An eye-opening, urgent book that demands an end to inequality as a matter of life and death.



The rate of deaths attributed to accident in the U.S. is appalling—and, but for lust for profit, mostly avoidable.

“One person dies by accident every three minutes or so in the United States, the deaths appearing unrelated and not particularly worthy of note,” writes journalist Singer in this searing, deeply researched account. But is that really so? Not when you consider the fact that Blacks “die in accidental house fires at more than twice the rate of white people,” that Native Americans are twice as likely as Whites to die of being hit by cars while walking, that West Virginians are twice as likely as Virginians to die accidentally. Such facts speak to structural conditions that disfavor the poor and marginalized. “Accidents,” writes the author, “are not just flukes or freak mishaps—whether or not you die by accident is just a measure of your power, or lack of it. She elaborates: It’s possible to slip on a wet floor, a human error, but the fact that the floor has a layer of water on it is a condition. Similarly, “to run an oil tanker aground on a reef is a human error,” she asserts, while demanding that tanker pilots work 12-hour shifts is a condition sure to yield error. So it is that pedestrians killed by cars speak to conditions. Speed limits are too high, for example, cars can travel too fast at the driver’s discretion, and pedestrian walkways are rare. Furthermore, countless industries resist efforts at structural reform, from slaughterhouses whose lines run so fast that “accidents” are inevitable, to auto manufacturers lobbying against speed regulators, seat belts, and airbags. Many people, Singer argues persuasively, are inclined to see accidents as something to blame on victims instead of looking at deeply entrenched structures of injustice. “If accidents befall the poor because they are poor, and poor people deserve their poverty,” she writes, “it follows that the rich deserve their riches as well.”

An eye-opening, urgent book that demands an end to inequality as a matter of life and death.

Pub Date: Feb. 8, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-982129-66-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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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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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

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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

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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