A fascinating account of an advertising practice little understood.



Hoffman, an ad agency veteran, details the political and legal dangers posed by tracking-based advertising.

The author observes that the online advertising business is now colossal—approximately $350 billion is spent on it annually, though few businesses understand the “arcane nature of the online advertising ecosystem.” As a result, it is nearly impossible to precisely estimate its benefits or to effectively regulate it, and it is terrifyingly vulnerable to criminals and terrorists looking to exploit it. Hoffman is especially concerned with tracking-based advertising, which employs intrusive surveillance to collect personal data about internet users to either sell or share it. The ramifications of this now ubiquitous corporate spying are unsettling and, according to the author, even pose a threat to democracy itself. The principal political risks are twofold: First, they contribute to the nation’s partisan polarization by promoting misinformation and encouraging rhetorical incivility, as these tactics attract attention—the author asserts that nothing produces clicks on social media like “false, sensational, slanderous, and scurrilous” posts. They also pose a threat to national security insofar as the personal data mined is left completely unprotected, providing a wealth of opportunities not just to criminals, but also state-sponsored hackers. These points of vulnerability are rigorously documented by the author in this concise synopsis of the issue. Hoffman writes that tracking-based advertising isn’t even very effective, a fact well known within the industry but concealed because it is nevertheless very profitable. He concludes that the tracking-based adtech industry is “organized crime at a global scale that has been normalized by involving virtually every major corporation, every pretty-sounding trade organization, and the entire advertising, marketing, and online media industry.” Hoffman’s writing is spirited and can slide into unrestrained hyperbole—it is simply not the case that the “time when intelligent people of good will could disagree in a civilized manner” has completely vanished. However, his account of the way in which advertising data collection works is as meticulous as it is accessible, and his presentation of its dangers is illuminating. For readers in search of a brief study of the issue, this is an eye-opening book.

A fascinating account of an advertising practice little understood.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2022

ISBN: 9780999230749

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Type A Group

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2023

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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.



The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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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. 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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