by Jason Burke ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 3, 2015
General readers looking for a comprehensive guide to this serious global challenge will find this a rewarding, if sobering,...
A concise summary of the background and present state of Islamic militancy.
Guardian South Asian correspondent Burke (The 9/11 Wars, 2011, etc.) sets out to explain the history and theoretical underpinnings of insurgent Islam and to describe and evaluate the most prominent groups engaged in armed struggle. He succeeds admirably on both counts. The author’s more than 20 years' experience in reporting on Islamic militancy permits him to write with authority about the motivations, attitudes, and capabilities of the various militant groups. He rejects the belief that "Islamic militancy represents some kind of regressive historical riptide" and calls the "global war on terror" a "monumentally misconceived strategy which is in part to blame for the spread of radical Islamic militancy over the last decade." Burke traces today's Islamic militancy to a resurgence of Muslim faith identities in the 1970s and shows how Saudi oil money has been used to spread the intolerant Wahhabi form of Sunni Islam worldwide. He also ably sets out the evolution of militants' religious and political theories from the 1920s to the frightening current theory of "leaderless jihad." The author brings an unusual clarity to the discussion of this new movement and to his exposition of the theory and practice of Islamic militancy, including its creative uses of the Internet and social media to promote extremist ideologies. Burke clearly describes the differences between the aims and capabilities of al-Qaida and the Islamic State and of the growing number of independent actors disingenuously dismissed as "lone wolves" by security services. Western readers may take some scant comfort in the author's observation that while "the indirect impact of Islamic militancy on [Westerners'] lives is significant…the real impact of Islamic militancy will not be felt in the places where this book is likely to be read." Burke covers a lot of important ground in a compact narrative.General readers looking for a comprehensive guide to this serious global challenge will find this a rewarding, if sobering, read.
Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2015
Page Count: 288
Publisher: The New Press
Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2015
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2015
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by Paul Kalanithi ‧ RELEASE DATE: Jan. 19, 2016
A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...
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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
Page Count: 248
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 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
Page Count: 432
Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019
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