s the synopsis:

Grand Admiral Thrawn and Darth Vader team up against a threat to the Empire…

“I have sensed a disturbance in the Force.”

Ominous words under any circumstances, but all the more so when uttered by Emperor Palpatine. On Batuu, at the edges of the Unknown Regions, a threat to the Empire is taking root — its existence little more than a glimmer, its consequences as yet unknowable. But it is troubling enough to the Imperial leader to warrant investigation by his most powerful agents: ruthless enforcer Lord Darth Vader and brilliant strategist Grand Admiral Thrawn. Fierce rivals for the emperor’s favor, and outspoken adversaries on Imperial affairs — including the Death Star project — the formidable pair seem unlikely partners for such a crucial mission. But the Emperor knows it’s not the first time Vader and Thrawn have joined forces. And there’s more behind his royal command than either man suspects.

In what seems like a lifetime ago, General Anakin Skywalker of the Galactic Republic, and Commander Mitth’raw’nuruodo, officer of the Chiss Ascendancy, crossed paths for the first time. One on a desperate personal quest, the other with motives unknown . . . and undisclosed. But facing a gauntlet of dangers on a far-flung world, they forged an uneasy alliance — neither remotely aware of what their futures held in store.

Now, thrust together once more, they find themselves bound again for the planet where they once fought side by side. There they will be doubly challenged — by a test of their allegiance to the Empire… and an enemy that threatens even their combined might.

Thrawn: Alliances is due to be published next week in the UK by Century and in North America by Del Rey.

The publisher is currently running a pre-order promotion, too! If you pre-order the novel, and fill out this form, then they will send you a replica-pin of Thrawn’s rank insignia (below). Which is rather nifty.

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Follow the Author: Facebook, Goodreads

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Review: ALL OUR WRONG TODAYS by Elan Mastai (Doubleday)

MastaiE-AllOurWrongTodaysUSAn excellent debut novel, one of the first must reads of 2017

There’s no such thing as the life you’re “supposed” to have.

You know the future that people in the 1950s imagined we’d have? Well, it happened. In Tom Barren’s 2016, humanity thrives in a techno-utopian paradise of flying cars, moving sidewalks and moon bases, where avocados never go bad and punk rock never existed… because it wasn’t necessary.

Except Tom just can’t seem to find his place in this dazzling, idealistic world, and that’s before his life gets turned upside down. Utterly blindsided by an accident of fate, Tom makes a rash decision that drastically changes not only his own life but the very fabric of the universe itself. In a time-travel mishap, Tom finds himself stranded in our 2016, what we think of as the real world. For Tom, our normal reality seems like a dystopian wasteland.

But when he discovers wonderfully unexpected versions of his family, his career and — maybe, just maybe — his soulmate, Tom has a decision to make. Does he fix the flow of history, bringing his utopian universe back into existence, or does he try to forge a new life in our messy, unpredictable reality? Tom’s search for the answer takes him across countries, continents and timelines in a quest to figure out, finally, who he really is and what his future — our future — is supposed to be.

Elan Mastai is the writer of, among other things, The F Word — a movie set in Toronto that I found utterly charming and amusing. When I discovered that he’d written a novel, I immediately tried to get a review copy. I eventually did (thank you, Doubleday!), and I am delighted to report that the novel did not disappoint. All Our Wrong Todays is an endearing, amusing, thought-provoking novel. Certainly, it is one of the year’s first must-reads. Continue reading

Some Quick Audiobook Reviews…

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A quick round-up of six recent audiobook listens. Mostly, very good.

Featuring: Carrie Fisher, Frederick Forsyth, Anna Kendrick, Trevor Noah, Graham Norton, Nikki Sixx

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Review: THE FUTURES by Anna Pitoniak (Lee Boudreaux Books/Michael Joseph)

PitoniakA-TheFuturesUSAn interesting, engaging novel about a young couple whose hopes and dreams must confronting cold reality in New York…

Julia and Evan fall in love as undergraduates at Yale. For Evan, a scholarship student from a rural Canadian town, Yale is a whole new world, and Julia — blond, beautiful, and rich — fits perfectly into the future he’s envisioned for himself. After graduation, and on the eve of the great financial meltdown of 2008, they move together to New York City, where Evan lands a job at a hedge fund. But Julia, whose privileged upbringing grants her an easy but wholly unsatisfying job with a nonprofit, feels increasingly shut out of Evan’s secretive world.

With the market crashing and banks failing, Evan becomes involved in a high-stakes deal at work — a deal that, despite the assurances of his Machiavellian boss, begins to seem more than slightly suspicious. Meanwhile, Julia reconnects with someone from her past who offers a glimpse of a different kind of live. As the economy craters, and as Evan and Julia spin into their separate orbits, they each find that they are capable of much more — good and bad — than they’d ever imagined.

This novel has received an incredible amount of early buzz — I’ve seen it mentioned and praised since early 2016. Naturally, this made me curious, and I was lucky enough to get an eARC a little while ago. Overall, this is an enjoyable, well-written novel set in New York. Continue reading

Upcoming: THE BOOK OF MIRRORS by E.O. Chirovici (Century/Atria)

ChiroviciEO-BookOfMirrors

I am really looking forward to this novel. Already sold in 38 territories, UK-based Romanian author E.O. Chirovici‘s first novel in English, The Book of Mirrors, sounds great. You can read a short piece about it from the Guardian here. Here’s the synopsis:

When big-shot literary agent Peter Katz receives an unfinished manuscript entitled The Book of Mirrors, he is intrigued. 

The author, Richard Flynn is writing a memoir about his time at Princeton in the late 80s, documenting his relationship with the famous Professor Joseph Wieder. 

One night in 1987, Wieder was brutally murdered in his home and the case was never solved. 

Peter Katz is hell-bent on getting to the bottom of what happened that night twenty-five years ago and is convinced the full manuscript will reveal who committed the violent crime.

But other people’s recollections are dangerous weapons to play with, and this might be one memory that is best kept buried.

Unfortunately, we have quite some time to wait before we’ll be able to get our mitts on the book: The Book of Mirrors is due to be published on January 26th, 2017 in the UK by Century; and in February 2017 in North America, by Atria Books. Well, given that it’s September already, I suppose it’s not that far away. It just feels like it…

Review: THE LAST ONE by Alexandra Oliva (Ballantine/Penguin)

OlivaA-TheLastOneUSReality TV collides with catastrophic reality…

She wanted an adventure. She never imagined it would go this far.

It begins with a reality TV show. Twelve contestants are sent into the woods to face challenges that will test the limits of their endurance. While they are out there, something terrible happens — but how widespread is the destruction, and has it occurred naturally or is it man-made? Cut off from society, the contestants know nothing of it. When one of them — a young woman the show’s producers call Zoo — stumbles across the devastation, she can imagine only that it is part of the game.

Alone and disoriented, Zoo is heavy with doubt regarding the life — and husband — she left behind, but she refuses to quit. Staggering countless miles across unfamiliar territory, Zoo must summon all her survival skills — and learn new ones as she goes.

But as her emotional and physical reserves dwindle, she grasps that the real world might have been altered in terrifying ways — and her ability to parse the charade will be either her triumph or her undoing.

This novel has a very interesting concept: what happens when the filming of a Survivor-type reality show coincides with an actual apocalypse? In The Last One, we follow a contestant for an expansive reality TV series as she navigates a post-apocalyptic American wilderness. Only, she thinks it’s all part of the game… Continue reading