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True Believers

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  1,889 ratings  ·  444 reviews
In True Believers, Kurt Andersen—the New York Times bestselling and critically acclaimed author of Heyday and Turn of the Century—delivers his most powerful and moving novel yet. Dazzling in its wit and effervescent insight, this kaleidoscopic tour de force of cultural observation and seductive storytelling alternates between the present and the 1960s—and indelibly capture ...more
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published July 10th 2012 by Random House (first published January 1st 2012)
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3.59  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,889 ratings  ·  444 reviews

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switterbug (Betsey)
Apr 20, 2012 rated it it was ok
Sixty-five-year-old Karen Hollander is an attorney with Type I diabetes, a heavyweight résumé and a Wikipedia entry. Her CV includes (but not limited to) author of four best-selling books, dean of a law school, a corporate lawyer in a powerful law firm, and U.S. Justice Department official. She’s divorced, with accomplished, brilliant children, and she’s devoted to her granddaughter, Waverly, a seventeen-year-old on her way to becoming a likeness of the achieving Karen (with some cute malapropis ...more
Jul 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I will not summarize or review the book's plot because you, dear reader, can find that done effectively and well by other readers.

Andersen at one points quotes Karl Marx' statement that history repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce. How very true of this novel as well. Andersen has to a remarkable degree captured the tenor of the times, first through the eyes of a teenager in the 1960s, and then through the retrospective vision of that same woman over forty years later. (Forget abou
Jun 18, 2012 rated it liked it
One week before the publication date of “True Believers,” a novel about the '60s, Kurt Andersen published an oped in the New York Times suggesting that that storied decade, with exhortations to “do your own thing,” was the source of subsequent patterns of greed and selfishness in our culture. It was a provocative thesis that made Andersen a sought-after guest on politically-oriented TV talk shows that don't ordinarily host novelists. The ensuing discussion of the issue merged perfectly with prom ...more
Jun 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
My review in Vanity Fair for Kurt's beautiful, enormous and athletic book:

True Believers (Random House), by Kurt Andersen, takes place in the near future and not so recent past. Its unflinching narrator, Karen Hollander, describes herself on page one as a Reliable Narrator. Readers may be forgiven for putting up a red flag at this point, but not for turning away. An attorney, TV commentator, and former Justice Depart- ment official, Karen, in her mid-60s, has just stepped away from a likely Supr

An engaging thriller, even if the characters never quite came to life, in a counter-culture I didn't really recognize (despite the obligitory Jimi Hendrix concert, urgent dorm room politics, family dinner fights over who is a fascist and protests against the war in Vietnam). I could forgive those faults and even admit that the walk down a movie set version of memory lane was kind of fun. I might have gone so far as to award 4 stars for being a fairly entertaining slice of nostalgia, were it n
Sep 12, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
True Believers is an interesting book on several levels; a “coming of age” story, written by a man with a female protagonist – both “children of the 1960’s”. Focusing on that very turbulent decade – the Vietnam War, assassinations, religion, feminism, political protest, sex, drugs and of course, “Rock and Roll” – the author also indirectly shines a very bright light on our current times. This is a nostalgic journey that connects the dots explaining how we got to where we are today, and a case in ...more
Bonnie Brody
May 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
Karen Hollander lived through the sixties and remembers the time almost mnemonically. She is now in her sixties and “is reliable. I am an oldest child. Highly imperfect, by no stretch a goody-goody. But I was a reliable U.S. Supreme Court Clerk and then a reliable Legal Aid lawyer, representing with all the verve and cunning I could muster some of the most pathetically, tragically unreliable people on earth. I have been a reliable partner in America’s nineteenth largest law firm, a reliable auth ...more
Diane Kistner
Oct 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
First, let me say that I was pleasantly surprised that a male author was able to get inside the head of a female character and present her like an intelligent person and not a subservient bimbo cliche. I really appreciate that. Second, let me say that I found the book to be too long; it kept going and going and going well after I thought it should have ended. I think it could have benefitted from some tightening, although surprises continued to present themselves up through the very end.

This nov
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
I'm not sure how realistic this story is. There were some things that seemed far-fetched, but it had me turning the pages, so I'm not complaining. It was believable enough, and with fiction, that's enough for me. I finished the book in just a few days.

The premise is that Karen Hollander, age 64 in 2013, is in the process of writing a book about her life, culminating in the revelation of a huge secret she's been keeping since 1968. It involves serious criminal activity, and people died. That's al
MisterLiberry Head
Nov 10, 2012 rated it did not like it
I wish that this novel had lived up to the lure of the line: “I once set out to commit a spectacular murder, and people died.” Confessing to an unstated crime in a potentially best-selling memoir is Karen Hollander--a famous attorney who has withdrawn herself from consideration as a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. She’s been keeping a secret for 40 years--and, despite the confessional purpose of her narrative, she stays coy about specifics and mostly teases the reader or overloads with details about ...more
Jun 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
True Believers is a book that crept up on me. I started it off, and I wasn't sure if I would like it. Then, before I knew it, I was staying up until 4:30 in the morning to try to finish it.

The only reason I wasn't sure about it is because I did not grow up in the 1960's.(I was born in '86)

But this book wasn't just written for the baby boomers. All I had to do was make a few inferences and utilize Google when I got to some terms I wasn't familiar with.

For example, I found myself searching the fol
Feb 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I couldn't put down this novel! When Karen Hollander, a highly esteemed lawyer, is on a short list of Supreme Court nominees, she takes her name out of consideration because of something that she did in 1968. She has kept this secret for over forty years, and as she begins to write her tell-all memoir, she tracks down her old friends for answers to questions she has.

This is a fabulous coming-of-age story of a woman who as an adolescent acted out wild, exciting "James Bond" spy missions with her
Jun 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
I won this ARC via Early Reviews Program at LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review.

I liked this book a lot. The cover in incredibly eye catching and is the main reason I attempted to win a copy of the book. The summary was also intriguing, as well as the title. All these things piqued my interest and I’m definitely glad I got the chance to read this!

This book jumped back and forth from the 60’s to the present, all from Karen Hollander’s point of view, but it didn’t feel all over the plac
Jun 11, 2016 rated it did not like it
I can't even with this book. Here I am, someone who really would love to write a few things myself, but worry that I shouldn't, as I don't have full enough knowledge of these topics. That CLEARLY never stopped Kurt Andersen in writing this book.

A few notes to you, sir:
1. The film version of Grease was released in 1978.
2. Not sure how the theme to Dr. No could be played years before the film's release, but okay.
3. How is it that you spend PAGES UPON PAGES talking about your main character's Type
Mal Warwick
Sep 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: trade-fiction
Kurt Andersen’s short bio on describes True Believers as “a novel about youth, secrets, lies, politics, love and James Bond.” All that’s true, of course, but it misses the point. So far as I’m concerned, this is a book about coming of age in the famously turbulent years of the 1960s.

I’m eight or ten years older than Karen Hollander, Andersen’s protagonist, so I experienced that era of assassination, the Vietnam War, the Generation Gap, the Credibility Gap, the Levitation of the Penta
Sep 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime-fiction
To classify this as crime fiction does it any injustice. While crimes take place, it is their impact 40 years later that create the tension in the book. Karen Hollander is writing her memoirs. She has led an exemplary life, except for one small incident. Along with her best friends, Chuck Levy and Alex MacAllister, Karen believed in the ideals of King Arthur from T.H. White's "The once and future king", might does not make right. At Harvard, Karen, Chuck and Alex meet Buzzy Freeman, a Vietnam ve ...more
Ashley FL
Apr 28, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: giveaways
I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher. Based on the back copy, I was expecting a legal thriller and it took me a while to adjust to the book: it is most definitely not a legal thriller, but more of the main character's reminiscences and self-analysis of her experiences in the turbulent late 1960s. It is meandering and there is a lot of navel-gazing. I think if I had been prepared for that going in, I would have enjoyed the book more. It is long, and I spent many many pages waiting fo ...more
Feb 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Truly believable

I think I got extra enjoyment out of this novel because I am the same age as the main character who is, for her sins, writing a memoir of her life, researching her past,and living her life throughout this endeavor. I felt like I knew her, and her life was very familiar. In her first person, the story is clear, and wry, humorous and sad, and very rewarding to experience. Brilliantly conceived and written, True Believers: A Novel is a read not to be missed. The narrator’s analysis
Mar 30, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: loathed
Bor-ing! If you were a radical in the 1960s, you’ll love this book. But if you’re like me and went to a couple of peace rallies and then happily sauntered back to your apartment to water your plants and drink chamomile tea, you might find this book to be one big yawn. I like a clever story, not a lecture on history and politics; not a treatise that smothers a weak storyline and calls itself fiction.

Anderson is smart and writes well, but his background in journalism makes him a better reporter th
There's an old saying that goes something to the effect of "if you're not liberal when you're 20 you don't have a heart; if you're not conservative when you're 50 you don't have a brain." While that statement at face value has little to do with Kurt Andersen's third novel, it was something I thought of quite a bit while reading True Believers, as the change of viewpoint over time and realizing how the degree of importance of certain instances in one's past can be interpreted quite differently wi ...more
Apr 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Karen Hollender is 64 years old and has decided to write the story of her life. She was recently on a short list of candidates for appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court but she has taken her name out of the running. In this novel, we find out why and what secret she has been hiding for many years.

In this wonderful book, we learn about Karen's loving, middle-class upbringing in Wilmette, Illinois. It is the early 1960's and she and her best friends Chuck and Alex are all James Bond fanatics and t
Jun 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I got this book through First Reads and I was really excited to get it started. The book is a fictional autobiography of Karen Hollaender/Hollander, a prominent lawyer and academic who turns down a Supreme Court nomination. Early in the novel, we learn that Karen turned down the nomination because she was nervous that an incident from her past would be brought to light during the confirmation process. I will refrain from revealing this incident in my review so don't worry about spoilers.

Karen na
Apr 18, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
Surprisingly suspenseful, despite not being a “who dunnit.”

Written from the point of view of Karen Hollander, a successful, 65-year old female lawyer who withdrew her name from consideration for nomination to the United States Supreme Court, with frequent flashbacks to her life from age 8-20. Although the reader knows from the beginning that the pivotal events in her life occurred during her early college years and suspects that these pivotal events are the cause for the withdrawing of her name
Jun 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I received True Believers as an Advance Reader Edition. I'm not usually a reader of novels that focus around politics but I found this book very interesting. It was a great mix of mystery, history, and relationships.
The story is about Karen Hollander, a successful lawyer, who chooses to forego consideration for the U.S. Supreme Court. Karen has a dark secret from her past that she has decided to reveal in a memoir.
Writing the memoir makes her revisit her childhood and teen-age years growing up
In True Believers, narrator Karen Hollander is busy writing her memoir following her decision to withdraw from consideration for a spot on the Supreme Court. She explains that she wanted to bring an incident from her past to light that would have sunk her nomination if she had not withdrawn. The author, Kurt Andersen, does a good job of navigating between Karen's past and her present. The story takes place both in Karen’s present, where she explains the process of writing her memoir, and in her ...more
Jul 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: war-novels
This is romance in the people-in-love sense but more a romance of the 60s. The action in the 2013 setting revolves around research into the past, so it’s a tale told through filtered memory and research - just like history. The 64 yr old law prof main character writes a memoir to set the record straight on her 60s activism before she starts to lose her memory, and knowing "how memory and history are sugar coated," she tries to arrive at the truth. The mystery is secondary to the 60s social histo ...more
Sean Buckridge
Jun 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I won this book (an ARC) through a GoodReads giveaway.

A synopsis can be found here:

I have literally just finished this book after a 7 hour marathon reading session. I didn't intend on reading for that long, but got drawn into the story. I found the book to be compelling for multiple reasons.
The first is that I was a baby when the anti-war protests of the late 60's were happening. Anderson paints a very vivid picture of the political and social climate du
Jul 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed True Believers by Kurt Andersen. Karen Hollander is the narrator of the story and alternates what she is telling between the present (2013) and the past (1960s). She is writing her memoir, mainly dealing with her youth in Wilmette, IL and the 1960s (Martin Luther King, Malcom X, SDS, drugs, college and anti-Vietnam protests). Andersen has done a great job with the characters. To me they were believeable and likeable. It was very entertaining to reminisce about life in the 60 ...more
Jun 21, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads, fiction
This was a first-reads giveaway book. This book is fiction but is written as though it is the memoir of a woman named Karen. I liked Karen immediately and was insanely curious about what happened in 1968. She starts right away saying that she did something big and people died as a result but doesn't way what actually happened until much later.

This book is written just like a memoir and not like a normal fiction book. So even though it is fiction, if you don't like memoirs you may not like this b
Jul 29, 2012 rated it liked it
In a nutshell: former Supreme Court nominee Karen H begins a memoir with the proclamation that she will talk about 'everything' regarding Midwestern youth, Harvard in the late 60's, etc--and some horrible misdeed involving childhood friends (James Bond aficionados) that has never been revealed nor discussed with anyone.

According to the book, a 'believer' was what soldiers in Vietnam termed any recently killed comrade; the title comes into literal and figurative play several times through the bo
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Kurt Andersen is the author of the novels Turn of the Century, Heyday, and True Believers, and and, with Alec Baldwin of You Can't Spell America Without Me. His non-fiction books include Fantasyland, Reset and The Real Thing.

He is also host of the Peabody Award-winning weekly public radio program Studio 360,.

Previously, Kurt was a co-founder and editor-in-chief of the satirical magazine Spy, edito
“Back then I used to say that I despised the new coinage “quality time,” that it was yuppie parents’ smiley-face equivalent to lawyers’ “billable hours.” 2 likes
“Then I read The Once and Future King, and for most of a year I was young Arthur, Dad was Merlyn, and it was my destiny to create the perfect kingdom of Camelot somewhere beyond northeastern Illinois.” 2 likes
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