A FINANCIAL TIMES BEST BOOK OF 2020
A concise, brilliant, and trenchant examination of Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s successful lifelong quest for the presidency by National Book Award winner Evan Osnos.
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 leads America toward recovery and renewal.
Blending up-close journalism and broader context, Evan Osnos, who won the National Book Award in 2014, draws on nearly a decade of reporting for The New Yorker to capture the characters and meaning of 2020’s 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 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 Vice President Kamala Harris as his running mate.
Osnos ponders the difficulties Biden faces as his presidency begins and weighs how a changing country, a deep well of experiences, and a rigorous approach to the issues, 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.
The Democratic presidential nominee is a soothing moderate who may become a Rooseveltian progressive, argues this probing but sympathetic biographical sketch. Journalist Osnos (Age of Ambition) draws on vivid reportage from his New Yorker profiles of Biden to paint him as an unprepossessing but effective politician who is good at connecting with voters and wrangling with congressional leaders and foreign potentates; dedicated to a "sobering case for moral decency, for reasonableness"; and "the man who between Americans and four more years of Trump," which is what matters most to "a country in peril." Osnos's less-than-hard-hitting character study downplays Biden's shaky performance during the early days of the Democratic primary campaign, interprets his gaffes and garrulousness as signs of passion and empathy, and styles his exaggerations and plagiarisms as "the excesses of a man who wanted every story to sing." Osnos offers a shrewd analysis of Biden's predicament as "the nominee of a party gradually marching left, which was desperate to win over moderates and Republicans who were terrified of that march to the left," and quotes liberal pundits on how Biden could maneuver a Bernie Sandersesque progressive agenda through Congress. The result is a portrait of the candidate that's smart and evocative, but not immune to wishful thinking.
Customer ReviewsSee All
I loved the book. He is just what the country needs, honesty, intergraty and good ole family values.
I am a republican. I believe our country will be destroyed by Biden. This is the smallest rating that was available.
An illegitimate president, he is unfit physically and mentally to handle the office. The American people were cheated.