A strong contribution to conversations about racism, injustice, and violence, all of which continue to plague this country.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

THE CRUELTY IS THE POINT

THE PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE OF TRUMP'S AMERICA

A cogent examination of the challenges America faces.

In a vigorous collection of more than a dozen essays, award-winning journalist Serwer, a staff writer at the Atlantic and former fellow at the Shorenstein Center at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, considers the social and ideological forces that led to Trump’s presidency and, without intervention, will continue to shape American society. Most essays, drawn from pieces published since 2016, are newly contextualized, and Serwer includes additional pieces on immigration, politics within the American Jewish community, the destructive impact of police unions, and the past and future of American authoritarianism. He argues persuasively that racism lies at the heart of Trumpism. Although the media focused on economic anxiety to account for Trump’s rise and continuing appeal, “the movement,” he asserts, “cannot be rescued from its bigotry,” which was intensified by Obama’s presidency. Trump’s supporters have found what they deeply wanted: “a president who embodies the rage they feel toward those they hate and fear, while reassuring them that that rage is nothing to be ashamed of.” Serwer underscores the prevalence of cruelty in American life, which Trump exacerbated. In “The Cruelty of the Covid Contract,” he sees that Trump’s refusal to deal with the pandemic was essentially racist. “The lives of disproportionately black and brown workers are being sacrificed to fuel the engine of a faltering economy, by a president who disdains them,” he writes. “This is the COVID contract.” In examining the claims of nativists and White supremacists, Serwer traces the roots of White nationalism to the American eugenics movement that influenced immigration policy in the 1920s and later fed Nazi ideology. In “The Cruelty of the Code of Silence,” he excoriates police unions for promoting the image of the police “as the lone barrier between civilization and barbarism,” characterizing the people they are meant to defend and protect as violent and uncontrollable.

A strong contribution to conversations about racism, injustice, and violence, all of which continue to plague this country.

Pub Date: June 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-23080-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

Did you like this book?

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

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 12

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

WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

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. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

Did you like this book?

more