A well-rendered historical account emphasizing the moral complexities of unorthodox warfare.




An exacting reconstruction of the exploits of two Anglo-American brothers who fueled French resistance to Nazi occupation.

Former ABC News chief Middle East correspondent Glass (Syria Burning: A Short History of a Catastrophe, 2016, etc.) creates a fresh, detailed take on the patriotic legend of anti-Nazi insurgency by focusing on the diverse array of heroes and villains the brothers encountered once dispatched in 1942 to develop resistance cells for Britain’s Special Operations Executive. “While British agents like George and John Starr learned how to kill,” writes the author, “training schools could not teach them whom to trust.” The brothers’ divergent experiences provide an inherently compelling narrative. Over two years of covert organizational actions in the Gascony region, including receiving weaponry and agents and maintaining communications with SOE, George gained renown as an effective, principled officer, culminating in sabotage and combat operations following D-Day. However, John was arrested in Paris by Nazi counterintelligence. He cooperated with his interrogators, secretly documenting the Funkspiel, or “playback,” of captured radios, a successful counterdeception of SOE. Nazi officers who’d taken a liking to him spared his life after a thwarted escape attempt, although he was later sent to concentration camps. Both brothers survived the war only to see their reputations tarnished; George was accused of allowing the torture of Gestapo agents, while John was tried for collaboration in France. Both were eventually acquitted; as Glass concludes, “each Starr had experienced a different war….Each always rose to the defense of the other.” The author ably captures the stubborn courage displayed by SOE agents and the French resisters who gathered around them, and he clearly portrays the clever functionality of Allied espionage and insurgency tactics despite the brutality of the Nazis and their collaborators. His determination to fully document the sprawling web of individual players, political factions, betrayals, and flashpoints that compose the French resistance narrative results in a history that casual readers may find dense but that World War II buffs will relish.

A well-rendered historical account emphasizing the moral complexities of unorthodox warfare.

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-59420-617-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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.


“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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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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