Part biography, part history. I enjoyed it at first and felt like I was learning a fair bit. Then the chapter on Weimar Germany happened and for me it never really got better--possibly just because life intervened and I wanted to get done with the book already, which is never the best mood for reading, but possibly because the history was explained in too dense a fashion, with too much time spent on the life stories of people who encountered Lev Nussimbaum at some point, or didn't but were important on the scene at the time. I'm sure a lot of the problem was me. Interesting subject matter though, if you're in the right mood for it. I did really enjoy reading about all the eccentric folk Reiss encountered in his research.