Bringing an unusually informed and cool head to the tumult accompanying unfolding events, Amar performs a valuable service...

THE CONSTITUTION TODAY

TIMELESS LESSONS FOR THE ISSUES OF OUR ERA

From a constitutional law expert, 20 years’ worth of essays on controversial issues that have dominated the headlines.

In addition to his teaching and research responsibilities, Amar (Law and Political Science/Yale Univ.; The Law of the Land: A Grand Tour of Our Constitutional Republic, 2015, etc.) has filled yet another niche “within the contemporary American constitutional ecosystem.” Acting as a “constitutional journalist,” writing for newspapers, magazines, and journals, he has regularly seized timely new hooks “on which to hang a broader argument that extends far beyond the news event putatively prompting the piece.” In this collection, the author arranges the essays under broad headings—the three branches of government, the culture wars, the dramas attending Bill Clinton’s impeachment, George W. Bush’s first election, and Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act—and prefaces individual topics with updated commentary reflecting the author’s estimation of how his on-deadline reporting has held up or his thinking has evolved. Subjects stretch from the hot-off-the-press, stalled nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court all the way back to Clinton v. Jones (1997) and the hazards of permitting a private lawsuit against a sitting president. Believing there are right and wrong answers to constitutional questions and convinced that the correct judgment usually emerges over time, Amar rigorously analyzes each issue in accessible prose, with humor and humility. He forthrightly confesses his bias as “a card-carrying Democratic scholar,” but instances abound here—on gun rights, on the exclusionary rule, on campaign finance—where the conclusions he’s reached appear to cut against his political preference. This insistence on playing fair—his willingness to, for example, praise Antonin Scalia or criticize Stephen Breyer (for whom he clerked) when the occasion demands—is one of this book’s many charms, lending credence to the sharp scrutiny the professor applies to every topic and to the predictions he makes about the course of constitutional law.

Bringing an unusually informed and cool head to the tumult accompanying unfolding events, Amar performs a valuable service for his fellow citizens.

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-465-09633-6

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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

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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

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