The holidays are looming over us like the tree I saw at Rockefeller Center last week: big, bright, twinkly, and able to cause the more pressing aspects of life to temporarily fade out of view. I'll admit that the upcoming holidays already have me under their spell. It looks to me like others are enchanted as well. Along with mailing some presents, I'm not so sure that some of the reviewers in the book media aren't guilty of mailing in their reviews and articles a little in anticipation of earning a much-needed break. I did my best to find the best of the week.
The best-selling Bill Clinton has written a new book. It's called Back to Work: Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy, and the Times describes it as "less a bold plan to create jobs than it is a passionate rebuttal of 'our 30-year antigovernment obsession.' That obsession, he insists, is public enemy No. 1. He also seems to be sending a barely disguised message to Barack Obama to join him in confronting the antigovernment chorus." Although directed in part at Tea Partiers, this is a book that probably won't get many Tea Party readers. As to who might be interested in reading President Clinton's book, reviewer Jeff Madrick has this to say: "Many inside the Beltway welcome Clinton’s modest pragmatism. They think it politically realistic. But if those few people who have a national megaphone — like a former president — don’t use it to influence and change America’s thinking, who will? The nation badly needs a counternarrative to the antigovernment orthodoxy Clinton describes. His is welcome. But even if we adopted all of his suggestions, America would still have a long way to go." I talked to President Clinton about his book a couple weeks ago. If you're interested, you can hear the conversation on the book page.
Former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice's No Higher Honor: A Memoir of My Years in Washington is reviewed by Susan Chira, who writes that the book addresses Rice's strong personal and working relationship with President George W. Bush. “I liked him," Rice writes. "He was funny and irreverent but serious about policy.” We also learn that she had troubles with Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. And of course she talks about the very active foreign policy that she and Bush undertook during their tenure. Is summary, Chira writes, "No Higher Honor really shows us two Condoleezza Rices: one, the impatient unilateralist who was national security adviser, the other the born-again diplomat who, as secretary of state, worked to repair some of the damage that had been done to American credibility by its unilateralism. 'People were tired of us,' she told the president a few months before they left office. A humbling thought as history renders judgment."