A thoughtful, though ultimately unpersuasive, approach to Middle East peace.


Debut author Hutter offers a hopeful solution to the violent conflict between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority. 

Many people consider this long-running dispute to be fundamentally intractable, but the author writes that he finds reason for optimism in historical examples—and what he sees as the nature of religion itself. He first establishes the historical context in which the crisis emerged in the 20th century, when Jewish people fled to the Middle East to establish a sanctuary from oppression. Israel’s statehood was interpreted as a threat by the Palestinians and the Muslim community at large, who saw it as an “utterly unacceptable outrage” manufactured by colonial powers, Hutter says. However, he asserts that the Palestinian community, and Muslims at large, were insufficiently empathetic to the plight of Jews, whose existence as a people was endangered. The author goes on to say that both religions contain deep reserves of compassion and the will necessary for reconciliation—theological virtues that have appeared time and time again throughout history. This “peace potential,” he points out, is a feature of all three major Abrahamic faiths, citing as evidence a meeting between the grand imam of the Al Azhar Mosque in Cairo and Pope Francis in 2016. Hutter makes several concrete and refreshingly original political proposals in this book; he advocates an arrangement that would permit the sharing of the great “Noble” shrine al-Haram al-Sharif (aka the Temple Mount) in Jerusalem, and another that addresses the incorporation of controversial Jewish settlements into a new Palestinian state. However, the crux of any lasting détente, he avers, can’t only be political, but also must involve public declarations of religious respect, including mutual expressions of empathy and contrition. The author lucidly chronicles the long arc of the conflict, discussing the history of relations between devotees of the three Abrahamic religions. His approach is eclectically multidisciplinary, which is unsurprising, given that Hutter is a Catholic theologian, psychotherapist, and Sufi master. However, even he acknowledges that his proposals may strike others as akin to a “fairy tale,” due to the animosity that exists on both sides of the conflict. 

A thoughtful, though ultimately unpersuasive, approach to Middle East peace. 

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4808-7242-4

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Archway Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 1, 2019

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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.


“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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