The great enemy of social media, it would seem, is any notion of objective truth. This eye-opening book reveals a theater of...

WAR IN 140 CHARACTERS

HOW SOCIAL MEDIA IS RESHAPING CONFLICT IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY

We shall fight them on the beaches, we shall fight them on the landing grounds, we shall fight them with our thumbs….

“War, a virus, must mutate to survive.” So writes political journalist Patrikarakos (Nuclear Iran: The Birth of an Atomic State, 2012), who posits that in at least one manifestation of modern war, what matters is less boots-on-the-ground victory than which narrative about what’s happening emerges as the most convincing. In that regard, marketing, public relations, and counterintelligence become as critical as special ops forces. The author finds an example in his own experience in Ukraine as Russian separatists attempted to carve off a portion of the country as well as in a close study of the Islamic State group and other nonstate actors. This kind of warfare is nebulous, fought between nation-states and sometimes not easily identified enemies, and it often involves citizens, individually or in network; it is open-ended, and because of that, it is not easy to determine when and how victory or defeat can be declared. The great avatar of this new warfare, writes the author, is Donald Trump, who “employed Twitter as one of his primary campaign tools”—and continues to do so in office. “This is both a force for good,” writes Patrikarakos, “in that it brings greater transparency, and a force for ill, in that it is destabilizing.” Destroying any semblance of stability being the great desideratum of strongmen and terrorists alike, social media is now a much-used weapon in the modern arsenal. Traveling from “troll farms” in Russia to jihadi corners of YouTube, the author studies how social media is used to undermine truthful accounts of events, recruit radicals, sow confusion, and overturn old doctrines of warfare. “How do you defeat Islamic State,” he writes meaningfully, “when its demands are such that it can never be met?”

The great enemy of social media, it would seem, is any notion of objective truth. This eye-opening book reveals a theater of conflict that aims to destroy reality, waged by all sides.

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-465-09614-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2017

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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