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THE FIX

HOW NATIONS SURVIVE AND THRIVE IN A WORLD IN DECLINE

An important and unusually engrossing book that merits wide attention.

Foreign Affairs managing editor Tepperman (co-editor: Iran and the Bomb: Solving the Persian Puzzle, 2012, etc.) offers a stirring account of the achievements of risk-taking political leaders.

Based on more than 100 interviews and the author’s deep understanding of international affairs, this welcome book makes “a data-driven case for optimism at a moment of gathering darkness” by exploring how leaders in nations from Brazil and Canada to South Korea and Indonesia have successfully tackled major world problems, including inequality, immigration, corruption, civil war, Islamic extremism, and others. What’s remarkable is Tepperman’s ability to identify and tell the complex stories of places where realistic, pragmatic, and determined leadership at the top has triumphed over staggering challenges. In Rwanda, where 1 million people died in civil warfare between the Hutu majority and the Tutsi minority, President Paul Kagame used local community tribunals to foster reconciliation based on compromise. In Mexico, President Enrique Peña Nieto convinced three warring political parties to overcome their differences and govern again. In Singapore, former Prime Minister Harry Lee created good-governance initiatives to battle serious corruption, including a tool kit to detect wrongdoing. Perhaps most fascinating is the market-friendly cash-transfer program begun under former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in Brazil, which brought some 40 million people into the middle class between 2003 and 2011. Least expected among “nations” overcoming political gridlock is New York City, where Mayor Michael Bloomberg circumvented post–9/11 federal inertia and built a formidable intelligence and counterterrorism apparatus. In each instance, writes the author, government leaders ranging from repressive rulers to liberal democrats embraced crisis as an opportunity for action. Aiming for less than perfection, they expected to make mistakes, gave no faction everything it wanted, and succeeded. While recognizing the unique aspects of each nation’s experience, Tepperman finds lessons that can serve as templates elsewhere. Many readers will be astonished to realize that these success stories—all rendered at length in polished prose—have been lurking amid excessive doom-and-gloom headlines.

An important and unusually engrossing book that merits wide attention.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-90298-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Tim Duggan Books/Crown

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

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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