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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Fans of Rogen will enjoy his laid-back, whimsical memoir.

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Everyone’s favorite stoner recalls his childhood, youth, and first stirrings of Hollywood success.

“My friends are thrilled when their kids don’t shit all over their floors,” writes Rogen. “As an adult, I get little to no praise for doing the same.” It’s a characteristic line; Rogen leans heavily on the seven words with which George Carlin made so much hay, with a dash of Borscht Belt shtick (“The hardest part about being Jewish is…the grandparents”) and some occasional high-concept material. The author reveals that he inherited a touch of his father’s Tourette’s mixed in with his mother’s gentleness, the blend of which resulted in a kind of easygoing ADHD best treated with lashings of marijuana. When he learned that a teenage friend had smoked pot with her brother, he asked how it felt. “It burns your throat like crazy,” she replied, to which Rogen responded, “Awesome.” Other drugs come and go in these pages—MDMA, for one, which can certainly make a pitch meeting difficult. And then there’s this: “If you’ve ever been grocery shopping while an inhuman amount of hallucinogenic mushrooms are [sic] aggressively taking over your system, you know that shit ain’t easy.” Indeed. Rogen’s not inclined to badmouth, though from time to time, his critical bone is tickled (“all the movies to come out of Project Greenlight fucking suck butt”). He also makes it clear, through encounters with the likes of Kanye West, Nicolas Cage, and George Lucas, that Los Angeles is the world headquarters of eccentricity bordering on madness. As a good Canadian, too, Rogen can’t help but get in a few digs at the rest of the country, as when he considers the reluctance of the federal government to legalize pot, “because it’s just too effective a way to persecute minorities and keep prisons full, which are things that they love to do in America.”

Fans of Rogen will enjoy his laid-back, whimsical memoir.

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984825-40-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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