A concise and personal yet universally applicable examination of a problem that affects everyone on planet Earth.

THE STORY OF MORE

HOW WE GOT TO CLIMATE CHANGE AND WHERE TO GO FROM HERE

Following a critically and popular debut, the lab girl turns teacher in a course on climate change.

As most readers know, a bestseller gives a fledgling author a bigger megaphone. In her follow-up to Lab Girl (2016), Jahren (Geosciences/Univ. of Oslo) uses it to show how issues that are clearly important to her are crucial to all of humanity and the survival of the world as we know it. She doesn’t use scare tactics or shrill warnings; unfortunately, “we kind of stopped listening. By now we’re quite practiced at not listening to things scientists say over and over again.” The author cites warnings about the dangers of fossil fuels dating to the 1950s and the linking of fossil fuels and the threat of global warming “as early as 1856.” Few listened then, and now the crisis is urgent. In matter-of-fact detail and conversational prose, Jahren interweaves biographical information about her Midwestern girlhood and takes readers on a journey with her to her current home in Oslo, where she moved in 2016 “because I am worried about the future of science in America.” She methodically takes us through discussions of food, especially regarding changes in production and consumption, and energy and the planet as a whole, emphasizing one central point: “What was only a faint drumbeat as I began to research this book now rings in my head like a mantra: Use Less and Share More.” Over and over, the author shows how the world divides between those who consume and waste more and those who live on much less. She explores not only food scarcity, but also lack of electricity and sanitary water conditions. She clearly shows how the amount of waste created by the privileged could provide plenty for those less privileged. “The earth is sick,” she writes, “and we suspect that it’s something bad,” and a cure begins with individual action but will require significant shifts in values and practices.

A concise and personal yet universally applicable examination of a problem that affects everyone on planet Earth.

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-56338-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Vintage

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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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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