Stimulating reading for those seeking enlightenment and joyfulness throughout middle age.




Exploring the struggle for satisfaction at midlife.

Brookings Institution senior fellow and Atlantic contributing editor Rauch (Political Realism: How Hacks, Machines, Big Money, and Back-Room Deals Can Strengthen American Democracy, 2015, etc.) profiles an assortment of individuals who found themselves discontented in their 40s and 50s. Their lives had followed a classic trajectory: energized with motivation in their 20s and flush with responsibilities throughout their 30s, they eventually experienced a drastic downswing in happiness and fulfillment that proved challenging to overcome. In Rauch’s search for answers, he gleans perspectives from everyday people, notables such as former blogger Andrew Sullivan and historical figures such as landscape painter Thomas Cole. Also illuminating are the author’s frank reflections on his own personal life. While Rauch stresses that the scientific phenomenon of the “U-shaped life-satisfaction curve” is real and the midlife disillusionment slump perfectly natural, he also acknowledges the ways in which to counterbalance its effects and find an optimistic vantage point. “Time and aging fight happiness in midlife,” he writes, “then switch sides.” Rauch examines the nuances of human contentedness through the work of several “happiness economics” researchers who determined that social, not material, factors were most at play when measuring the happiness of people in later life, and he notes that the “curve” of midlife dissatisfaction is not necessarily an inevitability for everyone. Rauch’s keen research, partly based on statistical and polled data yet more largely substantiated by interviews and profiles of everyday people, documents how happiness levels trend downward as midlife approaches but also charts a return to enjoyment, wisdom, and an uptick in overall fulfillment once midlife is crested. He convincingly scrutinizes this harmonic resurgence of overall satisfaction (a “rebirth of gratitude”), attested to by survey respondents who attributed it to stress reduction and emotional regulation. This uplifting report offers hope and encouragement for aging readers doubting the longevity of bliss.

Stimulating reading for those seeking enlightenment and joyfulness throughout middle age.

Pub Date: May 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-07880-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 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 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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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...


A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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