Although not the first biography of Volcker, Silber's book is the most up-to-date and blessedly free of jargon.

VOLCKER

THE TRIUMPH OF PERSISTENCE

From a fellow economist, an admiring biography of Paul A. Volcker.

Born in 1927, Volcker attended Princeton and eventually landed in the U.S. Treasury Department as an influential policymaker. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter appointed him chairman of the Federal Reserve, making the imposing man the most visible banker anywhere; Ronald Reagan retained Volcker as chairman. In some respects, Silber (Finance and Economics/New York Univ., Stern School of Business; When Washington Shut Down Wall Street: The Great Financial Crisis of 1914 and the Origins of America's Monetary Supremacy, 2007, etc.) delivers a conventional chronological biography light on Volcker's personal life. The author focuses instead on three daring policy battles that changed the world economic order: removing the U.S. dollar from its link to the gold supply; using fresh fiscal policies to tamp down high inflation rates; and President Obama's involving the octogenarian Volcker in the aftermath of the global financial crisis. Obama hoped, not entirely in vain, that the combination of Volcker's brilliant mind and untarnished reputation would lead to a more secure banking system through a combination of moral suasion, executive branch regulation and congressional legislation. While Silber is admiring, he provides copious evidence that Volcker is worthy of his credibility. Without Volcker in charge at certain intervals, he writes, the American financial system might have tipped from the verge of collapse into total meltdown.

Although not the first biography of Volcker, Silber's book is the most up-to-date and blessedly free of jargon.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-60819-070-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

Thankfully, King’s book is an impressive work of restoration—the author helps readers see this painting for the first time.

LEONARDO AND THE LAST SUPPER

An absorbing study of a disappearing masterpiece.

King (Defiant Spirits: The Modernist Revolution of the Group of Seven, 2010, etc.) tells the story of the most famous painting no one has really seen, at least since the 16th century: The Last Supper, the masterpiece by Leonardo da Vinci that began deteriorating almost as soon as the paint dried. King places the painting in its political, social and artistic context, describing both the meaning of da Vinci’s work and the violent 15th-century Italian world that spawned it. Proof that art, like life, sometimes happens when you’re making other plans, da Vinci’s greatest painting came about because his dream project—an enormous horse-and-rider sculpture honoring the father of his patron, Lodovico Sforza—was scuttled when Italy needed the bronze for war. For the next two years, da Vinci painted the scene of Jesus and his disciples on the wall of a monastery. In its masterful use of perspective, complementary color and achievement of lifelike detail, it marked a turning point for Western art. King plumbs the painting’s religious, secular, psychological and political meanings, registered in the facial expressions and hand positions, the significance of the food on the table and, most fascinatingly, the salt spilled by the betraying Judas. (And no, Dan Brown, Mary Magdalene is not in it.) Alas, da Vinci’s ignorance of the fresco technique meant the pigments did not bond to the plaster, and the paint would begin flaking within years. As early as 1582, it was described as being “in a state of total ruin.”

Thankfully, King’s book is an impressive work of restoration—the author helps readers see this painting for the first time.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8027-1705-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Walker

Review Posted Online: July 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

A thorough, refreshing biography by an independent-minded historian.

SEWARD

LINCOLN'S INDISPENSABLE MAN

A sympathetic, evenhanded reappraisal of President Lincoln’s secretary of state as a statesman who practiced effective preventive strategies.

Stahr (John Jay, 2005) takes issue with some of the previous “hostile” criticism of his subject as being formed after the Civil War (e.g., by Gideon Welles) and thus lending an imbalanced portrait, which the present historian aims to correct. Neither Seward nor Lincoln kept a diary of events during the era, and the author often searches for answers in the historical record by returning to contemporary sources. One question was whether Seward tried to dissuade Lincoln from issuing his Emancipation Proclamation or merely questioned its timing. (Stahr comes down on the former.) Wading through the maelstrom of congressional criticism of Seward during the war, Stahr finds that he played his diplomatic cards toward England and Russia exceedingly well. Seward was able to convince Lincoln and the cabinet to surrender the two Confederate ministers bound for England aboard the Trent in November 1861, arguing that to not do so was to risk Britain’s declaring war on the U.S. Stahr considers the full life of this energetic, devoted, certainly not flawless public servant, from his one term as Whig governor of New York, to his years in the U.S. Senate and beyond. The author amply shows how his loss to Lincoln for the first Republican presidential nomination of 1860 only spelled the nation’s gain, as Seward then campaigned tirelessly for his opponent and never lagged in his devotion to the Union.

A thorough, refreshing biography by an independent-minded historian.

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4391-2116-0

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 21, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

Beautifully constructed reflections and careful sifting of Jefferson’s thoughts and deeds.

MASTER OF THE MOUNTAIN

THOMAS JEFFERSON AND HIS SLAVES

A well-rendered yet deeply unsettling look behind the illusion of the happy slaves of Monticello.

That Jefferson was riven by contradictions as both a passionate advocate of liberty and a dedicated slave owner is not new to scholars and historians. Yet Wiencek (An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America, 2003, etc.) scours the primary sources, such as Thomas Jefferson’s Farm Book, for a thoughtful reexamination of what was really going on behind the harmonious facade of the great house on the mountain. So much about Monticello was artful, full of contrivances, contraptions, inventions and labyrinths. It was an innovative and eccentric place, tricking the eye and keeping the visitor somewhat off balance. Wiencek does note some of the times when the facade was broken: “In one instance, a gentleman dining with Mr. Jefferson, looked so startled as he raised his eyes from the latter to the servant behind him, that his discovery of the resemblance was perfectly obvious to all.” Indeed, all the slaves at Monticello were related to one another, descendants of matriarch “Betty” Hemings, who had been the concubine of Martha Jefferson’s father, rendering Betty’s many children by him, including Sally, her own half siblings. Rather reluctantly, Wiencek looks at the substance behind the scandal of Sally and Jefferson’s reputed liaison and admits solid evidence. The author thoroughly examines Jefferson’s writings, such as Notes on the State of Virginia, for his problematic theories on race, miscegenation and human bondage, and he marvels at the man’s ability to justify what he called an “execrable commerce.” Slave suicides, runaways, whippings by his overseers and his furtive freeing of Sally’s two oldest children—the secrets and evasions compounded one another. Yes, Jefferson inherited slavery, but he knew better.

Beautifully constructed reflections and careful sifting of Jefferson’s thoughts and deeds.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-374-29956-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: July 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

An examination that escapes the dangers of overgeneralization to provide provocative information presented compellingly.

TWENTYSOMETHING

WHY DO YOUNG ADULTS SEEM STUCK?

A mother and daughter examine the millennials, children born in the United States from 1980 through 1990.

New York Times Magazine contributing writer Robin Henig (Pandora's Baby: How the First Test Tube Babies Sparked the Reproductive Revolution, 2004, etc.) and daughter Samantha—online news editor at the same magazine—expand on a feature article by Robin that appeared in that magazine in 2010. The millennial generation has been stereotyped as lazy, unable to find meaningful jobs and much more—most of it uncomplimentary. The authors keep their primary focus on whether the millenials are really that different from Baby Boomers and other generations. In nine substantive chapters, each built around a specific issue (career choices, marriage, parenthood, friendship, etc.), the Henigs present evidence and issue a verdict about whether the millennial generation is indeed different from earlier generations. When the point of view switches from mother to daughter, a frequently refreshing change that is never confusing, the change is stated directly or a new typeface appears. Robin and Samantha do not hide all their disagreements, within the nuclear family or as collaborating authors, but they seem to agree on most of the issues. The three realms they conclude are substantially different from generations past are whether and when to become parents; whether and how to pay for education beyond high school; and sorting through a wider range of choices when reaching personal or professional crossroads. Some of the realms that apparently have not changed much include career prospects, how to stay healthy, and the importance of close friends.

An examination that escapes the dangers of overgeneralization to provide provocative information presented compellingly.

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59463-096-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Hudson Street/Penguin

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

A rich, highly readable examination of the seeds of poppies, trade, greed, grandeur and an international partnership that...

WHEN AMERICA FIRST MET CHINA

AN EXOTIC HISTORY OF TEA, DRUGS, AND MONEY IN THE AGE OF SAIL

The author of Fur, Fortune, and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America (2010) returns with the story of America’s first voyages to the Middle Kingdom, where Americans and Chinese looked at each other with wonder, alarm and calculation.

Dolin begins at the end of the American Revolution. With America’s relationship with England in ruins, the country looked to the Far East. On July 22, 1784, the Empress of China sailed into the Pearl River in China. The author, whose grasp of the intricacies of international trade is firm, proceeds confidently and skillfully through a complex narrative. He describes the beginnings of trade with China, examines the mystery of silkworms and shows how China established Canton as the center for their trade with the West, whose residents craved silk but also tea (and serving sets). Soon, thousands of vessels—British and American—were sailing on the Pearl, and the most profitable commodity swiftly became opium. Everyone loved it, especially the English and the Chinese, and Americans profited handsomely from the trade. Dolin introduces us to some important American names—including Robert Morris, John Ledyard, John Jacob Astor, Robert Forbes, Harriet Low—and he relates the adventures of the first Chinese to come to America, who became sort of carnival attractions. The author also describes the perils of the voyage, the designs of the ships (and the rise and fall of the clipper ship) and the American involvement in the Opium War.

A rich, highly readable examination of the seeds of poppies, trade, greed, grandeur and an international partnership that remains uneasy and perilous.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-87140-433-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

Cleareyed, compassionate and hopeful.

FIRE IN THE ASHES

TWENTY-FIVE YEARS AMONG THE POOREST CHILDREN IN AMERICA

The award-winning author of Death at an Early Age (1967) tells the stories of the later lives of poor children who grew up in the Bronx.

Kozol (Letters to a Young Teacher, 2007, etc.) has worked with children in inner-city schools for 50 years. In this engaging, illuminating, often moving book, he recounts the lives of poor black and Latino children—many now close friends—who once lived in Manhattan’s Martinique Hotel and were relocated in the late 1980s, upon the closing of that crowded and filthy shelter, to Mott Haven, a poor Bronx neighborhood. As the children grew into young adulthood, Kozol kept in touch with them and their families through visits, emails and phone calls. In a series of intimate portraits, he describes the astonishing odds the children faced and how many managed, with the critical help of mentors and caring others, to achieve successful lives, both in the conventional sense of graduating from college, but above all, by becoming kind and loving human beings. There is Leonardo, recruited by a New England boarding school, where he emerged as a leader; the introspective Jeremy, who befriended a Puerto Rican poet, got through college and took a job at a Mott Haven church that is central to the lives of many; and the buoyant, winning Pineapple, whose Guatemalan parents provide the emotional security of a warm home. “I’m going to give a good life to my children,” says Lisette, 24, after her troubled brother’s suicide. “I have to do it.  I’m the one who made it through.” Some children are still struggling to find their way, writes the author, but they do so with “the earnestness and elemental kindness” that he first saw in them years ago.

Cleareyed, compassionate and hopeful.

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5246-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: July 7, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

Valenti doesn't claim to have all the answers, but she provides the right analytical tools for mothers seeking answers that...

WHY HAVE KIDS?

A NEW MOM EXPLORES THE TRUTH ABOUT PARENTING AND HAPPINESS

A leading feminist digs into questions about parenting—why we have children, what we're told about the parenting experience, and what happens when the reality doesn't mesh with the fairy tale.

With a rise in the number of women choosing to remain childless (married or not), Valenti's (The Purity Myth: How America's Obsession with Virginity Is Hurting Young Women, 2009, etc.) book is certainly timely, and she addresses her topic from cultural, personal and historical perspectives. The author, a new mom herself, wades deeply into the moral and logistical problems facing mothers, with interviews, research and her own anecdotal experiences. As mommy blogs and websites have become havens for those seeking support and answers, they have simultaneously given rise to information overload, and parents can often feel as inadequate as they do vindicated. The impression people have of motherhood often doesn't match up with the realities that face new parents. Ideals and stereotypes leave new mothers feeling badly if they don’t feel love and warmth all the time. However, the inverse is also true. Oprah Winfrey famously stated that "moms have the toughest job in the world if you're doing it right," and that attitude too often translates to mothers pushing their children too hard to be successful. Valenti's writing occasionally falls prey to bluster and hyperbole—if you question the exactitude of others' pronouncements on pregnancy, it weakens the argument when your own pronouncements suffer the same shortcoming—but she states early on that her book is meant to anger people and incite discussions.

Valenti doesn't claim to have all the answers, but she provides the right analytical tools for mothers seeking answers that are right for them.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-547-89261-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Amazon/New Harvest

Review Posted Online: June 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

Entertaining and somewhat informative, but readers should take it with a grain of salt.

MOSSAD

THE GREATEST MISSIONS OF THE ISRAELI SECRET SERVICE

Action-packed accounts of the missions of one of the world’s most effective and mysterious intelligence services, Israel’s Mossad.

Former Knesset member Bar-Zohar (Shimon Peres, 2007, etc.) and Israeli TV personality and journalist Mishal (Those Were the Years: Israel’s Jubilee, 1997, etc.) spare no detail about the gruesome killings and plots of the Israeli agency. In fact, the authors often boast about the deadliness of Mossad agents, especially former director Meir Dagan. Most of the missions included here feature unexpected twists and nearly unbelievable plotlines that rival a fast-paced thriller. For example, there is the story of Elie Cohen, a Mossad agent who posed as a Syrian expatriate who was homesick in Argentina and wanted to move back to his homeland. He threw parties and mingled with the political inner circle, all while dispatching their secrets to Israel on a daily basis. Another operation involved smuggling the unconscious body of a former Nazi leader out of Argentina by having his double check into a hospital using the target’s name. Though unquestionably exciting, many readers may find the narrative bordering on propaganda, and the last chapter is disappointing. Bar-Zohar and Mishal cobble together facts to make an unconvincing argument about how Israel should receive support to fight against the threat of Iran, cherry-picking facts to fit their position. For example, the authors write that former Iranian deputy defense minister Ali-Reza Asgari defected to Israel in 2007, even though the debate continues about whether he actually defected or was kidnapped.

Entertaining and somewhat informative, but readers should take it with a grain of salt.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-212340-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

Alternately sad, defiant, carefree and understated, this journey into a world hidden in plain sight is well worth taking.

A FREE MAN

A TRUE STORY OF LIFE AND DEATH IN DELHI

A journalist ingratiates himself with a band of day laborers on the mean streets of Delhi, India.

In 2005, Sethi, a young reporter eager to undertake an investigative study of Delhi’s working poor, befriended vagabond Mohammed Ashraf and his crew. Six years later, he found himself still involved in Ashraf’s life, providing him with both emotional and financial support. Although Sethi initially expressed frustration with Ashraf’s reluctance to provide a linear timeline of his life story, he soon fell under the spell cast by this streetwise raconteur. Like many others in his circle, Ashraf had run away to Delhi to escape a tempestuous home life. During times when he could find work, he painted houses and did other manual odd jobs; during times when there was either no work to be had or no work that he wanted, he drank heavily, spun tall tales and fantasized about opening his own business. Sethi excels at empathetically depicting what could come across as a miserable existence: he allows Ashraf and the other mazdoors (laborers) to share their stories without either judging them or pretending to be one of them. For all the injustices that these men face every day, the book offers ample humor. In the most poignant chapters, Sethi accompanies Ashraf’s friend to a tuberculosis hospital. The bureaucracy and despair of such an institution becomes painfully clear when Sethi portrays the panel of admitting doctors, all wearing masks and looking away from their patients.

Alternately sad, defiant, carefree and understated, this journey into a world hidden in plain sight is well worth taking.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-393-08890-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: July 7, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

Vonnegut’s most human of hearts beats on every page.

KURT VONNEGUT

LETTERS

Selected and edited letters by the author of Cat’s CradleSlaughterhouse-Five and other enduringly popular novels, letters that reveal Vonnegut’s passions, annoyances, loves, losses, mind and heart.

Edited and annotated by his friend and fellow Hoosier novelist Wakefield (The Hijacking of Jesus: How the Religious Right Distorts Christianity and Promotes Prejudice and Hate, 2006, etc.), Vonnegut’s letters, arranged by decade, reveal his wit and literary style, as well as his demons. Wakefield annotates lightly and introduces each decade with a swift biography and commentary. Mostly, however, the letters stand alone—and stand tall, indeed. A letter from 1945 tells his worried parents about his experiences as a POW in Dresden during the firebombing; the final letter declines an invitation to appear at Cornell. “At 84,” wrote Vonnegut, who died in 2007, “I resemble nothing so much as an iguana, hate travel, and have nothing to say. I might as well send a spent Roman candle in my stead.” Vonnegut remained close to his many relatives, and readers can chart his personal life here—his first marriage (ended in divorce), his relationships with his children (some were adopted), his second marriage (to photographer Jill Krementz). That marriage was often difficult, and he writes bitterly about finding evidence of her infidelity. His professional growth chart is here, too—his early struggle, his time teaching at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, his rising celebrity and fame, and his struggles to write later in his life. The political Vonnegut is much in evidence, as well. There are fiery letters about censorship and book burning and some anti-conservative rhetoric. Wakefield also includes Vonnegut’s touching letters to encourage other writers and to deal with an angry daughter.

Vonnegut’s most human of hearts beats on every page.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34375-6

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

Incisive, reflective and unfailingly stimulating. It wouldn’t hurt Mendelsohn to occasionally pass up an opportunity to...

WAITING FOR THE BARBARIANS

ESSAYS FROM THE CLASSICS TO POP CULTURE

Another top-notch collection of previously published criticism from Mendelsohn (How Beautiful It Is and How Easily It Can Be Broken, 2008, etc.).

“There rarely are any real ‘barbarians,’ ” the author writes. “What others might see as declines and falls look, when seen from the bird’s-eye vantage point of history, more like shifts, adaptations, reorganizations.” This long-range perspective distinguishes Mendelsohn’s criticism from that of less erudite and measured peers. The opening section, “Spectacles,” ranges from Avatar to Mad Men with refreshing matter-of-factness, pinpointing the cultural significance of commercial forms of art without over- or understating their merits. Mendelsohn’s analysis of why Julie Taymor was precisely the wrong director for the Broadway musical Spider-Man is particularly sharp. Mendelsohn’s assessments can be negative, even dismissive, but they are not overheated or personally nasty. The near-exception is “Boys Will Be Boys,” a severe going-over of Edmund White’s memoir City Boy (2009), and even that is less a slam than a forthright statement of the differences between two generations of gay writers. Although Mendelsohn mused at length on questions of homosexual identity in The Elusive Embrace (1999), his criticism reveals an openly gay writer comfortably connected to the culture at large. He is equally acute and balanced on the memoir craze, the pleasures of Leo Lerman’s journals and “the fundamental failure of genuine good humor” in Jonathan Franzen’s work. Mendelsohn’s tendency to announce that there is a single key insight that crucially explains a given artist’s work can be irritating, but often his insight is key: Susan Sontag’s affinity with French classicism, for example, or ultrasophisticate Noël Coward’s grounding in “the stolid values of the decidedly unsophisticated lower-middle-class.”

Incisive, reflective and unfailingly stimulating. It wouldn’t hurt Mendelsohn to occasionally pass up an opportunity to remind readers he’s the smartest guy in the room, but then again, he almost always is.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59017-607-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: New York Review Books

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

Essential reading for anyone interested in justice or memoir.

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    Best Books Of 2012

LIFE AFTER DEATH

Exceptional memoir by the most famous of the West Memphis Three.

In 1993, Echols (Almost Home, 2005) was convicted, along with Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr., in the case of the sadistic sex murders and mutilations of three young boys in the woods around their hometown of West Memphis, Ark. The state’s case was based almost entirely on the confession wrung out of Misskelley, who, writes the author, had the “intellect of a child” and who recanted soon afterward. Witnesses’ testimonies to Echols' “demonic” character sealed the defendants’ fates. Baldwin and Misskelley each received life sentences; Echols, perceived to be the ringleader of an alleged “satanic cult,” was sentenced to death. Over the next decade, an HBO trilogy of documentaries on the case, collectively titled Paradise Lost, helped spark an international campaign to free the West Memphis Three. Johnny Depp, Eddie Vedder, Henry Rollins and Peter Jackson were among the celebrities who became personally involved in the case; thanks to their efforts, and especially those of Echols’ wife, Lorri, whom he met during his prison term, the three were released in August 2011. Those bare facts alone would make for an interesting story. However, Echols is at heart a poet and mystic, and he has written not just a quickie one-off book to capitalize on a lurid news story, but rather a work of art that occasionally bears a resemblance to the work of Jean Genet. A voracious reader all his life, Echols vividly tells his story, from his impoverished childhood in a series of shacks and mobile homes to his emergence after half a lifetime behind bars as a psychically scarred man rediscovering freedom in New York City. The author also effectively displays his intelligence and sensitivity, qualities the Arkansas criminal justice system had no interest in recognizing during Echols’ ordeal.

Essential reading for anyone interested in justice or memoir.

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-399-16020-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Blue Rider Press

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

Thrilling and illuminating.

THE NEGOTIATOR

MY LIFE AT THE HEART OF THE HOSTAGE TRADE

A dissatisfied psychologist abandons the therapist’s couch for the high-pressure world of hostage negotiations.

Lopez (not his real name) recounts his fascinating journey from inchoate postdoctoral candidate to international man of mystery and intrigue with all the sinewy grit you’d expect to find in a big-budget Hollywood movie. The heroes of this kinetic tell-all are predictably rough-and-tumble, while the villains are suitably vile. But that’s where the familiarity ends. As the author demonstrates, the real world of kidnap and ransom—or K&R as it’s known in the industry—isn’t about busting down doors with high-powered semi-automatics at the ready in the hopes of freeing a hostage. It’s actually a much subtler and nuanced discipline where the ability to understand the inner workings of a kidnapper’s mind is the greatest weapon of all. The taut narrative marches through some of Lopez’s toughest cases, starting out in Mexico City where affluent businessmen are often the targets of thugs hoping for a big payday. From there, the saga eventually lands in Kandahar, where a very different kind of kidnapper—militants with a political agenda—has been preying on hapless Westerners since the United States first invaded Afghanistan years ago. Suspense fuels each exotic locale, and even when no one is shot, the outcomes are explosive. Much of that is due to the absorbing interplay between complex bad guys and the crackerjack psychoanalyst manipulating them. No one escapes psychological scrutiny—including Lopez himself. In addition to lifting the curtain on the intricate world of K&R, the author also sheds light on his remarkable life and how his ongoing efforts to restore other people’s interrupted lives have cost him personally.

Thrilling and illuminating.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-61608-862-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 7, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

Lucent prose illuminates a man obscured for years in history’s shadows.

SHORT NIGHTS OF THE SHADOW CATCHER

THE EPIC LIFE AND IMMORTAL PHOTOGRAPHS OF EDWARD CURTIS

New York Times Pulitzer Prize–winning writer Egan (The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America, 2009, etc.) returns with the story of the astonishing life of Edward Curtis (1868–1952), whose photographs of American Indians now command impressive prices at auction.

This is an era of excessive subtitles—but not this one: “Epic” and “immortal” are words most fitting for Curtis, whose 20-volume The North American Indian, a project that consumed most of his productive adult life, is a work of astonishing beauty and almost incomprehensible devotion. Egan begins with the story of Angelina, Chief Seattle’s daughter, who in 1896 was living in abject poverty in the city named for her father. Curtis—who’d begun a Seattle photography shop—photographed her, became intrigued with the vanishing lives of America’s Indians and devoted the ensuing decades both to the photography of indigenous people all over North America and to the writing of texts that described their culture, languages, songs and religion. Curtis scrambled all his life for funding—J.P. Morgan and President Theodore Roosevelt were both supporters, though the former eventually took over the copyrights and sold everything to a collector during the Depression for $1,000—and spent most of his time away from home, a decision that cost him his marriage. His children, however, remained loyal, some later helping him with his project. As Egan shows, Curtis traveled nearly everywhere, living with the people he was studying, taking thousands of photographs. He nearly died on several occasions. Egan is careful to credit Curtis’ team, several of whom endured all that he did, though, gradually, he became the last man standing, and he reproduces a number of the gorgeous photographs.

Lucent prose illuminates a man obscured for years in history’s shadows.

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-618-96902-9

Page Count: 412

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

A thoroughly engaging examination of the irreversible changes emerging from a year when the nation’s very survival remained...

RISE TO GREATNESS

ABRAHAM LINCOLN AND AMERICA'S MOST PERILOUS YEAR

A historian zeroes in on the year Lincoln found his footing as president and set the country on a bold new course.

“Never has there been a moment in history,” said one U.S. senator, “when so much was all compressed into a little time.” Von Drehle (Triangle: The Fire that Changed America, 2003, etc.) charts the tumultuous year, month by month, to demonstrate how the momentous events of 1862 unfolded. Amid the turmoil of Civil War, the largely Republican Congress passed legislation with far-reaching postwar consequences: funding a transcontinental railroad and land-grant colleges, strengthening the Army and Navy, establishing a Bureau of Agriculture, adopting new fiscal and monetary policies, outlawing slavery in the District of Columbia, instituting a draft and authorizing the enlistment of blacks in the military. For all these enterprises to flourish, though, the war still had to be won. With rumors of domestic conspiracies and coups swirling and with the allegiance of border states still tenuous, the Civil War turned savage and hard with unprecedented slaughters at places like Shiloh, Antietam and Fredericksburg. At the center of the storm, Von Drehle deftly places Lincoln, gradually mastering the art of war, ultimately firing the too-timid McClellan, solemnly accepting and desperately searching for a general to apply the cruel arithmetic necessary for Union victory. In 1862, Lincoln suffered the loss of a son and the near loss of another, and he watched his grieving wife become unmoored. All the while, the president maneuvered around Taney’s Supreme Court, quelled an insurrection in the Republican caucus, mediated the squabbling in his Cabinet, held off the Democrats in the midterm elections and prepared the ground for the Emancipation Proclamation. Two years of bitter fighting remained, but Confederate armies would never again be as formidable. Meanwhile, under Lincoln’s steady hand, the Union put in place the political and military machinery that would win the war and assure a future few imagined before Fort Sumter.

A thoroughly engaging examination of the irreversible changes emerging from a year when the nation’s very survival remained in doubt.

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8050-7970-8

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

An insider’s look at hunting that devotees and nonparticipants alike should find fascinating.

MEAT EATER

ADVENTURES FROM THE LIFE OF AN AMERICAN HUNTER

TV host and outdoorsman Rinella (American Buffalo: In Search of a Lost Icon, 2008, etc.) contemplates the hunter’s place in modern society while reliving his favorite hunting trips.

Before committing to the writing life, the author made a serious attempt at carving out a career as a fur trapper like his frontier hero Daniel Boone. Even though that endeavor fell through, the kid who grew up bagging squirrels, muskrats and beavers would not abandon the hunt. Instead, he found other ways to devote much of his life to stalking bighorn sheep, black bears, mountain lions and the like. At one point, he even managed to successfully split his time between college and subsistence hunting. While Rinella has taken more than a few trophies along the way, his excursions into the great outdoors have mainly been about feasting on wild game at the conclusion of each hunt—and he’s eager to share. Relentlessly descriptive and endlessly evocative “tasting guides” at the close of each chapter help armchair hunters get a sense of what it might be like digging into their own heaping plate of camp meat, deer hearts or sun-dried jerky. Depending on the palate, readers will find these gamey recipes either mouthwatering or gut-wrenching, but the writing is steadfastly satisfying and clear. A passage on the purported edibility of roasted beaver tail is especially entertaining. The author wisely allows philosophical questions pertaining to the validity of hunting and the efficacy of state-enforced regulations to simmer in the background, and he effectively shows nature in all its glory.

An insider’s look at hunting that devotees and nonparticipants alike should find fascinating.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-52981-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

An outstanding biography that reveals an overlooked steeliness at Jefferson’s core that accounts for so much of his...

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THOMAS JEFFERSON

THE ART OF POWER

A Pulitzer Prize–winning biographer lauds the political genius of Thomas Jefferson.

As a citizen, Jefferson became a central leader in America’s rebellion against the world’s greatest empire. As a diplomat, he mentored a similar revolution in France. As president, he doubled the size of the United States without firing a shot and established a political dynasty that stretched over four decades. These achievements and many more, Time contributing editor Meacham (American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House, 2008, etc.) smoothly argues, would have been impossible if the endlessly complicated Jefferson were merely the dreamy, impractical philosopher king his detractors imagined. His portrait of our most enigmatic president intentionally highlights career episodes that illustrate Jefferson’s penchant for balancing competing interests and for compromises that, nevertheless, advanced his own political goals. Born to the Virginia aristocracy, Jefferson effectively disguised his drive for control, charming foes and enlisting allies to conduct battles on his behalf. As he accumulated power, he exercised it ruthlessly, often deviating from the ideals of limited government he had previously—and eternally—articulated. Stronger than any commitment to abstract principle, the impulse for pragmatic political maneuvering, Meacham insists, always predominated. With an insatiable hunger for information, a talent for improvisation and a desire for greatness, Jefferson coolly calculated political realities—see his midlife abandonment of any effort to abolish slavery—and, more frequently than not, emerged from struggles with opponents routed and his own authority enhanced. Through his thinking and writing, we’ve long appreciated Jefferson’s lifelong devotion to “the survival and success of democratic republicanism in America,” but Meacham’s treatment reminds us of the flesh-and-blood politician, the man of action who masterfully bent the real world in the direction of his ideals.

An outstanding biography that reveals an overlooked steeliness at Jefferson’s core that accounts for so much of his political success.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4000-6766-4

Page Count: 800

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2012

Certainly, Hitchens died too soon. May this moving little visit to his hospital room not be the last word from him.

MORTALITY

A jovially combative riposte to anyone who thought that death would silence master controversialist Hitchens (Hitch-22, 2010, etc.).

Even as he lay—or sat or paced—dying in the unfamiliar confines of a hospital last year, the author had plenty to say about matters of life and death. Here, in pieces published in Vanity Fair to which are added rough notes and apothegms left behind in manuscript, Hitchens gives the strongest possible sense of his exhausting battle against the aggressive cancer spreading through his body. He waged that battle with customary sardonic good humor, calling the medical-industrial world into which he had been thrust “Tumortown.” More arrestingly, Hitchens conceived of the move from life to death as a sudden relocation, even a deportation, into another land: “The country has a language of its own—a lingua franca that manages to be both dull and difficult and that contains names like ondansetron, for anti-nausea medication—as well as some unsettling gestures that require a bit of getting used to.” One such gesture was the physician’s plunging of fingers into the neck to gauge whether a cancer had spread into the lymph nodes, but others were more subtle, including the hushed tones and reverences that came with the business. Hitchens, famously an atheist, visited the question of whether he should take Pascal’s wager and bet on God, concluding in the negative even as good God-fearing citizens filled his inbox with assurances that God was punishing him for his blasphemies with throat cancer. A reasonable thought, Hitchens concludes, though since he’s a writer, wouldn’t such a God have afflicted his hands first?

Certainly, Hitchens died too soon. May this moving little visit to his hospital room not be the last word from him.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4555-0275-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Twelve

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2012

A riveting look inside the human brain and its quirks.

HALLUCINATIONS

Acclaimed British neurologist Sacks (Neurology and Psychiatry/Columbia Univ.; The Mind’s Eye, 2010, etc.) delves into the many different sorts of hallucinations that can be generated by the human mind.

The author assembles a wide range of case studies in hallucinations—seeing, hearing or otherwise perceiving things that aren’t there—and the varying brain quirks and disorders that cause them in patients who are otherwise mentally healthy. In each case, he presents a fascinating condition and then expounds on the neurological causes at work, drawing from his own work as a neurologist, as well as other case studies, letters from patients and even historical records and literature. For example, he tells the story of an elderly blind woman who “saw” strange people and animals in her room, caused by Charles Bonnet Syndrome, a condition in with the parts of the brain responsible for vision draw on memories instead of visual perceptions. In another chapter, Sacks recalls his own experimentation with drugs, describing his auditory hallucinations. He believed he heard his neighbors drop by for breakfast, and he cooked for them, “put their ham and eggs on a tray, walked into the living room—and found it completely empty.” He also tells of hallucinations in people who have undergone prolonged sensory deprivation and in those who suffer from Parkinson’s disease, migraines, epilepsy and narcolepsy, among other conditions. Although this collection of disorders feels somewhat formulaic, it’s a formula that has served Sacks well in several previous books (especially his 1985 bestseller The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat), and it’s still effective—largely because Sacks never turns exploitative, instead sketching out each illness with compassion and thoughtful prose.

A riveting look inside the human brain and its quirks.

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-95724-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

An ambitious but overlong historical study.

THE DAWN OF INNOVATION

THE FIRST AMERICAN INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION

In this historical overview, Morris (The Sages: Warren Buffett, George Soros, Paul Volcker, and the Maelstrom of Markets, 2009, etc.) asserts that American industry in its early days was far more concerned with growth and large-scale mass production than was Great Britain.

“By comparison with eighteenth-century Britons, Americans were strivers on steroids,” he writes. To illustrate this point, the author looks at several pioneering British and American inventors and engineers and describes key innovations in a wide range of early American industries, from clock making to furniture making. In one long chapter, Morris examines the manufacturing of guns, a topic to which he returns in another chapter. The author also briefly looks at a few major post–Civil War industrial figures, including Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller, both of whom he wrote about at length in The Tycoons (2005). In a closing chapter that feels a bit tacked-on, Morris discusses how the past America-Great Britain rivalry resembles and differs from the current economic relationship between the U.S. and China. The author is at his best when he focuses on the people behind the technology—e.g., Eli Whitney, who became a “talented artisan and entrepreneur,” but was, in his early career, “something of a flimflam man.” While Morris’ research is thorough, his prose is often long-winded. His account of naval warfare during the War of 1812, for example, hardly seems worthy of a 36-page blow-by-blow chronicle featuring multiple tables and illustrations. Other sections get bogged down in engineering minutiae; many of the highly detailed diagrams will be of interest to engineers, perhaps, but not to casual readers. 

An ambitious but overlong historical study.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-58648-828-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

A stellar biography of a complicated subject: Max's portrait skillfully unites Wallace’s external and internal lives.

EVERY LOVE STORY IS A GHOST STORY

A LIFE OF DAVID FOSTER WALLACE

A thorough, understated account of the life of the pioneering author and how his addictions and fiction intersected.

Before his suicide, David Foster Wallace (1962–2008) pursued a host of paths as a writer. He was a showy ironist who drafted his Pynchon-esque debut novel, The Broom of the System (1987), while an undergraduate student at Amherst. He was a bright philosopher who wrote at length on Wittgenstein and infinity. He was a skilled (if not always factually rigorous) reporter who covered state fairs, politics and tennis with intelligence and style. But the biggest inspiration for his admirers was the compassion, wit and understanding of our media-soaked age that emerged in later novels like Infinite Jest (1996) and the posthumous The Pale King (2011). In this appropriately contemplative biography, New Yorker staff writer Max (The Family that Couldn't Sleep: A Medical Mystery, 2006) avoids overdramatizing climactic events in Wallace’s life, though it had plenty of emotional turmoil. Wallace was hospitalized for addiction and depression multiple times, and even at his steadiest he could collapse into rages. (Max chronicles in detail Wallace’s disastrous relationship with memoirist Mary Karr.) Max emphasizes the psychological tug of war within Wallace, who struggled to reconcile his suspicion of mass media with a habitual gulping down of hours of it; his high-minded pursuit of art with a need for emotional and sexual attention; and his resolve to blend entertaining fiction and dense philosophy. Max draws upon the rich trove of Wallace’s papers (he was an inveterate letter writer) and dozens of interviews, from Alcoholics Anonymous sponsors to literary contemporaries like Jonathan Franzen. Wallace’s family relationships get relatively short shrift, but it’s clear that under the veneer of a successful, brainy novelist was an eager-to-please native Midwesterner.

A stellar biography of a complicated subject: Max's portrait skillfully unites Wallace’s external and internal lives.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-670-02592-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2012

Citizenship, leadership and service combine in this memoir of a full political life.

MY LIFE IN POLITICS

Candid memoir from France’s former two-term president.

Best-known in the United States, perhaps, for his opposition to the rush to war against Iraq in 2003, Chirac offers American readers a close-up portrait of a truly old-school French politician. Born in Paris and educated in the tradition of republican leadership and service, the author rose through the ranks of French government, serving as minister of agriculture, minister of the interior, mayor of Paris, prime minister of France and, eventually, president. In addition to the accounts of his political life, many readers will be surprised to learn of Chirac's love for poetry, his early interest in Sanskrit, his fluency in Russian (he translated Pushkin's Eugene Onegin), his familiarity with Chinese history and his lifelong enthusiasm for African and pre-Columbian sculpture. As he demonstrates, these interests were formative in his approach to politics and to the “worsening divide between the poor countries that represent more than a third of humanity and the wealthy countries that do not adequately fulfill their responsibilities in terms of development aid.” Chirac describes the shock he experienced as a member of the G7, and he examines the development of France's social safety net and health system as by-products of settlements of political conflicts—e.g., the May 1968 general protest, during which he helped the negotiations. Chirac also provides ample detail about the military and technological underpinnings of national power and gives unique insight on the European Union.

Citizenship, leadership and service combine in this memoir of a full political life.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-230-34088-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

A refreshing chronicle of a fervent sportsman with his head and heart in all the right places.

A FATHER FIRST

HOW MY LIFE BECAME BIGGER THAN BASKETBALL

The smooth, composed memoir of a superstar NBA player juggling celebrity and fatherhood.

From the opening pages, Wade’s comforting narrative voice—assisted by co-author Rivas (co-author: Becoming Dr. Q, 2011, etc.)—draws readers in, as he provides recollections from his shy childhood in the 1980s, during which his drug-addicted mother shuffled him around the gang-addled streets of South Side Chicago. He was comforted by his loving grandmother and an obsession with basketball and Michael Jordan, as well as his older sister, Tragil, who shepherded her baby brother out of harm’s way. In school, Wade’s stepbrother dominated the varsity basketball games, but an early growth spurt and a string of expert coaches allowed Wade to shine and demonstrate his burgeoning abilities on the court. His star potential blossomed at Marquette University and eventually fostered NBA celebrity status as a guard for the Miami Heat. However, his marriage to high school sweetheart Siohvaughn Funches ended in a tumultuous 2007 divorce, and a custody battle for sons Zaire and Zion became ugly. The text seamlessly alternates between Wade’s rise to athletic fame and the aftermath of a 2011 decision to award him sole custody of his two sons, a legal decision eliciting both positive (stability for his boys) and negative ramifications (Funches’ vicious accusations and relentless interference). Wade capably demonstrates the power of hard work, faith, honest fatherhood and the dedication necessary to achieve happiness and harmony from hardscrabble beginnings.

A refreshing chronicle of a fervent sportsman with his head and heart in all the right places.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-213615-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

An informative and moving book that raises profound issues regarding the nature of love, the value of human life and the...

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  • National Book Critics Circle Winner

FAR FROM THE TREE

PARENTS, CHILDREN AND THE SEARCH FOR IDENTITY

National Book Award–winning journalist Solomon (The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression, 2001, etc.) uses issues raised by disability to examine the nature of parenthood, the definition of disability and the ability to control reproduction to create designer children.

More than a decade ago, when he was assigned to cover a student protest at the Lexington Center for the Deaf in Queens, N.Y., over the hiring of a CEO with normal hearing, the author began to look at medical and cultural issues raised by disability. The protesters demanded that deafness not be considered a disability, but rather a neuro-diversity on par with ethnic diversity. Some members of the deaf community even considered cochlear implants in young children as “a genocidal attack on a vibrant community” because of the linguistic richness of sign language. Solomon also wrote a piece on child prodigies based on an interview with the Russian pianist Evgeny Kissin, and he followed with a story about the lives of dwarfs based on the experience of a friend who sought role models for her daughter. Gradually, Far from the Tree began to take shape as the author explored more deeply the question of disability. Additional chapters cover Down syndrome (a genetic disorder), autism (of unknown origin), transgenderism and more. Solomon writes about the transformative, “terrifying joy of unbearable responsibility” faced by parents who cherish severely disabled children, and he takes an in-depth look at the struggles of parents of autistic children who behave destructively. He also explores the fascinating mental lives of independently functioning autistic individuals and speculates on the possibility that geniuses such as Mozart and Einstein were at the far end of the spectrum. Throughout, Solomon reflects on his own history as a gay man who has been bullied when he didn't conform to society's image of masculinity.

An informative and moving book that raises profound issues regarding the nature of love, the value of human life and the future of humanity.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7432-3671-3

Page Count: 906

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

An insider's personal account based on lessons drawn from long experience. Aspects of this book complement Jacques Chirac's...

INTERVENTIONS

A LIFE IN WAR AND PEACE

With the assistance of Oxford Analytica CEO Mousavizadeh (editor: The Black Book of Bosnia: The Consequences of Appeasement, 1996), former United Nations Secretary-General Annan discusses the major benchmarks of his life and career.

The author, born in 1934, passes briefly over his education and early career at the World Health Organization and U.N., where he worked until his retirement in 2006, and moves rapidly into his main topic: the transformation of U.N. Peacekeeping Operations since the late 1980s and early ’90s. Since then, the idea that the U.N. Security Council can deploy military force to intervene in conflicts within sovereign nations and to protect human rights has become institutionalized. Because the transformation paralleled the progress of his own career, Annan, who was promoted to the directorate of PKO in 1993 and secretary-general in 1997, is uniquely situated to chronicle this time period in the organization, and he identifies three significant dates: 1992, after Desert Storm; 1998, after the Bosnian conflict and the Rwandan genocide; and again in 2005. First, consent of all the parties to a conflict was no longer required; then the need for self-contained fighting forces to drive military outcomes was recognized; and finally, there was the adoption of what its sponsors called “the responsibility to protect.” However, the U.N. has often lacked the means—specifically the “self-contained fighting force”—to accomplish some of its goals, so disagreement has been ongoing between nationalist interests and those who aspire to exercise the powers of a world government. Annan also discusses his roles in the U.N.’s millennial development program and its work on AIDS.

An insider's personal account based on lessons drawn from long experience. Aspects of this book complement Jacques Chirac's autobiography, My Life in Politics (2012).

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59420-420-3

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

A fascinating exercise in futurology.

HOW TO CREATE A MIND

THE SECRET OF HUMAN THOUGHT REVEALED

A pioneering developer of optical character recognition and text-to-speech software explores the possibility of creating a synthetic neocortex that could surpass the human mind.

Kurzweil (The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, 2005, etc.) bases his prediction on modern insights into how the brain has evolved a hierarchical pattern-recognition structure. We perceive the bare outline of events and reconstruct memories in an ordered sequence, and our ability to fill in the blanks provides the foundation for conscious experience. “We are constantly predicting the future and hypothesizing what we will experience,” writes the author. “This expectation influences what we actually perceive.” Kurzweil estimates that at birth, the neocortex contains 300 million pattern processors connected horizontally and vertically, which allow us to connect patterns. In his opinion, it is these processors, rather than the neurons of which they are composed, that are the fundamental units of the neocortex. They allow us to fill out an increasingly complex picture of reality, enabling us to rapidly evaluate our environment and then confirm our hypothesis by checking out the details. Then we are able to respond rapidly to changes in our environment by creating new technologies. Why not create a synthetic extension of our brain using advanced computer technology? It could “contain well beyond a mere 300 million processors,” perhaps as many as a billion or a trillion. Our dependence upon search engines and other technology is a harbinger of a future in which we will not only outsource information storage but directly enhance our mental functioning. In a parallel development, Kurzweil and other software developers are designing more advanced computers based on complex modular functioning.

A fascinating exercise in futurology.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-670-02529-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

A valiant attempt to recount a mostly forgotten experience, though the many questions that remain may prove frustrating to...

BRAIN ON FIRE

MY MONTH OF MADNESS

A young journalist’s descent into her own baffling medical mystery.

In her debut memoir, New York Post reporter Cahalan recounts her struggle to understand an unremembered month lost to illness. Cobbled together from interviews, medical records, notebooks, journals and video footage, the author conjures the traumatic memories of her harrowing ordeal. What began as numbness in her hands and feet soon grew into something more serious, climaxing in a terrifying seizure witnessed by her boyfriend. “My arms suddenly whipped straight out in front of me, like a mummy,” she writes, “as my eyes rolled back and my body stiffened….Blood and foam began to spurt out of my mouth through clenched teeth.” The mystery thickened as doctors struggled to agree on a diagnosis. While the uncertainty proved maddening for her family members, however, it was also what bonded them together. Cahalan’s estranged parents, in particular, found a common purpose as a result of their daughter’s plight, putting her health before old hardships. After numerous tests revealed nothing, an observed increase of white blood cells in her cerebrospinal fluid eventually clued in medical professionals. Diagnosed with anti-NMDA-receptor encephalitis—a rare autoimmune disease with a cure—Cahalan and her family embarked on the long, hard road to recovery. Through the lonesomeness of her illness, a community emerged, the members of which were dedicated to returning the author to her former life as a beloved daughter, sister, lover and friend.

A valiant attempt to recount a mostly forgotten experience, though the many questions that remain may prove frustrating to some readers.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4516-2137-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

Alan Moore at his Mooriest: inscrutable yet compelling.

UNEARTHING

A comic-book legend and an acclaimed photographer team up to present a visceral biographical sketch of author and occultist Steve Moore.

Alan Moore (Voice of the Fire, 2009, etc.), whose brilliant oeuvre includes WatchmenFrom Hell, and V for Vendetta, has always had a penchant for using the visual medium of graphic literature in unique and innovative ways, a tradition he continues with the aid of esteemed photographer Jenkins in this bizarre but oddly engrossing biography/historical vignette, which originally appeared as solely text in Iain Sinclair’s anthology London: City of Disappearances (2008). A longtime friend (and sometimes mentor) of Alan Moore’s, Steve Moore (no relation) has lived his entire life in the same London house in which he was born, and it is through the lens of his life that Alan Moore presents the history of the neighborhood, Shooter’s Hill. From a Julius Caesar sortie in 55 B.C. to the bandit hordes of the 17th century to the cascade of Nazi bombs during World War II, Alan Moore juxtaposes the area’s history with Steve Moore’s development, from his awkward youth to his discovery of the I Ching to his various scholarly and authorial endeavors, which included forays into the U.K. comic-book scene and a fascination with the occult. Accompanying the narrative, which traverses freely between factual reality and bursts of mystical rhetoric and trippy dreamscapes, is a series of images that range from poignant (the grim, sepia-toned picture of Luftwaffe planes in the London sky) to bizarre (the bloody, severed head of a pig). Alan Moore has always walked a fine line between creating brilliant stories that expand the boundaries of his chosen medium to draw in an audience far larger than comic-book aficionados and presenting head-scratching mind screws that might be better appreciated in an altered state of reality. This is more an example of the latter.

Alan Moore at his Mooriest: inscrutable yet compelling.

Pub Date: Dec. 12, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-60309-150-3

Page Count: 184

Publisher: Top Shelf Productions

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

A great starting point for readers interested in exploring the intersecting issues of gender, family and employment.

THE END OF MEN

AND THE RISE OF WOMEN

Atlantic senior editor Rosin (God's Harvard: A Christian College on a Mission to Save America, 2007), co-founder of Slate’s women’s section, DoubleX, argues that women are more likely than men to succeed in the modern workforce.

The author conducted extensive interviews with women of various backgrounds, from the Midwest to Korea. She bases her argument partly on the flexibility of women and partly on the fact that employers are beginning to value characteristics stereotypically attributed to women, such as empathy. Rosin suggests that the world may be headed toward a matriarchy. It is refreshing to find optimism in a book about the gender gap, but in some cases it seems that women haven’t progressed as much as men have fallen behind. In several of the households Rosin discusses, what has made the women the main breadwinners is not just drive, but the fact that their men don’t hold steady jobs. Most of those men do not completely fulfill domestic duties either, leaving the women to work both outside and inside the home. Though she later takes up the issue of splitting household duties, Rosin glosses over it early on to paint a picture of matriarchal utopia. The author covers an impressive amount of ground about women, including the professions they dominate, how they can rise to the top, and their relationship to casual sex. Particularly interesting is Rosin’s examination of female violence. She shows that as women gain power, they encompass the negative traits that were once only attributed to men, therefore countering the myth that a world ruled by women would be more peaceful.

A great starting point for readers interested in exploring the intersecting issues of gender, family and employment.

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59448-804-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Aug. 1, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2012

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