Provocative, illuminating, and consistently entertaining.



The unexpected and underappreciated history of sex toys.

Years before sex expert Lieberman earned her doctorate in “Sex Toy History,” she invested in her first vibrator, and it became “love at first buzz.” She went on to participate in adult novelty parties while living in Texas, where the sale or promotion of sexual stimulators was considered legally obscene (things have changed since). The historically regressive nature of the availability and use of sex toys forms the thrust of the book, and the author’s vast knowledge of sex, eroticism, and the art of self-pleasure is on vibrant display. Lieberman describes ancient “phallic batons” in use as far back as 40,000 B.C.E. Though the information is readily available, she notes, there remains no definitive answers on the true origins and usages of sex toys, primarily because their history is shrouded in “male fear,” patriarchal regulation of women’s bodies, and shame. While Japanese societies celebrate the sex toy, the author encountered difficulty in tracing the tabooed subject matter within American culture until, tucked away in the archives of museums, libraries, and vintage catalogs, she discovered dilators, ticklers, and vibrators and their assorted histories as sexual apparatuses disguised as medical devices. Lieberman introduces us to a colorful cast of creators and purveyors who have played a role in destigmatizing masturbation and revolutionizing the sex industry. Among others, these include an enterprising paraplegic who embarked on a handcrafted dildo manufacturing business, which helped usher innovative variations on sex toys into the mainstream consumer market. Lieberman also profiles the two creative entrepreneurs behind the Pleasure Chest adult novelty chain and American artists and sex educators Betty Dodson and Joani Blank, and she updates readers on more contemporary advancements within the sex toy arena. On a deeper level, through its probing exploration, the text also becomes a sharp commentary on contemporary society’s ever changing sexual landscape and how sex is perceived, judged, accepted, and enjoyed with more variations than ever before.

Provocative, illuminating, and consistently entertaining.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-68177-543-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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
  • 13

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


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?