A wide-ranging, occasionally overwhelming book that condemns failed institutions and challenges us to make needed change.

MISTRUST

WHY LOSING FAITH IN INSTITUTIONS PROVIDES THE TOOLS TO TRANSFORM THEM

An overview of the causes of our mistrust in the institutions we once held sacred.

In this study of how to rebuild faith in society and each other and enter into a new compact with our fellow citizens, Zuckerman, former director of MIT’s Center for Civic Media, examines the struggle between institutionalists (those who believe we can reform existing structures) and insurrectionists (those seeking to tear it down and start anew). As organizations grow old, they inevitably fall out of touch with those they are meant to serve, resulting in widespread mistrust. All readers will agree that government, industry, and other trusted bodies have failed us in one way or another, and the author provides them with ample statistical data to prove it. How best to rebuild that trust—from within or without? It would be too easy for Zuckerman to criticize skeptics and insurrectionists as cranks or lunatics. Instead, the author provides solid examples of the many insurrectionists who have upended industries, including Uber, Tesla, and Airbnb. The founders of these companies identified needs missing in the market and leveraged this absence into transformative new businesses. Of course, there are downsides, which the author shrewdly considers. Uber, for example, has wreaked havoc on the taxi industry, forcing many drivers out of the business altogether. In the political arena, authoritarian power is always a lurking danger. Zuckerman discusses how the Sicilian Mafia rose to power as an insurrectionist response to inadequate governmental structures. Similarly, elected officials such as Donald Trump present themselves as populist insurrectionists, but they often bring with them dangerous strongman tactics. “Mistrust,” writes the author, “is the single, critical factor” that led to his election. Throughout, the author uses concrete examples to illustrate his points—sometimes too many examples. The narrative could have benefitted from a deeper focus on fewer topics.

A wide-ranging, occasionally overwhelming book that condemns failed institutions and challenges us to make needed change.

Pub Date: Jan. 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-324-00260-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

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A PROMISED LAND

In the first volume of his presidential memoir, Obama recounts the hard path to the White House.

In this long, often surprisingly candid narrative, Obama depicts a callow youth spent playing basketball and “getting loaded,” his early reading of difficult authors serving as a way to impress coed classmates. (“As a strategy for picking up girls, my pseudo-intellectualism proved mostly worthless,” he admits.) Yet seriousness did come to him in time and, with it, the conviction that America could live up to its stated aspirations. His early political role as an Illinois state senator, itself an unlikely victory, was not big enough to contain Obama’s early ambition, nor was his term as U.S. Senator. Only the presidency would do, a path he painstakingly carved out, vote by vote and speech by careful speech. As he writes, “By nature I’m a deliberate speaker, which, by the standards of presidential candidates, helped keep my gaffe quotient relatively low.” The author speaks freely about the many obstacles of the race—not just the question of race and racism itself, but also the rise, with “potent disruptor” Sarah Palin, of a know-nothingism that would manifest itself in an obdurate, ideologically driven Republican legislature. Not to mention the meddlings of Donald Trump, who turns up in this volume for his idiotic “birther” campaign while simultaneously fishing for a contract to build “a beautiful ballroom” on the White House lawn. A born moderate, Obama allows that he might not have been ideological enough in the face of Mitch McConnell, whose primary concern was then “clawing [his] way back to power.” Indeed, one of the most compelling aspects of the book, as smoothly written as his previous books, is Obama’s cleareyed scene-setting for how the political landscape would become so fractured—surely a topic he’ll expand on in the next volume.

A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6316-9

Page Count: 768

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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This guide to Black culture for White people is accessible but rarely easy.

UNCOMFORTABLE CONVERSATIONS WITH A BLACK MAN

A former NFL player casts his gimlet eye on American race relations.

In his first book, Acho, an analyst for Fox Sports who grew up in Dallas as the son of Nigerian immigrants, addresses White readers who have sent him questions about Black history and culture. “My childhood,” he writes, “was one big study abroad in white culture—followed by studying abroad in black culture during college and then during my years in the NFL, which I spent on teams with 80-90 percent black players, each of whom had his own experience of being a person of color in America. Now, I’m fluent in both cultures: black and white.” While the author avoids condescending to readers who already acknowledge their White privilege or understand why it’s unacceptable to use the N-word, he’s also attuned to the sensitive nature of the topic. As such, he has created “a place where questions you may have been afraid to ask get answered.” Acho has a deft touch and a historian’s knack for marshaling facts. He packs a lot into his concise narrative, from an incisive historical breakdown of American racial unrest and violence to the ways of cultural appropriation: Your friend respecting and appreciating Black arts and culture? OK. Kim Kardashian showing off her braids and attributing her sense of style to Bo Derek? Not so much. Within larger chapters, the text, which originated with the author’s online video series with the same title, is neatly organized under helpful headings: “Let’s rewind,” “Let’s get uncomfortable,” “Talk it, walk it.” Acho can be funny, but that’s not his goal—nor is he pedaling gotcha zingers or pleas for headlines. The author delivers exactly what he promises in the title, tackling difficult topics with the depth of an engaged cultural thinker and the style of an experienced wordsmith. Throughout, Acho is a friendly guide, seeking to sow understanding even if it means risking just a little discord.

This guide to Black culture for White people is accessible but rarely easy.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-80046-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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