A cogent argument for gender parity and a revealing look at cultural change.

BROAD INFLUENCE

HOW WOMEN ARE CHANGING THE WAY AMERICA WORKS

How women effect change once they reach a critical mass.

As a political correspondent for TIME, journalist Newton-Small investigated the response of women senators to the government shutdown in 2013. Her article about their bipartisan efforts to foster negotiations led her to a broader investigation into women’s influence in government, the judiciary, business, police forces, and the military. Interviews with more than 200 women inform her thoughtful, often inspiring debut book. The author argues that once women’s participation reaches at least 20 percent of a group, they can “change the culture and influence outcomes.” She found this “critical mass” in Congress, now 20 percent female; the current presidential administration (30 percent), and federal judgeships (35 percent)—but not in the private sector. On corporate boards, “women who served alone were often ignored…and their views discounted” until they numbered three or more. Many of her subjects are prominent, outspoken, and recognizable: Nancy Pelosi, for example, who “played politics on a man’s field and played it better than any of them,” and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. But Newton-Small also explores the contributions of Tulsi Gabbard, who served in Iraq, was elected to Congress from Hawaii, and educated her male peers about women’s military experiences; Erie Meyer, who left the “frat-boy culture” of a tech firm to work in the Ohio Attorney General’s office; and Elizabeth Bondurant, a New Jersey police chief who believes that women are more likely than men to defuse a hostile situation through talking. From these conversations, the author concludes that women bring particular skills and perspectives to any culture, including facility with communication and propensity to listen, compromise, and form alliances. She also finds “a good deal of evidence that women are inherently risk-averse,” making it less likely that the scandal incited by Lehman Brothers would have occurred at Lehman Sisters.

A cogent argument for gender parity and a revealing look at cultural change.

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61893-155-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Time Inc. Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 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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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“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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