A breathtaking and occasionally exhausting journey, with candid accounts reported from each stop along the route.

IN PUTIN'S FOOTSTEPS

SEARCHING FOR THE SOUL OF AN EMPIRE ACROSS RUSSIA'S ELEVEN TIME ZONES

Two experts on Russia team up to travel across that vast nation’s 11 time zones, exploring key settlements in depth along the way.

Khrushcheva (International Affairs/New School Univ.; The Lost Khrushchev: A Journey into the Gulag of the Russian Mind, 2014, etc.) is the great-granddaughter of Nikita Khrushchev as well as the author of previous books about her former homeland. Atlantic contributing editor Tayler (Murderers in Mausoleums: Riding the Back Roads of Empire Between Moscow and Beijing, 2009, etc.) is an American residing in Moscow and married to a Russian woman. Current Russian ruler Vladimir Putin is the primary connecting thread in the narrative. Throughout, the authors obsessively dissect the possible meanings of his policies and practices, as do the countless Russian citizens they encounter. The authors ably capture the vastness of the cobbled-together nation, the extremes encompassed within that vastness, and how the history of trying to tame the wildly divergent population spread out massive distances from Moscow is melding with current efforts to do the same. Hardly anybody who spoke with Tayler and Khrushcheva felt shame about their nation; rather, those conversing with the co-authors tended to mingle fierce pride with an inferiority complex about the current standing of the country in the world order. They looked toward the European heritage and away from the Asian heritage while proposing that no heritage from the outside could ever negate the uniqueness of the national character. At intervals, Khrushcheva is forced to confront that her great-grandfather, along with other significant figures like Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin, is being erased from the historical narrative, as Putin hogs the credit as heir to Lenin and Stalin. Much of the trip, she writes in her acknowledgments, was “an exercise in survival, perseverance, professional obligation, and constant inner dialogue…about life, Russia, power, people, the Gulag, and literature.”

A breathtaking and occasionally exhausting journey, with candid accounts reported from each stop along the route.

Pub Date: Feb. 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-16323-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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