‘Gorbachev: His Life and Times’

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In The New York Times Book Review, Peter Baker reviews William Taubman’s “Gorbachev: His Life and Times.” Baker writes:

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Russians despised Gorbachev as the destroyer of their empire and supported Putin as its restorer. Gorbachev lived then, as now, in a dual reality — admired and feted in Washington, London and Berlin, reviled and ostracized in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Vladivostok.

William Taubman, a professor emeritus at Amherst College, grapples with this dichotomy in his masterly new biography, “Gorbachev: His Life and Times,” which will surely stand as the definitive English-language chronicle of this most intriguing figure for many years to come. Taubman, whose brilliant 2003 biography of Nikita S. Khrushchev won the Pulitzer Prize, delivers another richly layered portrait of a Russian leader determined to reform a thoroughly corrupt and dysfunctional society, only to be swept away by forces he could not control.

On this week’s podcast, Taubman discusses “Gorbachev”; N. K. Jemisin talks about reading, writing and reviewing science fiction and fantasy; Alexandra Alter has news from the publishing world; and Gregory Cowles, Jennifer Szalai and John Williams on what people are reading. Pamela Paul is the host.

Here are the books mentioned in this week’s “What We’re Reading”:

“Skylark” by Dezso Kosztolányi

“Our Spoons Came From Woolworths” by Barbara Comyns

“Euphoria” by Lily King

We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to books@nytimes.com.

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