A female buddy book with intergenerational appeal.

GRADUATES IN WONDERLAND

THE INTERNATIONAL MISADVENTURES OF TWO (ALMOST) ADULTS

Two best friends and fellow Brown University graduates deliver a candid epistolary account of their postgrad adventures "down the rabbit hole" of the real world.

Just before BFFs Pan and Kapelke-Dale graduated from college, they made a pact to stay in touch via email and give each other all the details of their post-collegiate lives. Jobless but hopeful, Pan went to Beijing to have an adventure and learn Mandarin. In the meantime, Kapelke-Dale began working for a narcissistic art gallery owner in Manhattan since New York City was “just where you were supposed to go after college.” Excited and intimidated by adulthood and also deeply uncertain about their futures, both young women fumbled through their lives. After a stint as an underpaid peon in a Chinese PR firm, Pan found work as an editor at a Beijing magazine for English-speaking expatriates. In New York, Kapelke-Dale moved into a better job at a nonprofit art gallery, but that soon became a dead end. As Pan navigated the tricky realm of love and sex with colleagues, Kapelke-Dale tried to work through unresolved romantic issues with old flames. Pan’s path led her to a charming Englishman and a life “ultimatum”: commitment or footloose singledom. For her friend, the choice boiled down to facing her fears and taking a risk to leave NYC for life and graduate study abroad in France and then England. Told in two genuinely winning voices, the book presents a unique view of what it means to come of age as educated females in the chaos of a modern transnational world. Young women just starting out on their own “adventures in wonderland” will find it especially appealing. At the same time, however, older women may also enjoy the way this narrative celebrates the sustaining power of committed woman-to-woman friendship.

A female buddy book with intergenerational appeal.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-59240-860-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Gotham Books

Review Posted Online: March 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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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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The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

THE LAWS OF HUMAN NATURE

A follow-on to the author’s garbled but popular 48 Laws of Power, promising that readers will learn how to win friends and influence people, to say nothing of outfoxing all those “toxic types” out in the world.

Greene (Mastery, 2012, etc.) begins with a big sell, averring that his book “is designed to immerse you in all aspects of human behavior and illuminate its root causes.” To gauge by this fat compendium, human behavior is mostly rotten, a presumption that fits with the author’s neo-Machiavellian program of self-validation and eventual strategic supremacy. The author works to formula: First, state a “law,” such as “confront your dark side” or “know your limits,” the latter of which seems pale compared to the Delphic oracle’s “nothing in excess.” Next, elaborate on that law with what might seem to be as plain as day: “Losing contact with reality, we make irrational decisions. That is why our success often does not last.” One imagines there might be other reasons for the evanescence of glory, but there you go. Finally, spin out a long tutelary yarn, seemingly the longer the better, to shore up the truism—in this case, the cometary rise and fall of one-time Disney CEO Michael Eisner, with the warning, “his fate could easily be yours, albeit most likely on a smaller scale,” which ranks right up there with the fortuneteller’s “I sense that someone you know has died" in orders of probability. It’s enough to inspire a new law: Beware of those who spend too much time telling you what you already know, even when it’s dressed up in fresh-sounding terms. “Continually mix the visceral with the analytic” is the language of a consultant’s report, more important-sounding than “go with your gut but use your head, too.”

The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-42814-5

Page Count: 580

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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