Will appeal to parents whose idea of comedy hews closer to Arrested Development than Leave It to Beaver—but do you want...

PARENTOLOGY

EVERYTHING YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT THE SCIENCE OF RAISING CHILDREN BUT WERE TOO EXHAUSTED TO ASK

A parent’s-eye view of recent scientific research into “the job you can never quit,” with a lot of winking.

Today’s young parents have been deprived and blessed at the same time. A few decades ago, the road to parenting success was illuminated by a few trusted sources—Dr. Spock, What to Expect When You’re Expecting, etc.—and the hard-earned wisdom passed down through generations. In the Internet age, the advice available to parents is an embarrassment of riches. Conley (Elsewhere, U.S.A.: How We Got from the Company Man, Family Dinners, and the Affluent Society to the Home Office, BlackBerry Moms, and Economic Anxiety, 2009, etc.) delivers a parenting guide to help sort out the good science from the bad, the harebrained schemes from the evidence-based parenting strategies. The author has the bona fides in the two areas that matter: He’s a father, and he’s also a dual-doctorate scientist and chair of the Children and Youth Section of the American Sociological Association. The book as a whole comes across a bit unevenly, however; a chapter dedicated to exploring cultural views of choosing baby names veers into the ridiculous when Conley reveals that they named their first child “E” and their second child “Yo” and then took them on CNN to discuss it. When a travel bottle of shampoo fell into the toilet and got stuck, Conley attempted to bribe his kid with money to fish it out for him; when the child refused, he switched to declaring her spoiled, which did the trick. There are passages offering good advice, such as defusing conflict by offering choices, but it can be hard to tell when Conley’s being serious, which diminishes the author’s better points.

Will appeal to parents whose idea of comedy hews closer to Arrested Development than Leave It to Beaver—but do you want parenting advice from the Bluth family?

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-1265-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2014

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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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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

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. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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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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