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Early reviewers are panning John Bolton’s new tell-all book

John Bolton at the White House in 2018.Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Readers are flocking to buy former White House aide John Bolton’s forthcoming book, “The Room Where It Happened,” sending the 577-page memoir to the top of Amazon’s bestseller list before it even hits bookstore shelves. But that hasn’t stopped critics from panning the book in several early reviews.

The ex-national security adviser unloads criticism on President Trump ― plus a litany of his counselors ― as he makes a series of troubling allegations about the president’s conduct. Bolton, who was urged to testify during Trump’s impeachment proceedings but refused to do so unless he was subpoenaed by Senate Republicans, now largely confirms the impeachment testimony of several former Trump administration officials.


Here are excerpts from several early reviews of the book, which is set to be released Tuesday.

The New York Times called the book “tedious” and “bloated with self-importance.”

Jennifer Szalai of The New York Times eviscerates Bolton’s book as an exercise in exhausting its readers, writing that it contains so much superfluous detail that it blunts the force of the serious allegations he makes of Trump.

The book, Szalai writes, “has been written with so little discernible attention to style and narrative form that he apparently presumes an audience that is hanging on his every word.”

Szalai also criticized Bolton’s conceit and fixation on perceived enemies.

“The book is bloated with self-importance, even though what it mostly recounts is Bolton not being able to accomplish very much. It toggles between two discordant registers: exceedingly tedious and slightly unhinged,” she wrote.

The Washington Post found a disconnect between Bolton’s candor when it comes to others and his lack of self-reflection.

In its review, The Washington Post questions Bolton’s decision not to make any serious attempt to hold Trump accountable, and joins other critics in describing Bolton as self-important.


“Bolton is the hero of nearly every anecdote in the book. Indeed, for a memoir that is startlingly candid about many things, Bolton’s utter lack of self-criticism is one of the book’s significant shortcomings. Nearly every policy discussion is an opportunity for Bolton to say that he was right, people should have listened to him, he knew it would never work, he was vindicated,” the Post’s David Ignatius writes.

NPR said that the book is revealing, but perhaps not in the way Bolton intended.

NPR’s Ron Elving also found fault with the book’s overly detailed prose, and suggests many readers may not be able to get through it.

“Bolton’s account often reads as though torn from pages of his daily planner, rife with references to the time he rose and arrived at the White House or the details of his travel and the heads of state with whom he shared a tête-à-tête,” Elving writes. “Like others who have left the Trump ambit to write ‘tell-alls’ about him, Bolton sets out to describe Trump’s ego and narcissism and also reveals a good deal about his own. If not right about everything, he is at least right about a great many things. Like Trump, he finds others to blame when his predictions or wagers go awry.”

“He clearly does not expect to attract the casual reader,” he adds. “Or anyone else unable to digest sentences such as this one on the third page: ‘Constant personnel turnover obviously didn’t help, nor did the White House’s Hobbesian bellum omnium contra omnes (”war of all against all”).' ”


The New Yorker had perhaps the most succinct critique of Bolton’s book, and the genre it represents.

Christina Prignano can be reached at christina.prignano@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @cprignano.