No thoughtful reader of this book will look at his or her computer or cellphone the same way again.

CONGO STORIES

BATTLING FIVE CENTURIES OF EXPLOITATION AND GREED

Eye-opening reportage from an African nation that has been robbed and despoiled for centuries—but that is now finding paths of resistance.

Human-rights activists Prendergast (co-author: The Enough Moment: Fighting to End Africa's Worst Human Rights Crimes, 2010, etc.) and Bafilemba, the latter a Congolese field researcher, begin with the story of a woman who was abducted by a local militia in the Democratic Republic of Congo, held captive for 15 months, and repeatedly raped as “the wife of everyone.” She managed to escape, only to be brutalized again by invading Rwandan soldiers, and finally became a teacher and mentor “to countless Congolese women who have experienced physical and emotional trauma.” Hers is a story that has been repeated again and again for centuries as Congolese rulers, for a price, have allowed outside powers to loot its resources, by which the nation should rightfully be one of the richest in the world. Instead, in recent history, it has been ruled by kleptocrats—currently Joseph Kabila, who “has subverted democratic processes and violently repressed independent and opposition voices in order to retain power indefinitely”—even as those outside interests remove astonishing quantities of what the authors enumerate as four “conflict minerals.” These include tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold, as well as cobalt and diamonds, all things that enrich the developed world and make many of its modern technologies possible. Change is possible: The authors hold that Congo offers a case study not just in inequality and postcolonial exploitation but also in what can be done about them, including being sure that jewelers source their supplies responsibly and use “conflict-free artisanal gold from Congo in their jewelry lines.” Gosling provides excellent images of daily life in Congo, while, in a postscript, Dave Eggers urges readers to find ways to support small-scale “local projects conceived and run by local residents,” funding the people who most need help.

No thoughtful reader of this book will look at his or her computer or cellphone the same way again.

Pub Date: Dec. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4555-8464-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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