WE NEED TO TALK

A MEMOIR ABOUT WEALTH

Not for everyone but candid and topical.

A philanthropist and dot-com–boom millionaire broaches the topic of extreme affluence by exploring the impact sudden wealth had on her life.

Risher joined the Microsoft human resources department in 1991 after leaving a fledgling career in advertising. At $26,000, her starting salary was modest. But the stock options that came with her job began to skyrocket less than two years later, and her 1995 marriage to a Microsoft executive catapulted her into stratospheric heights of wealth. Yet her new life was no fairy tale. The daughter of middle-class parents who inculcated the importance of frugality, she suddenly discovered her own greed. She remembers, for example, how her nearly one-carat diamond engagement ring only whetted an appetite for a “bigger, flawless, colorless, perfectly-cut stone.” But Risher worked on moderating her desires. Rather than buy a McMansion, she and her husband settled on a house that fit their status as urban professionals. When she eventually left Microsoft to raise children, she worried about lacking deeper purpose and alienating middle-class friends and family members. Aware that the public education system was broken, the author enrolled her children in a private school where parents “sized one another up” and competed to make the largest donations. Eventually, Risher became involved in charitable giving projects. She also connected with other affluent women who made her realize that feeling insecure and struggling to speak openly about money with friends and family were part of the price one paid for being newly wealthy. The naiveté and guilt the author demonstrates may frustrate some readers, but her honesty about the personal dark sides that sudden wealth revealed is admirable, as is her stated wish to see “a system…that helps redistribute the wealth at the top” for the benefit of all. In an era of income inequality, her book, which offers discussion questions about money and wealth throughout, offers a starting point for an uncomfortable subject of increasing importance to everyone.

Not for everyone but candid and topical.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-939096-46-3

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Xeno/Red Hen Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

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

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

INTO THE WILD

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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