Highly difficult to read in one sitting, but we must not look away.



Agonizing accounts of school shootings, amply showing that “you don’t have to be a combat veteran to be exposed to violent trauma in America.”

Co-editors Archer (Fat Girl, Skinny, 2016) and Kleinman (The Dark Cave Between My Ribs, 2014) gather all manner of writing—firsthand accounts, remembrances, interviews, even cartoons—about school shootings in the U.S. dating back to 1966. The result is an important and horrifyingly thick anthology of mass murders that have occurred at elementary, middle, and high schools as well as colleges. For each of the 21 tragedies, one of the editors contributes an introduction, mentions the perpetrators, lists the names of the murdered individuals, and then shares one or more anguished contributions by those directly affected. Eternal optimists may view the anthology as a testament to human resilience; more pessimistic readers will see it as a necessarily searing indictment of the never-ending lethal gun culture in the U.S. Whatever the reader’s disposition, the accumulated impact makes for powerful, painful reading. Some of the massacres will be well remembered by most readers—e.g., Parkland, Columbine, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, and Columbine—while others may have been forgotten. The co-editors present the events in reverse chronological order, which means the final chapter is set at the University of Texas on Aug. 1, 1966, when Charles Whitman fired bullets from a campus tower, murdering 15 students, staff, tower visitors, and first responders. The final section, “Coordinating Trauma,” offers glimpses of hope, as “activists and survivor coordinators recount their paths to supporting survivors in the aftermath of school shootings.” Taken together, the pieces in this often heartbreaking collection make clear that policymakers reacting to each slaughter with “thoughts and prayers” will never suffice.

Highly difficult to read in one sitting, but we must not look away.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5107-4649-7

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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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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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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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. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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