A book of heartfelt conviction that will not change a single mind.

WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A DEMOCRAT

Almost 40 years after his unsuccessful campaign for the presidency, the liberal Democrat addresses the state of the party, and the state of the country, in what reads like a long stump speech.

Whether embracing the label “bleeding-heart liberal” as “a compliment,” arguing that “the erosion of the American way of life began in 1981, when Ronald Reagan became president” or proclaiming of the Republican “faith in supply-side economics” that “the idea isn’t worth a hoot in a rain barrel,” the former senator from South Dakota isn’t writing to win converts from the conservative wing or even the center. The minister’s son is preaching to the choir, a choir that he fears might be tempted to sacrifice for political pragmatism the ideals he maintains represent the heart of the Democratic Party. “Food and hunger are not partisan issues. They are human issues,” writes McGovern (Abraham Lincoln, 2008, etc.), who believes much the same about education, medical care, jobs, immigration and other issues where he insists that intransigent Republicans are uncompromisingly in the wrong. Though the candidate who ran his own presidential campaign on a peace platform takes issue with the military interventions continued under President Obama, he is less critical of the administration’s attempts at bipartisanship than many liberals have been: “Never during my lifetime have I witnessed any president beset by the narrow partisanship that has plagued President Obama. The American people elected him for his vision—of change, of hope, of compromise…These ideals have been trampled on by Republicans.” Yet even those who generally align with McGovern’s ideology might find curious his assertion that “I often feel that the federal government is more sensible about spending than I am.” Though the rise of the Tea Party suggests a vocal opposition, McGovern believes that government is our friend—the bigger the better.

A book of heartfelt conviction that will not change a single mind.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-15822-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Blue Rider Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2011

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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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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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