An unsettling and riveting book filled with the mysteries of human nature.

AMERICAN CIPHER

BOWE BERGDAHL AND THE U.S. TRAGEDY IN AFGHANISTAN

Afghanistan war veteran Farwell and Newsweek and Harper’s contributor Ames combine to investigate the high-profile military crimes of Bowe Bergdahl.

Born to a loving rural Idaho family in 1986, Bergdahl, from a young age, demonstrated a puzzling, sometimes-clashing mixture of character attributes: useful personal skills vs. restlessness; kindness to others vs. self-centeredness; a desire to be accepted vs. hermitlike tendencies. As a teenager, he left Idaho to join the Coast Guard but could not cope psychologically and left in less than a month. Two years later, the Army, desperate for soldiers to staff invasions of nations harboring alleged terrorists, accepted Bergdahl as a combat trainee despite knowledge of his Coast Guard discharge. Dispatched to a lethal Afghan war zone in May 2009, Bergdahl quickly questioned the purpose of U.S. military involvement, found many of his commanding officers to be insufferable, and sought to use whatever moments he could carve out to show civilians the human side of American soldiers. The authors show unequivocally that Bergdahl planned to walk away from his remote military post into forbidden, life-threatening territory. After his capture by Islamic terrorists, during five years of imprisonment at undisclosed locations across the border of Pakistan, every moment in Bergdahl’s existence became fodder for controversy at an international level. The authors present compelling, convincing evidence that addresses each specific controversial element: Was Bergdahl planning to become an enemy combatant? Was he actually tortured? Why did the U.S. military and government lie to the public about some of the details surrounding his capture? Did the U.S. government properly handle the negotiations for his release? Did he deserve a court-martial that would have landed him in prison until death? Throughout this twisting saga, readers will also receive detailed portraits of Bergdahl’s parents, rural Idaho, pointless foreign incursions by the American government, and much more.

An unsettling and riveting book filled with the mysteries of human nature.

Pub Date: March 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2104-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 21, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

Did you like this book?

more