A cautionary tale with a matter-of-fact tone.


The political education of a scientist-turned–nuclear energy regulator.

As chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission under President Barack Obama, Jaczko was not a political insider; nor was he beholden to the industry that had invested and reaped billions of dollars from the proliferation of nuclear energy. He maintains that he was “a nuclear power moderate” when appointed to the commission, though one who “had become skeptical of the ability of the nuclear power industry to properly balance its fiscal responsibility to shareholders with the demands of public safety.” As with many regulatory agencies, nuclear power regulation seems to suffer from a fox-guarding-the-henhouse mentality. The financial stakes are huge, not only for the industry, but for those who benefit from the jobs the industry creates and the taxes it pays, which often support the communities where the reactors are located. Accidents are rare, but when they occur, as the lingering memory of Three Mile Island reminds us, the results can be devastating. Better safe than sorry, but how safe is safe? “What constitutes ‘safety’ is often determined by political, not just scientific, judgments,” writes the author, who experienced political resistance funded by anti-regulation lobbying throughout his tenure. “I was hardly anyone’s first choice for the job,” he admits, as even the Obama administration that appointed him expressed skepticism over his lack of administrative experience and the staffers he would oversee weren’t accustomed to working with someone so young (early 40s). Jaczko found himself consistently at odds not only with the industry he was charged with regulating and with their congressional supporters, but with the rest of his commission. The more he pushed for safeguards following the Japanese Fukushima accident in 2011, the stronger such resistance became, and he admits that “sometimes I behaved in a way that could be described as hotheaded.” Since resigning in 2012, he now advocates from the outside and maintains that “nuclear power is a failed technology.”

A cautionary tale with a matter-of-fact tone.

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4767-5576-2

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 20

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller


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?


For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

Did you like this book?