A useful book that reveals what might be considered a secret shame but that is hiding in plain sight.



An economics analyst proposes a simple solution to the complex problem of child poverty—give those children cash.

In the acknowledgements, Madrick (Seven Bad Ideas: How Mainstream Economists Have Damaged America and the World, 2014, etc.), a contributor to the New York Review of Books and the Nation, thanks his publisher for supporting his work in general and “this book in particular, whose subject is dense and not very accessible.” His approach, heavy on statistics and critique of policy in programs known by acronyms, seems intended more to influence policymakers, government officials, and liberal activists rather than tug at the heartstrings of the public at large. Yet he builds a strong case that child poverty in America is “moral tragedy,” with as many as 25% of American children suffering from such deprivation. He systematically traces the cycle, beginning with prenatal care (or lack thereof) and continuing through food and housing insecurities, economically segregated schools with substandard resources, and poor employment prospects. If our economic policies are keeping such a large percentage of children in such a cycle of poverty, why does society permit it? Because we don’t agree on the severity of the problem or where the poverty line should be set. We don’t agree on whose fault it is, often blaming the poor for bad habits, little initiative, and a tendency to have children they can’t support. In other words, the “culture of poverty,” which Madrick attacks forcefully, particularly in regard to the black community. “Ideological battles over the origins of poverty,” writes the author, “are not an abstraction—they have consequences for the poor, for policy and for a way that Americans understand who is to blame for poverty.” We have Social Security to help keep older citizens out of poverty; we need something similar for the young. “I believe,” writes Madrick, “we should provide monthly, substantial, and unconditional cash allowances for all children through disbursements to their families.”

A useful book that reveals what might be considered a secret shame but that is hiding in plain sight.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-45-149418-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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?

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

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?