An enlightening breakdown of how Silicon Valley billionaires have shifted popular discourse in their favor.

READ REVIEW

THE KNOW-IT-ALLS

THE RISE OF SILICON VALLEY AS A POLITICAL POWERHOUSE AND SOCIAL WRECKING BALL

A study of Silicon Valley technology titans and how their narratives of success have influenced political, social, and economic discourse.

In a fairly short period of time, roughly 25 years since the internet became accessible to private development, the libertarian-leaning belief system of Silicon Valley has practically become dogma. As former New York Times tech columnist Cohen pointedly shows in his character studies, the clout of tech superstars, the so-called know-it-alls, is based on their winner-take-all vision of society, a meritocratic fantasy that conflates their enormous wealth with individual greatness. Aside from their libertarian narrative of success, a chief principle of their belief is disruption. The concept has become so ingrained in contemporary culture that it has even infected politics, giving rise to outsider politicians such as Donald Trump, whom PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel openly endorsed. The goal of disruption is a conceited effort to upset the status quo, or established order, regardless of how successful or popular it may be. It might be tempting to characterize Cohen as a Luddite with an ax to grind, but he shows how the cult of personality for tech entrepreneurs developed out of a “combination of a hacker’s arrogance and an entrepreneur’s greed” and they have selfishly exploited technological advances for personal gain. Beginning with researcher and early artificial intelligence advocate John McCarthy, the author devotes each chapter to a specific CEO or mega-investor—including Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, and Google’s Sergey Brin and Larry Page—and takes aim at the toxic mythmaking that legitimizes the often underhanded business practices, questionable ethics, and self-aggrandizement. By exposing the fragile veneer of their exorbitant wealth, Cohen helps chip away at the power these men (another crucial quality) have carved out for themselves.

An enlightening breakdown of how Silicon Valley billionaires have shifted popular discourse in their favor.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62097-210-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

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

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

  • National Book Award Winner

  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

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

Did you like this book?

more