MISTRUST

WHY LOSING FAITH IN INSTITUTIONS PROVIDES THE TOOLS TO TRANSFORM THEM

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

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. 11, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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ELON MUSK

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

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A warts-and-all portrait of the famed techno-entrepreneur—and the warts are nearly beyond counting.

To call Elon Musk (b. 1971) “mercurial” is to undervalue the term; to call him a genius is incorrect. Instead, Musk has a gift for leveraging the genius of others in order to make things work. When they don’t, writes eminent biographer Isaacson, it’s because the notoriously headstrong Musk is so sure of himself that he charges ahead against the advice of others: “He does not like to share power.” In this sharp-edged biography, the author likens Musk to an earlier biographical subject, Steve Jobs. Given Musk’s recent political turn, born of the me-first libertarianism of the very rich, however, Henry Ford also comes to mind. What emerges clearly is that Musk, who may or may not have Asperger’s syndrome (“Empathy did not come naturally”), has nurtured several obsessions for years, apart from a passion for the letter X as both a brand and personal name. He firmly believes that “all requirements should be treated as recommendations”; that it is his destiny to make humankind a multi-planetary civilization through innovations in space travel; that government is generally an impediment and that “the thought police are gaining power”; and that “a maniacal sense of urgency” should guide his businesses. That need for speed has led to undeniable successes in beating schedules and competitors, but it has also wrought disaster: One of the most telling anecdotes in the book concerns Musk’s “demon mode” order to relocate thousands of Twitter servers from Sacramento to Portland at breakneck speed, which trashed big parts of the system for months. To judge by Isaacson’s account, that may have been by design, for Musk’s idea of creative destruction seems to mean mostly chaos.

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023

ISBN: 9781982181284

Page Count: 688

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023

BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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