A provocative, idea-filled burst of prognostication.

THE STORM BEFORE THE CALM

AMERICA'S DISCORD, THE COMING CRISIS OF THE 2020S, AND THE TRIUMPH BEYOND

The Austin-based forecaster argues that “impersonal forces” will drive events in the 2020s, “one of the more difficult periods” in American history, but prosperity will follow.

Friedman (Flashpoints: The Emerging Crisis in Europe, 2015, etc.), an adviser to corporations and government and the founder of Geopolitical Futures, has a cyclical view of American history, which argues that predictable cycles of “crises, order, and reinvention” have shaped outcomes since the birth of the nation. We are “simply passengers on the American roller coaster,” he writes matter-of-factly. Two major cycles control “actors and events”: an institutional cycle occurring every 80 years (marked in the past by the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and World War II) and guiding the relationship between the federal government and other parts of the nation; and a socio-economic cycle, which changes the dynamic of the U.S. economy and society at 50-year intervals and has produced the industrial class, baby boomers, and the middle class. Friedman predicts these complex forces will converge in the 2020s to “destabilize” American life and begin a “period of failures” marked by indifference to politics, low growth in productivity, and increasing unemployment. The 2030s will be a murkily described “period of creation” that will “redefine” the social landscape and ameliorate the problem of dysfunctional federal government by introducing military governing principles (subordinates do not deviate from the commander’s intent). Many readers will balk at the author’s too-neat cycles and the notion that leaders do not play a major role in shaping events. In support of his theorizing, he offers a sharp analysis of American life, especially the roots of the knack for reinvention that allows the nation to start over after crises. Americans invented their country, he writes, and lacking shared history and culture, “invented themselves.” Friedman also discusses the nation’s reluctance to accept its responsibilities as the “sole world power” and the tensions between its technocratic and industrial working classes.

A provocative, idea-filled burst of prognostication.

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-385-54049-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 12

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2016

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

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

Did you like this book?

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 23

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

more