by Franklin Foer ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 5, 2023
A deeply researched political history and biography.
A chronicle of two fateful years in the White House.
Based on interviews with nearly 300 people in the inner circle of the Biden administration, as well as abundant published sources and government records, Atlantic staff writer Foer offers a brisk, detailed history of the president’s first two years in office, a crucial period that saw blunders and triumphs, deft maneuvering and lucky breaks. As the author sees it, Biden, whose “expertise was nose counting, horse trading, and spreading a thick layer of flattery over his audiences,” succeeded in his own heartfelt goal of proving “the eternal relevance of politics.” Among the president’s successes were the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, with a focus on climate change; the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines throughout the country; the confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court; and decisive leadership among the West over Ukraine. Foer examines Biden’s relationship with his vice president, Kamala Harris; and his protracted negotiations with Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, who mounted strong opposition to Biden’s Build Back Better plan, and with Pramila Jayapal, a leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, who did not want the plan watered down. While domestic challenges focused on Build Back Better, combatting the pandemic, and dealing with inflation, Biden faced critical foreign challenges. From longtime service as the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee and eight years as vice president, Biden developed a “swaggering sense of his own wisdom about the world beyond America’s borders.” He was intent on withdrawing from Afghanistan, generating much debate about the consequences of leaving that nation to the Taliban. What Biden hoped would be an “orderly departure” resulted in chaos and a blight on the presidency. Acknowledging that Biden’s “great strength is his empathy,” Foer also sees that his verbal missteps and volubility have remained as shortcomings for the “Irish raconteur.” Overall, the author creates a respectful portrait of a savvy, dedicated politician.A deeply researched political history and biography.
Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2023
Page Count: 432
Publisher: Penguin Press
Review Posted Online: Sept. 5, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2023
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by Matthew Desmond ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 21, 2023
A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.
A thoughtful program for eradicating poverty from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Evicted.
“America’s poverty is not for lack of resources,” writes Desmond. “We lack something else.” That something else is compassion, in part, but it’s also the lack of a social system that insists that everyone pull their weight—and that includes the corporations and wealthy individuals who, the IRS estimates, get away without paying upward of $1 trillion per year. Desmond, who grew up in modest circumstances and suffered poverty in young adulthood, points to the deleterious effects of being poor—among countless others, the precarity of health care and housing (with no meaningful controls on rent), lack of transportation, the constant threat of losing one’s job due to illness, and the need to care for dependent children. It does not help, Desmond adds, that so few working people are represented by unions or that Black Americans, even those who have followed the “three rules” (graduate from high school, get a full-time job, wait until marriage to have children), are far likelier to be poor than their White compatriots. Furthermore, so many full-time jobs are being recast as contracted, fire-at-will gigs, “not a break from the norm as much as an extension of it, a continuation of corporations finding new ways to limit their obligations to workers.” By Desmond’s reckoning, besides amending these conditions, it would not take a miracle to eliminate poverty: about $177 billion, which would help end hunger and homelessness and “make immense headway in driving down the many agonizing correlates of poverty, like violence, sickness, and despair.” These are matters requiring systemic reform, which will in turn require Americans to elect officials who will enact that reform. And all of us, the author urges, must become “poverty abolitionists…refusing to live as unwitting enemies of the poor.” Fortune 500 CEOs won’t like Desmond’s message for rewriting the social contract—which is precisely the point.A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.
Pub Date: March 21, 2023
Page Count: 288
Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2022
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023
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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
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