A propulsive memoir that captures the grim reality of small-scale conflict and reveals the fragmented politics of the Middle...

LONG SHOT

THE INSIDE STORY OF THE SNIPERS WHO BROKE ISIS

A gritty account of street combat against the ruthless fighters of the Islamic State group.

In clear, thoughtful prose, Azad presents the experiences of many who responded to the jihadi threat in the Middle East. The author volunteered to join the Kurdish resistance against the Islamic State group in Rojava, a region that declared autonomy in the Syrian civil war, becoming an unlikely bulwark against extremism, especially considering their collective decision-making. “In Kobani,” he writes, “between September 2014 and January 2015, two thousand of our men and women stopped ISIS’ twelve thousand. Six months later, we pushed all the jihadis out of Rojava. Our defeat of ISIS set in motion their collapse.” The narrative alternates between the campaign for the town of Kobani and recollections of Azad’s upbringing, during which his progressive family experienced the territorial conflicts and aggression that have long bedeviled the Kurdish people. Although disillusioned with Iranian rule, Azad was obligated to serve in the military, from which he deserted in 2002, ultimately receiving asylum in the U.K. and learning English. Despite enjoying the West’s openness and opportunity, nearly a decade later he felt compelled to return. “Since my arrival in England,” he writes, “I had abandoned my purpose.” Azad’s small militia gradually secured Kobani despite numerous setbacks. They were aided by coalition air strikes against IS fighters, who were known for routinely committing atrocities. The flexibility of Kurdish defenders—they were able to move the small unit of snipers where most needed—allowed them to gradually seize the military initiative even though many volunteers did not return. “So many of my friends had died,” writes the author, “that I had acquired a new, unwanted duty: to survive, to keep their memories alive.” His ruminative prose reflects the unforgiving chaos of close-quarters battle between ruthless enemies, and he coolly describes the sniper’s isolated, time-consuming experience of combat.

A propulsive memoir that captures the grim reality of small-scale conflict and reveals the fragmented politics of the Middle East today.

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8021-2907-9

Page Count: 412

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: Dec. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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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 48 LAWS OF POWER

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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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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