If you’re a fellow traveler, this is your book. If not, you likely won’t pick it up.

CAN'T IS NOT AN OPTION

MY AMERICAN STORY

South Carolina’s governor stakes out her red-blooded American credentials in a by-the-numbers memoir.

Haley, as was reported back when she briefly made the news, was born Randhawa, the child of Punjabi immigrants. Since her father wore a turban and her kin looked different from the other denizens of the Piedmont, she suffered all the expected abuse and racism of the time and place. Apparently she never considered the political leanings of her tormentors in that redder-than-red state, though, because she jumped into GOP politics once she had the self-described epiphany that people listened to her when she talked. Perhaps that affiliation was merely the product of some perceived sense of loyalty, for the sense we get is that Randhawa/Haley has long gone along to get along: “I got a scholarship to go to Clemson to study textile management. Cotton, wool, and silk weren’t really my areas of interest, but I thought, Fine, I’ll do it. I just wanted to go to Clemson.” Haley’s approach to politicking is homespun and commonsensical: Ply the audience with Krispy Kremes, win over legislators by doing small favors, profess to love “the people.” On the personal front, she allows that she doesn’t watch TV or read newspapers at home so that her children aren’t exposed to the meanness of politics (so much for education). There’s scarcely a moment that approaches originality in these pages. Every note seems scripted, including her protestations that it’s Washington that keeps her from doing her job: Obama bad, Reagan good, etc. Haley’s prose rises above a monotonous whisper only when she gets on the subject of the Tea Party: “That’s what I love most about the Tea Party. It’s drawing the line on government arrogance and overspending with the taxpayers’ money.”

If you’re a fellow traveler, this is your book. If not, you likely won’t pick it up.

Pub Date: April 3, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59523-085-0

Page Count: 250

Publisher: Sentinel

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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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

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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

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