by Derek Thompson ‧ RELEASE DATE: Feb. 7, 2017
Good reading for anyone who aspires to understand the machinery of pop culture—and perhaps even craft a hit of his or her...
How does a nice idea become an earworm, or a fashion trend, or—shudder—a meme? Atlantic senior editor Thompson ventures a few well-considered answers.
We live in a world of expectations and conventions, though you might not know it. Take, say, a nice chick flick, a winning instance of which will have one or more of three types of women, “doe-eyed lover, harping mothers, and Meryl Streep.” A romantic comedy, observes Thompson, breaks into three acts: two people thrash toward coupledom, come together, and face some challenge that they overcome to go back to coupledom once more. If the woman sleeps with someone else during the period of challenge, then all bets are off; barring that, norms observed, the story will move along to a more or less satisfactory conclusion. Sometimes a true hit arises that does more than ape convention, and here, in discerning how the outliers become mainstream, is where Thompson’s book finds its greatest merit: George Lucas didn’t quite have precedent for Star Wars, but he borrowed enough of the familiar that the films were “fathoms deep with allusions to the most common storytelling themes of the early twentieth century and the many millennia before.” We like our novelty to be familiar but not too familiar. In a nice turn, the author writes, “we are born average and die unique,” and just so, a hit will promise new turf without being wholly strange. And in every industry, the author notes, there are those who wish to become “toadish rejects metamorphosing into princely hits.” There’s not much thesis or hard science here, but there’s plenty of anecdotally rich exploration in the odd corners of the sociology of communication, business history, and psychology, all to entertaining and instructive ends.Good reading for anyone who aspires to understand the machinery of pop culture—and perhaps even craft a hit of his or her own.
Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2017
Page Count: 352
Publisher: Penguin Press
Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2016
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016
Share your opinion of this book
by Paul Kalanithi ‧ RELEASE DATE: Jan. 19, 2016
A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...
Awards & Accolades
Best Books Of 2016
New York Times Bestseller
Pulitzer Prize Finalist
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
Page Count: 248
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2015
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015
Share your opinion of this book
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
Page Count: 432
Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019
Share your opinion of this book
More About This Book
SEEN & HEARD
Hey there, book lover.
We’re glad you found a book that interests you!