A breezy read that might make readers hesitate before climbing aboard the latest hashtag bandwagon.



A British radio host and opinion columnist rails against online outrage and the benumbed fatigue it induces.

Charles combines her chatty, conversational style with smatterings of academic research as she reexamines some viral campaigns during an era in which outrage requires so little commitment or emotional investment, when a hashtag or a retweet is enough for people to feel good about themselves or believe they have made a difference. The author begins with the backlash against the insensitivity of the H&M clothing retailer, whose website featured a young black boy in a hoodie that read, “COOLEST MONKEY IN THE JUNGLE.” Charles felt that if anyone had a right to be offended, it should be her—“I represent a ‘triple jeopardy’ intersection: a black, gay woman” (and mother of a black infant boy)—but she felt that the uproar was exaggerated and that there were plenty of more serious inequities for people to get riled up over—and perhaps even do something about. In January 2018, the author wrote an opinion piece for the Guardian titled “The Currency of Outrage,” which begins, “Everyone is offended by everything. It’s exhausting.” She goes on to note that “by becoming fickle and oversaturated, the value of outrage is plummeting.” This brief book stems from that piece, and she includes accounts of her interviews with those who have been victims of such outrage—e.g., Rachel Dolezal, branded as a “race faker” after the activist for black causes was revealed to be a white woman passing as black—and those who have benefitted from it, building their personal brands through the wide exposure they’ve received from “the outrage conga line.” Though the author could have gone much deeper in many areas, she effectively shows how mass outrage allows people to feel better about themselves without doing the hard work that true change requires.

A breezy read that might make readers hesitate before climbing aboard the latest hashtag bandwagon.

Pub Date: July 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63557-500-2

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: April 6, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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A lucid (in the sky with diamonds) look at the hows, whys, and occasional demerits of altering one’s mind.


Building on his lysergically drenched book How to Change Your Mind (2018), Pollan looks at three plant-based drugs and the mental effects they can produce.

The disastrous war on drugs began under Nixon to control two classes of perceived enemies: anti-war protestors and Black citizens. That cynical effort, writes the author, drives home the point that “societies condone the mind-changing drugs that help uphold society’s rule and ban the ones that are seen to undermine it.” One such drug is opium, for which Pollan daringly offers a recipe for home gardeners to make a tea laced with the stuff, producing “a radical and by no means unpleasant sense of passivity.” You can’t overthrow a government when so chilled out, and the real crisis is the manufacture of synthetic opioids, which the author roundly condemns. Pollan delivers a compelling backstory: This section dates to 1997, but he had to leave portions out of the original publication to keep the Drug Enforcement Administration from his door. Caffeine is legal, but it has stronger effects than opium, as the author learned when he tried to quit: “I came to see how integral caffeine is to the daily work of knitting ourselves back together after the fraying of consciousness during sleep.” Still, back in the day, the introduction of caffeine to the marketplace tempered the massive amounts of alcohol people were drinking even though a cup of coffee at noon will keep banging on your brain at midnight. As for the cactus species that “is busy transforming sunlight into mescaline right in my front yard”? Anyone can grow it, it seems, but not everyone will enjoy effects that, in one Pollan experiment, “felt like a kind of madness.” To his credit, the author also wrestles with issues of cultural appropriation, since in some places it’s now easier for a suburbanite to grow San Pedro cacti than for a Native American to use it ceremonially.

A lucid (in the sky with diamonds) look at the hows, whys, and occasional demerits of altering one’s mind.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-29690-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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