By Elizabeth Bumiller
432 pages. Random House
A musician with a mushroom cloud? A hawk with a dovish name (Condoleezza derives from con dolcezza, “with sweetness”)? Admire or dislike her, our piano-playing secretary of state is a political anomaly, a descendant of slaves aligned with the power elite; a pragmatist with an emotional bent; a God-fearing “high priestess of a changed world.” Elisabeth Bumiller’s judicious and riveting biography Condoleezza Rice: An American Life (Random House) takes us from the White House bunker, where as national security adviser she anxiously watched the 9/11 disaster unfold, to the explosive Middle East, where she juggles the fates of nations in her ambitious hands.