Synopses & Reviews
A concise, brilliant, and trenchant examination of Democratic Nominee Joseph R. Biden Jr.'s lifelong quest for the presidency by National Book Award winner Evan Osnos, adapted from nearly a decade of his reporting for The New Yorker.
Former vice president Joseph R. Biden Jr. has been called both the luckiest man and the unluckiest — fortunate to have sustained a fifty-year political career that reached the White House, but also marked by deep personal losses and disappointments that he has suffered.
Yet even as Biden's life has been shaped by drama, it has also been powered by a willingness, rare at the top ranks of politics, to confront his shortcomings, errors, and reversals of fortune. As he says, "Failure at some point in your life is inevitable, but giving up is unforgivable." His trials have forged in him a deep empathy for others in hardship — an essential quality as he addresses Americans in the nation's most dire hour in decades.
Blending up-close journalism and broader context, Evan Osnos, who won the National Book Award in 2014, draws on his work for The New Yorker to capture the characters and meaning of an extraordinary presidential election. It is based on lengthy interviews with Biden and on revealing conversations with more than a hundred others, including President Barack Obama, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg, and a range of progressive activists, advisers, opponents, and Biden family members.
This portrayal illuminates Biden's long and eventful career in the Senate, his eight years as Obama's vice president, his sojourn in the political wilderness after being passed over for Hillary Clinton in 2016, his decision to challenge Donald Trump for the presidency, and his choice of Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate.
Osnos ponders the difficulties Biden will face if elected and weighs how political circumstances, and changes in the candidate's thinking, have altered his positions. In this nuanced portrait, Biden emerges as flawed, yet resolute, and tempered by the flame of tragedy — a man who just may be uncannily suited for his moment in history.
"[A] probing biographical sketch, drawing on vivid reportage from his New Yorker profiles [and] shrewd analysis, the result is a portrait of the candidate that's smart and evocative." Publishers Weekly
"[A] solid foundation for evaluating one of the most important figures in American governance." Booklist
"[From] an immensely talented reporter for The New Yorker, Joe Biden ably takes the measure of the man and the politician, presenting a picture of the Democratic nominee that is in a few ways unexpected." The Washington Post
About the Author
Evan Osnos has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 2008. His most recent book, Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China, won the National Book Award, among other honors. Previously he reported from China, Iraq, and elsewhere for the Chicago Tribune, where he shared a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting. He lives with his wife and children in Washington, DC.
Emily B. on PowellsBooks.Blog
We can't put things back the way they were before and, in many ways, we shouldn't want to, but we can take time this inauguration day to reset, refocus, and think about the concrete policy changes we want to see made. As a small step towards that lofty goal, we have put together a reading list based on President-elect Biden's publicized policy goals for his first 100 days in office...