Considering her youthfulness, Barnett has accomplished more reform than most individuals could accomplish in two lifetimes.



A welcome new addition to the groaning shelves of books about the critically flawed U.S. legal system.

For the first 90 pages, Barnett, born in 1984, focuses on her youth as a Black female in rural East Texas whose drug-addicted mother ended up in prison. In the remainder of the book, the author mixes straightforward memoir with inspiring accounts of her crusades for social justice. Determined to avoid her mother’s fate, Barnett worked diligently to graduate from college, after which she found work at a top accounting firm and then earned a law degree. The author is painfully aware of the racism built into the criminal justice system, including the absurd prison terms handed down to Black drug users and dealers—the most egregious being “the 100-to-1 crack-to-powder-cocaine sentencing ratio.” Though corporate law was her initial goal, while studying for a criminal law course, Barnett learned about Sharanda Jones, who had received a life sentence for a first-time drug offense. The author poignantly writes about how she was able to identify with families torn apart by such heavy-handed sentences. After obtaining a job in the finance and banking group of a corporate law firm in 2011, Barnett devoted her spare time to advocacy. She hoped to win the release of Jones and others in similar situations through reversals in the appellate courts. When that avenue failed, the author decided that seeking clemency from the president was the only option, no matter the long odds—especially given Barack Obama’s general reluctance to grant pardons. Eventually, however, Obama granted clemency to Jones and other pro bono clients of Barnett’s. In 2016, the author left her corporate career to follow her passion for representing “all those suffering under draconian drug-sentencing laws.” Among her impressive not-for-profit initiatives are the Buried Alive Project and the Girls Embracing Mothers project.

Considering her youthfulness, Barnett has accomplished more reform than most individuals could accomplish in two lifetimes.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2578-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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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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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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