A probing, well-informed investigation of global unrest calling for “truly transformative thinking” about humanity’s future.




How the failures of capitalism have led to “fear, confusion, loneliness and loss”—and global anger.

In this ambitious, deeply researched analysis, social critic and novelist Mishra (From the Ruins of Empire: The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia, 2012, etc.) makes a persuasive argument that industrialism and capitalism have spawned virulent expressions of anger. He sees current upheaval—which fuels the Islamic State group and led to Brexit and Donald Trump’s political success—stemming from the same source “as myriad Romantic revolts and rebellions of early nineteenth-century Europe”—i.e., “the mismatch between personal expectations, heightened by a traumatic break with the past, and the cruelly unresponsive reality of slow change.” Individual freedom can feel terrifying, leading to a desire for an authoritative leader and, as Tocqueville put it, an “insatiable need for action, violent emotions, vicissitudes, and dangers.” Mishra argues against taking an “us-them” view of the world as a contest between Western rationalism and “Islamofascism” but instead blames the current malaise on the West’s insistence on the superiority of Enlightenment philosophy and failure to deliver on its promise of progress. As the author writes, a “promised universal civilization—one harmonized by a combination of universal suffrage, broad educational opportunities, steady economic growth, and private initiative and personal advancement—has not materialized.” Most people, he believes, live fearfully in a world that they see they cannot control; they feel under siege by grisly horrors perpetrated by enemies, by the present and future effects of climate change, and by “arrogant and deceptive elites” who make them feel humiliated. Mishra bases his sage analysis on the “eclectic ideas” of European social theorists, including Dostoyevsky, Arendt, Heine, Marx, and scores of others. He especially highlights the contrast between Voltaire, “an unequivocal top-down modernizer,” and Rousseau, who “tried to outline a social order where morals, virtue and human character rather than commerce and money were central to politics.”

A probing, well-informed investigation of global unrest calling for “truly transformative thinking” about humanity’s future.

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-374-27478-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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