A refreshing, cogently argued book that will hopefully make the rounds at Facebook, Google, Apple et al.

THE INNOVATION DELUSION

HOW OUR OBSESSION WITH THE NEW HAS DISRUPTED THE WORK THAT MATTERS MOST

A potent challenge to “the superiority of the innovation mindset.”

As professors Vinsel and Russell write in this vibrant, sure-footed argument, the digital economy rests, in part, on the “demand for rapid growth that disrupts the com­fortable incumbents of the status quo.” For many, this attitude, characterized by creative disruption, has spread from the economy to become a way of life. Innovation is important, of course, but the concept of “move fast and break things…can be lousy guidance for anyone who builds or designs actual things.” The authors argue that it is time to challenge the unholy marriage between Silicon Valley’s ideology of change for change’s sake and Wall Street’s insatiable appetite for immediate profit; instead, we must attend to the areas of infrastructure and maintenance. Vinsel and Russell point out that innovation—the profitable combination of new and existing knowledge—is not the enemy. The problem is “innovation-speak,” a misleading “sales pitch about a future that doesn’t yet exist.” Innovation-speak flourishes in a society that values the individual accumulation of wealth above the common good. Maintenance, though essential to any functioning society, is often neglected, thus disrupting order in a variety of forms, whether it’s the physical infrastructure of roads and bridges or the simple ability to maintain a healthy populace. The authors guide readers with clear and contemporary examples of when deferred maintenance led to either slow or fast disaster, both of which are dangerous. “A slow disaster…is the accretion of harm from incremental neglect,” they write. “It happens when children ingest chips from lead paint or when a potholed road becomes unsafe for traffic.” The authors also thoroughly expose the unjust hierarchy that leaves maintenance workers at the bottom of the pay scale. We need a systematic approach, they argue, to monitoring and caring for our resources, encouraging sustainability and shared skill sets. Maintenance sustains success, and an ounce of prevention is still worth a pound of cure.

A refreshing, cogently argued book that will hopefully make the rounds at Facebook, Google, Apple et al.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-57568-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Crown Archetype

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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

HUMANS

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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A solid work of investigation that, while treading well-covered ground, offers plenty of surprises.

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PERIL

An account of the last gasps of the Trump administration, completing a trilogy begun with Fear (2018) and Rage (2020).

One of Woodward and fellow Washington Post reporter Costa’s most memorable revelations comes right away: Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, calling his counterpart in Beijing to assure him that even after Jan. 6 and what Milley saw as an unmistakable attempt at a coup d’état, he would keep Trump from picking a war with China. This depiction has earned much attention on the talking-heads news channels, but more significant is its follow-up: Milley did so because he was concerned that Trump “might still be looking for what Milley called a ‘Reichstag moment.’ ” Milley emerges as a stalwart protector of the Constitution who constantly courted Trump’s ire and yet somehow survived without being fired. No less concerned about Trump’s erratic behavior was Paul Ryan, the former Speaker of the House, who studied the psychiatric literature for a big takeaway: “Do not humiliate Trump in public. Humiliating a narcissist risked real danger, a frantic lashing out if he felt threatened or criticized.” Losing the 2020 election was one such humiliation, and Woodward and Costa closely track the trajectory of Trump’s reaction, from depression to howling rage to the stubborn belief that the election was rigged. There are a few other modest revelations in the book, including the fact that Trump loyalist William Barr warned him that the electorate didn’t like him. “They just think you’re a fucking asshole,” Barr told his boss. That was true enough, and the civil war that the authors recount among various offices in the White House and government reveals that Trump’s people were only ever tentatively his. All the same, the authors note, having drawn on scores of “deep background” interviews, Trump still has his base, still intends vengeance by way of a comeback, and still constitutes the peril of their title.

A solid work of investigation that, while treading well-covered ground, offers plenty of surprises.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982182-91-5

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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