A rare look at a disappearing world.



A warm portrait of stark, strenuous lives in remote China.

From her home in northwestern China, essayist and nature writer Li joined a family of Kazakh herders—and their camels, sheep, cattle, and horses—to spend winter on immense pastureland where the population density was “one person per every square mile and a half.” Winner of the People’s Literature Award in China, this charming memoir, the author’s first to be translated in the U.S., captures the harsh reality and quiet pleasures of the herders’ nomadic way of life, migrations threatened by the consequences of overgrazing. Amid “towering waves of immaculate golden sand dunes,” where temperatures plummet to minus 31 degrees, the family constructs a burrow made with sheep manure, the “sole building material available in the desert,” incomparable because it “can magically, continuously radiate heat.” With wall hangings, rugs, a hearth, and a tablecloth for meals, the burrow becomes a home. Although the author wondered what contribution she could make, she took on a variety of necessary tasks: “I cleaned the cattle burrow and sheep pen every day, hauled snow”—critical for providing water—“made nan, embroidered,” and sometimes helped out with the exhausting job of herding. Li offers affectionate profiles of neighbors, visitors, and members of her host family: Cuma, the father, “intelligent and ambitious, capable and cocky,” and too often drunk; his reticent wife, whose “aloofness was enough to give you goose bumps. But when she did smile, she was radiant. Light beams shot out from between her brows as if she invented this ‘smiling’ business”; and their 19-year-old daughter, who had to leave school and dreams of becoming educated and independent in order to help her family. The arduous work caused Cuma and his wife to rely on daily doses of painkillers, but their mastery of their environment, and their contentment, earned the author’s admiration.

A rare look at a disappearing world.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-66260-033-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Astra House

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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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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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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