The business-minded should appreciate the focus and precision of this brisk overview, while readers in search of more...

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SAUDI AMERICA

THE TRUTH ABOUT FRACKING AND HOW IT'S CHANGING THE WORLD

A biopicworthy corporate scandal paired with a recent financial history of the fracking industry.

The incendiary title would seem to promise another op-ed on the controversial resource-extraction technique. But as in her previous works, Vanity Fair contributing editor McLean (Shaky Ground: The Strange Saga of the U.S. Mortgage Giants, 2015, etc.), an investigative journalist best-known for her coverage of the Enron scandal, focuses on the staggering corporate scandals that the industry has produced along with its billions of barrels of oil. In the first half of the book, she singles out the rise and fall of colorful, hubristic entrepreneur Aubrey McClendon, an early fracking promoter and “land man” who successfully raised and lost billions of dollars by leasing the drilling rights to properties atop the shales where extraction took place. The second half of the book uses McClendon’s story to inform an overview of the “fracking revolution,” the author's term for the boom in domestic energy due to American oil production that could rival that of Saudi Arabia. Notably lacking is a clear, technical explanation of fracking—though maps of the shales are helpful—and McLean writes to an audience familiar with the jargon of industry and finance. All but overlooking the environmental impact of the extraction method, the author tracks the billions of dollars made, invested, and lost in corporate fracking transactions, most of them an order of magnitude or so above the common experience. For the most part, she leaves readers to interpret the significance of these figures and to assemble a throughline of meaning from the accumulation of factual records, which hardly improves the book’s scant aesthetic dimensions. Occasional dramatic interest in this straightforward financial portrait comes from the sheer scale of the fiscal irresponsibility depicted and the anxiety of McClendon’s outsized wins, losses, and incredible debt.

The business-minded should appreciate the focus and precision of this brisk overview, while readers in search of more informative conceptual arguments about the industry and its geopolitical implications should look elsewhere.

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9997454-4-1

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Columbia Global Reports

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“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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A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

STILLNESS IS THE KEY

An exploration of the importance of clarity through calmness in an increasingly fast-paced world.

Austin-based speaker and strategist Holiday (Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue, 2018, etc.) believes in downshifting one’s life and activities in order to fully grasp the wonder of stillness. He bolsters this theory with a wide array of perspectives—some based on ancient wisdom (one of the author’s specialties), others more modern—all with the intent to direct readers toward the essential importance of stillness and its “attainable path to enlightenment and excellence, greatness and happiness, performance as well as presence.” Readers will be encouraged by Holiday’s insistence that his methods are within anyone’s grasp. He acknowledges that this rare and coveted calm is already inside each of us, but it’s been worn down by the hustle of busy lives and distractions. Recognizing that this goal requires immense personal discipline, the author draws on the representational histories of John F. Kennedy, Buddha, Tiger Woods, Fred Rogers, Leonardo da Vinci, and many other creative thinkers and scholarly, scientific texts. These examples demonstrate how others have evolved past the noise of modern life and into the solitude of productive thought and cleansing tranquility. Holiday splits his accessible, empowering, and sporadically meandering narrative into a three-part “timeless trinity of mind, body, soul—the head, the heart, the human body.” He juxtaposes Stoic philosopher Seneca’s internal reflection and wisdom against Donald Trump’s egocentric existence, with much of his time spent “in his bathrobe, ranting about the news.” Holiday stresses that while contemporary life is filled with a dizzying variety of “competing priorities and beliefs,” the frenzy can be quelled and serenity maintained through a deliberative calming of the mind and body. The author shows how “stillness is what aims the arrow,” fostering focus, internal harmony, and the kind of holistic self-examination necessary for optimal contentment and mind-body centeredness. Throughout the narrative, he promotes that concept mindfully and convincingly.

A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-53858-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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