The countryside backdrop is much more interesting that the supposedly hideous criminal plot, but the book may be useful as a...

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SHADOWS IN THE VINEYARD

THE TRUE STORY OF THE PLOT TO POISON THE WORLD'S GREATEST WINE

True crime meets rare, expensive French wine.

There’s not much actual poison in the narrative. In reality, the plot involved just one sick mind attempting to extort €1 million from one of the richest men in France. This book is much more a reflection of Potter’s exposure to Burgundy on assignment for Vanity Fair in 2011. His first taste of the heady wine was a 1999 La Tâche, which was worth hundreds of dollars per bottle. During his assignment, the author received personal guidance through the best wineries in the world by the vignerons, and he was shown the basic art of creating the “ghost in a glass.” The real star of the book is Aubert de Villaine, the proprietor of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. Growing up amid the vines, he produced wine of the greatest quality when others produced only quantity; he is the face and the driving force of Burgundy’s heritage. Through his eyes, readers see the rich history of wine production in this fecund area of the world, which has consistently produced what have been the most expensive wines in France for almost 300 years. “At auction,” writes the author, “a single bottle of Romanée-Conti from 1945 was then fetching as much as $124,000.” The Institut National des Appellations d’Origine codified the hierarchy of French wine in 1935, taking into consideration the history of the vines and the remarkable science and mysticism of terroir. Though Potter does explore this concept and provides a solid picture of Villaine and his top-notch wines, the true crime narrative doesn’t live up to the billing.

The countryside backdrop is much more interesting that the supposedly hideous criminal plot, but the book may be useful as a guide to the wines of the Côte D’Or.

Pub Date: July 29, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4555-1610-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Twelve

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2014

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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