Next book

A THOUSAND SMALL SANITIES

THE MORAL ADVENTURE OF LIBERALISM

Gopnik’s learned, lofty, occasionally dense study ultimately reasserts the belief in the “infinity of small effects.”

The longtime New Yorker staff writer and prolific cultural critic once again shows his astute awareness of the public’s political consciousness in this new work championing “liberalism.”

In this “distillation and…reduction” of previous essays from the New Yorker over the past 20 years and “a long lifetime’s reading of philosophy, history, and biography,” Gopnik (At the Strangers' Gate: Arrivals in New York, 2017, etc.) gathers together biographies of and theories from a wide variety of subjects, including Frederick Douglass, Benjamin Disraeli, and James Boswell, in order to define liberalism and clarify its purpose through the ages. Over the course of four discursive chapters, the author demonstrates how these struggles contribute to humanity’s incremental improvement: “those thousand small sanities…moving us bit by bit a little bit closer toward the modern Arcadia.” Gopnik frames the narrative around a conversation he had on the night of the 2016 U.S. presidential election with his 17-year-old daughter (“A Long Walk with a Smart Daughter”), whom he consoled by explaining why the liberal values her parents brought her up with were “not just some family legacy of attitudes…but ideals that were made reliable by experience and proven true by history.” In the “The Rhinoceros Manifesto: What Is Liberalism?” the author shows how the passionate and egalitarian 1850s love affair between John Stuart Mill and Harriet Taylor helped forge one of the first documents on liberalism (Mill’s On Liberty). In subsequent chapters, Gopnik examines why the political right hates liberalism—e.g., prizing reason over cultural values, nonbelief in reform—and why the left hates liberalism (the need to be revolutionary). Essentially, the author’s “adventure” is not a defense of liberalism as much as a clarification and pieces of fatherly advice for a new generation on liberal reforms and institutions.

Gopnik’s learned, lofty, occasionally dense study ultimately reasserts the belief in the “infinity of small effects.”

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5416-9936-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Basic Books

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 19


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2016


  • New York Times Bestseller


  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

Next book

WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 19


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2016


  • New York Times Bestseller


  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

Next book

A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

Close Quickview