A book that offers an engaging and sometimes-frightening dose of overpopulation reality.




Tucker argues for the benefits of decreasing Earth’s population in this debut work on sustainability.

Earth has a carrying capacity, according to the author, and it’s less than half the number of human beings that it currently has: “In effect, humanity has been on a century-long binge,” he says, “featuring exponential population growth, continuous growth in industrial output and individual consumption, and the ecological devastation that goes with it.” He argues that the ideal population is 3 billion people—approximately the number that were alive on Earth in the mid-20th century. This may sound like a low number, but Tucker’s method of calculating it sounds quite reasonable. The population is not only growing, but becoming increasingly “middle class,” he asserts, meaning that each person is able to consume more things and generate more waste. Even if the population were to stabilize and humanity found new, hyperefficient ways to recycle its trash, the author argues that we’ve already passed the point of sustainability given the size of the planet and its amount of resources. The author presents and analyzes many different population-sustainability hypotheses and also examines historical trends from humanity’s first 200,000 years, which had relatively minuscule population growth. Tucker then lays out his case for why estimates above 3 billion are, in his opinion, starry-eyed. So what, then, do we do with all the extra people? The author has a long-term plan—and it’s actually much simpler, and less sinister, than one might think. In the second half of the book, the author provides a strategy for getting back to a sustainable civilization—an act that he characterizes not as a retreat or decline but as a chance for a new beginning. This book has a premise that’s likely to alarm the vast majority of readers at first glance, but Tucker executes his argument in a tone that’s calm and even cordial. Although he admits that his target number might be wrong—and encourages others to attempt to raise it, based on the available data—he shows a deep familiarity with the issue of overpopulation and comes to his argument armed with information. Indeed, many readers may find themselves marveling at the complexity of Earth’s resource cycle, as he lays it out. Even those who finish the book unconvinced of the necessity of curbing Earth’s population will get a better understanding of the factors that go into human sustainability—and of how easily they can become imbalanced. In the end, Tucker’s primary theme seems to be that humankind needs to start thinking about its problems in a geographic framework: “Without a shared geographical understanding of our planet, our species, and the civilizations we have created, we will soon find ourselves unable to deal with the unfortunate consequences of ignoring certain realities about our planet.” This is a book that may initially inspire fear, but ideally, it will also be one that engenders discussion.

A book that offers an engaging and sometimes-frightening dose of overpopulation reality.

Pub Date: Sept. 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-578-51530-4

Page Count: 342

Publisher: Atlas Observatory Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

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Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.


New York Times columnist and editorial board member delivers a slim book for aspiring writers, offering saws and sense, wisdom and waggery, biases and biting sarcasm.

Klinkenborg (Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile, 2006), who’s taught for decades, endeavors to keep things simple in his prose, and he urges other writers to do the same. (Note: He despises abuses of the word as, as he continually reminds readers.) In the early sections, the author ignores traditional paragraphing so that the text resembles a long free-verse poem. He urges readers to use short, clear sentences and to make sure each one is healthy before moving on; notes that it’s acceptable to start sentences with and and but; sees benefits in diagramming sentences; stresses that all writing is revision; periodically blasts the formulaic writing that many (most?) students learn in school; argues that knowing where you’re headed before you begin might be good for a vacation, but not for a piece of writing; and believes that writers must trust readers more, and trust themselves. Most of Klinkenborg’s advice is neither radical nor especially profound (“Turn to the poets. / Learn from them”), and the text suffers from a corrosive fallacy: that if his strategies work for him they will work for all. The final fifth of the text includes some passages from writers he admires (McPhee, Oates, Cheever) and some of his students’ awkward sentences, which he treats analytically but sometimes with a surprising sarcasm that veers near meanness. He includes examples of students’ dangling modifiers, malapropisms, errors of pronoun agreement, wordiness and other mistakes.

Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-26634-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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With this detailed, versatile cookbook, readers can finally make Momofuku Milk Bar’s inventive, decadent desserts at home, or see what they’ve been missing.

In this successor to the Momofuku cookbook, Momofuku Milk Bar’s pastry chef hands over the keys to the restaurant group’s snack-food–based treats, which have had people lining up outside the door of the Manhattan bakery since it opened. The James Beard Award–nominated Tosi spares no detail, providing origin stories for her popular cookies, pies and ice-cream flavors. The recipes are meticulously outlined, with added tips on how to experiment with their format. After “understanding how we laid out this cookbook…you will be one of us,” writes the author. Still, it’s a bit more sophisticated than the typical Betty Crocker fare. In addition to a healthy stock of pretzels, cornflakes and, of course, milk powder, some recipes require readers to have feuilletine and citric acid handy, to perfect the art of quenelling. Acolytes should invest in a scale, thanks to Tosi’s preference of grams (“freedom measurements,” as the friendlier cups and spoons are called, are provided, but heavily frowned upon)—though it’s hard to be too pretentious when one of your main ingredients is Fruity Pebbles. A refreshing, youthful cookbook that will have readers happily indulging in a rising pastry-chef star’s widely appealing treats.    


Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-72049-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Clarkson Potter

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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