Alternately engaging and exasperating dispatches from a conflicted nation.

A report from India at a point of enormous transition—and the news is never really good.

As the Economist’s former South Asia correspondent, now based in Paris, British journalist Roberts (The Wonga Coup: Guns, Thugs and a Ruthless Determination to Create Mayhem in an Oil-Rich Corner of Africa, 2006) offers a kind of resigned love letter to his adopted country of five years, taking India’s fondness for hyperbole literally with an ironic focus on the four terms it often uses to regard itself: “superfast, primetime, ultimate nation.” Breaking these down, the author equates “superfast” with the economy; “primetime” with politics; “ultimate” is its relations with others countries like China, Pakistan, and America; and “nation” means how the country sees itself. The diversity of the world’s largest democracy is both a boon and a drawback, and the economic enrichment since the 1990s is scattershot. Roberts explores both the poorest area, the rural northeast (“landlocked on the wrong side of Bangladesh”), where tea-pickers make less than $1 per day, and the most affluent, Gujarat, home to the highly motivated nationalist Hindu prime minister Narendra Modi. Despite the progressive steps the nation has taken toward its citizens’ well-being and national health, the author must drop caveats at every milestone: while the youthfulness of the country points to a dynamic future workforce, one-third of India’s population is stunted and underweight; family dynasties like the "Sonia-and-Singh Show” clog avenues toward liberal promise; tech dreams are derailed by corruption and faulty infrastructure; 120 male babies are being born for every 100 females, pointing to the most alarming demographics in South Asia; the egregious treatment of the environment and dearth of basic health services (in 2016, “130 million Indian households lacked toilets”), electricity, and education; and Modi’s government’s abysmal sectarian relations. Ultimately, there is no comparison to China, already eons ahead, and India’s need for political will is crying out. So what next for the Asian juggernaut that has not quite delivered?

Alternately engaging and exasperating dispatches from a conflicted nation.

Pub Date: April 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-61039-669-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017


Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019


A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

An exploration of the importance of clarity through calmness in an increasingly fast-paced world.

Austin-based speaker and strategist Holiday (Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue, 2018, etc.) believes in downshifting one’s life and activities in order to fully grasp the wonder of stillness. He bolsters this theory with a wide array of perspectives—some based on ancient wisdom (one of the author’s specialties), others more modern—all with the intent to direct readers toward the essential importance of stillness and its “attainable path to enlightenment and excellence, greatness and happiness, performance as well as presence.” Readers will be encouraged by Holiday’s insistence that his methods are within anyone’s grasp. He acknowledges that this rare and coveted calm is already inside each of us, but it’s been worn down by the hustle of busy lives and distractions. Recognizing that this goal requires immense personal discipline, the author draws on the representational histories of John F. Kennedy, Buddha, Tiger Woods, Fred Rogers, Leonardo da Vinci, and many other creative thinkers and scholarly, scientific texts. These examples demonstrate how others have evolved past the noise of modern life and into the solitude of productive thought and cleansing tranquility. Holiday splits his accessible, empowering, and sporadically meandering narrative into a three-part “timeless trinity of mind, body, soul—the head, the heart, the human body.” He juxtaposes Stoic philosopher Seneca’s internal reflection and wisdom against Donald Trump’s egocentric existence, with much of his time spent “in his bathrobe, ranting about the news.” Holiday stresses that while contemporary life is filled with a dizzying variety of “competing priorities and beliefs,” the frenzy can be quelled and serenity maintained through a deliberative calming of the mind and body. The author shows how “stillness is what aims the arrow,” fostering focus, internal harmony, and the kind of holistic self-examination necessary for optimal contentment and mind-body centeredness. Throughout the narrative, he promotes that concept mindfully and convincingly.

A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-53858-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019