A brief look at the idea of human exceptionalism, resonant with conspiratorial anxiety.

A critical assessment of the doom ostensibly advocated by the speculative and apocalyptic thinking of anti- and transhumanists.

According to Kirsch, a poet and literary critic, the continued existence of the human species is threatened by two contemporary strands of thought. One involves a radical faction of the Anthropocene crowd, which views human dominance over and exploitation of nature as an existential catastrophe in the making. For them, climate change requires the removal of humans through, for example, policies that drastically shrink human settlements to leave most of the Earth devoid of human habitation or that reduce the birth rate to zero. “The idea that we will destroy ourselves by despoiling the planet is…radically unsettling,” writes the author. “It means that humanity is endangered not only by our acknowledged vices, such as hatred and violence, but by pursuing aims that we ordinarily consider good and natural: prosperity, comfort, increase of our kind.” The other is a brand of transhumanism wedded to digital technologies able to generate “new forms of intelligent life,” thereby freeing post-humans of their material needs. Both strands assert that “the only way to restore the sovereignty of nature is for human civilization to collapse.” In essence, these thinkers “attack the very achievements that humanists cherish,” and their goal is “a world without us.” Alarmist in tone and selective in its reading of the literature—the author rightly includes Elizabeth Kolbert, Naomi Klein, Michio Kaku, and Ray Kurzweil, but where is Bruno Latour’s canonical We Have Never Been Modern?—this short book takes scenarios that Kirsch admits are “necessarily speculative” and casts them as real forces having “the power to change the world.” The author fails to acknowledge that the central thrust of the Anthropocene argument is to imagine and bring about a better humanity (because it’s shared), not to engender a revolt against it. Acknowledging this, though, would cast further doubt on an already one-sided argument.

A brief look at the idea of human exceptionalism, resonant with conspiratorial anxiety.

Pub Date: Jan. 20, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-735-91376-6

Page Count: 104

Publisher: Columbia Global Reports

Review Posted Online: Sept. 20, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2022


A mostly compelling account of one woman’s struggles within Trumpworld.

An insider’s account of the rampant misconduct within the Trump administration, including the tumult surrounding the insurrection of Jan. 6, 2021.

Hutchinson, who served as an assistant to Mark Meadows, Trump’s former White House chief of staff, gained national prominence when she testified to the House Select Committee, providing possibly the most damaging portrait of Trump’s erratic behavior to date. In her hotly anticipated memoir, the author traces the challenges and triumphs of her upbringing in New Jersey and the work (including a stint as an intern with Sen. Ted Cruz) that led her to coveted White House internships and eventual positions in the Office of Legislative Affairs and with Meadows. While the book offers few big reveals beyond her testimony (many details leaked before publication), her behind-the-scenes account of the chaotic Trump administration is intermittently insightful. Her initial portrait of Trump is less critical than those written by other former staffers, as the author gauges how his actions were seemingly stirred more by vanity and fear of appearing weak, rather than pure malevolency. For example, she recalls how he attended an event without a mask because he didn’t want to smear his face bronzer. Hutchinson also provides fairly nuanced portraits of Meadows and Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who, along with Trump, eventually turned against her. She shares far more negative assessments about others in Trump’s orbit, including Rep. Matt Gaetz, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, and adviser Rudy Giuliani, recounting how Giuliani groped her backstage during Trump’s Jan. 6 speech. The narrative lags after the author leaves the White House, but the story intensifies as she’s faced with subpoenas to testify and is forced to undergo deep soul-searching before choosing to sever ties with Trump and provide the incriminating information that could help take him down.

A mostly compelling account of one woman’s struggles within Trumpworld.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2023

ISBN: 9781668028285

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2023



Dillard’s story reflects maturity and understanding from someone who was forced to mature and understand too much too soon.

A measured memoir from a daughter of the famous family.

Growing up in the Institute of Basic Life Principles community, which she came to realize was “a cult, thriving on a culture of fear and manipulation,” Duggar and her 18 siblings were raised never to question parental authority. As the author recalls, she felt no need to, describing the loving home of her girlhood. When a documentary crew approached her father, Jim Bob, and proposed first a series of TV specials that would be called 17 Kids and Counting (later 18 and 19 Kids and Counting), he agreed, telling his family that this was a chance to share their conservative Christian faith. It was also a chance to become wealthy, but Jill, who was dedicated to following the rules, didn’t question where the money went. A key to her falling out with her family was orchestrated by Jim Bob, who introduced her to missionary Derick Dillard. Their wedding was one of the most-watched episodes of the series. Even though she was an adult, Jill’s parents and the show continued to expect more of the young couple. When they attempted to say no to filming some aspects of their lives, Jill discovered that a sheet of paper her father asked her to sign the day before her wedding was part of a contract in which she had unwittingly agreed to full cooperation. Writing about her sex offender brother, Josh, and the legal action she and Derick had to take to get their questions answered, Jill describes how she was finally able—through therapy, prayer, and the establishment of boundaries—to reconcile love for her parents with Jim Bob’s deception and reframe her faith outside the IBLP.

Dillard’s story reflects maturity and understanding from someone who was forced to mature and understand too much too soon.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023

ISBN: 9781668024447

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2023

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