Without judgment, the author/driver allows his subjects to narrate their own adventures, leading to honest, raw, human...

THE SHANGHAI FREE TAXI

JOURNEYS WITH THE HUSTLERS AND REBELS OF THE NEW CHINA

A longtime NPR reporter who has lived and worked in China for more than a decade offers an engaging account of how ordinary Chinese are navigating the complex changes and challenges in their evolving nation.

In an ingenious experiment to interview people in a relaxed, private manner, Langfitt, a former taxi driver in Philadelphia who is now the London correspondent for NPR, offered free cab rides in Shanghai in exchange for conversation. Since roof lights were not permitted, the author festooned his car with magnetic signs (“Make Shanghai friends, Chat about Shanghai life”). Most people seemed delighted at the free ride and opened up to the Mandarin-speaking foreigner. His passengers included Rocky, “a farm boy turned Shanghai lawyer,” and Charles, a salesman who went on to work for a European newspaper. During road trips, the talk often turned political, and his passengers revealed their thoughts about the state of the roads, Chairman Mao, and the corruption built into the communist system. The tales of Rocky and Charles resurface throughout the work, and in each chapter, Langfitt offers examples of those searching for what Xi Jinping calls the “Chinese Dream.” There’s Joanna, a human rights lawyer who was once imprisoned in a public park; Crystal, a Chinese immigrant in America whose sister had disappeared in the mountains of Southwest China and who urged Langfitt to help in the search; and Ashley, a young professional who grew up in a family of party officials but moved to America “in search of political freedom months before the election of Donald Trump.” All are in search of individual wealth and freedom, now championed by China in a new era in which the country is asserting itself in the world yet still leaving people behind. Lively, humorous, and touching, the book exposes the struggles of regular people in conflict with an authoritarian state.

Without judgment, the author/driver allows his subjects to narrate their own adventures, leading to honest, raw, human stories.

Pub Date: June 11, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-814-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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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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