Berman dispels anti-vax fears and subterfuges with straight, scientific evidence.



A primer on the history of vaccination and the anti-vaccination movement.

Berman seeks to present a complete picture of the anti-vaccination crusade from the 19th century to the present. Vaccination, which introduces an agent that creates immunity against a pathogen without causing the disease itself, can be traced as far back as the 16th century in China and India. But the first anti-vaccination response, involving the treatment of smallpox, was recorded in the mid-18th century in Britain. Perhaps understandably, there was a visceral repulsion to polluting one’s body with unknown, possibly toxic materials. Here and elsewhere, Berman deliberately investigates the psyche of anti-vaxxers to see what makes them tick. While he appreciates that many anti-vaccine parents want the best for their children, a host of factors have gotten in the way of good science. In the 19th century, there were issues of social class, individual rights, mandatory vaccination, the cost of treatment, preserving the integrity of the body, and poor laws that stripped the destitute of “the last dignity they were afforded: control of their own bodies.” In the 20th and 21st centuries, the greatest influencer has been the media, which has allowed misinformation to spread like wildfire without giving the same airtime to the refutations of fearmongers. Subsequently discredited papers associating vaccination with autism made a big splash, but the arguments against the flawed studies scarcely caused a media ripple. Also causing wariness on the part of anti-vaxxers is distrust of government and pharmaceutical companies as well as vaccine hesitancy encouraged by some religious sects, and countless crackpot remedies have flourished in lieu of scientifically sound medical practices. Berman acknowledges the difficulty in changing the mind of an anti-vaxxer, and he stresses that much more can be accomplished through building trust in scientific research and community-based activism than mocking on Facebook.

Berman dispels anti-vax fears and subterfuges with straight, scientific evidence.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-262-53932-6

Page Count: 296

Publisher: MIT Press

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.


Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.


The creator of the hit internet series Humans of New York takes it global, chasing down a panoply of interesting stories.

In 1955, Edward Steichen staged a show called “The Family of Man,” a gathering of photographs that emphasized the commonality of humankind. Stanton’s project seemingly has much the same ambition. “You’ve created this magic little corner of the Web where people feel safe sharing their stories—without being ridiculed, or bullied, or judged,” he writes. “These stories are only honestly shared because they have a long history of being warmly received.” The ask is the hard part: approaching a total stranger and asking him or her to tell their stories. And what stories they are. A young Frenchwoman, tearful, recounts being able to see things from the spirit world that no one else can see. “And it’s been a very lonely existence since then,” she says. A sensible teenager in St. Petersburg, Russia, relates that her friends are trying to be grown-up, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, whereas she wants to remain a child close to her parents: “I’d like these times to last as long as possible.” A few stories are obnoxious, as with a Dutch incel who has converted himself into a pickup artist and outright cad: “Of course it’s manipulation, but why should I care? I’ve been manipulated so many times in my life.” A great many stories, some going for several pages but most taking up just a paragraph or two, are regretful, speaking to dashed dreams and roads not taken. A surprising number recount mental illness, depression, and addiction; “I’d give anything to have a tribe,” says a beleaguered mother in Barcelona. Some are hopeful, though, such as that of an Iranian woman: “I’ve fallen in love with literature. I try to read for one or two hours every day. I only have one life to live. But in books I can live one thousand lives.”

A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11429-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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