A specific, timely, well-rendered exegesis of the unfolding global threat.

ISIS

A HISTORY

A thorough survey of the genesis of the Islamic State, from al-Qaida wannabe to lethal caliphate.

The Islamic State emerged strong from the shattered democratic ideals of the Arab Spring and, before that, the devastating sectarian violence that resulted from the American invasion of Iraq. In this rigorous synthesis of what is actually known about the jihadi terror group, Middle East scholar Gerges (International Relations/London School of Economics and Political Science; Obama and the Middle East: The End of America's Moment?, 2012, etc.) looks at its power center and leaders and the troubling incursions by the group into Iraq, Syria, and Kurdish territories since the summer of 2014. He also examines its enormous wealth from oil and the black market and recruiting attraction for young, disaffected rural, religious men. In contrast to al-Qaida, which was nearly destroyed by the death of Osama bin Laden and swore vengeance on the “far enemy” (the U.S., Israel, and the Western powers), the Islamic State has focused its fury on the “near enemy,” the apostate Shias. Gerges sees this as an ongoing genocide in contrast to the relatively few deaths of Western journalists and others. The group’s leadership, especially Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has thus co-opted the global jihadi movement, moving into the chaotic vacuum left by the American invasion of Iraq, appropriating the Baathist tools of repression, and offering “aggrieved Sunnis a potent pan-Sunni (Islamist) identity.” Though the Islamic State perversely took credit for the unleashing of popular discontent during the Arab Spring, Gerges points to the power grab resulting from the “grand collusion” between Arab autocrats and their patrons to maintain the status quo. The author looks carefully at the rise of leaders such as al-Baghdadi, but he concludes that the ideological-driven terror organization will eventually self-destruct because it cannot supply the civil state and institutions of freedom and social justice that the Arab people desperately want and need.

A specific, timely, well-rendered exegesis of the unfolding global threat.

Pub Date: May 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-691-17000-8

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: March 8, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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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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