Forward-looking, heartfelt spiritual guidance.

LET US DREAM

THE PATH TO A BETTER FUTURE

Papal reflections on the global pandemic and other pressing matters.

In his latest book, Pope Francis provides a brief, earnest discussion regarding the Covid-19 virus’ effects on the world and how humanity—and people of faith especially—can respond. One cannot approach this work, which was written in conjunction with the pope’s biographer, Ivereigh, without being reminded of John Paul II’s groundbreaking Crossing the Threshold of Hope (1994), which was also co-authored by a journalist. The book is divided into three parts (plus an epilogue), calling on readers to observe the problem, discern the way forward, and then take action. “The see-judge-act method has been used often by the Latin American Church to respond to change,” writes Ivereigh in the postscript. “Francis had reformulated it in different terms (‘contemplate-discern-propose’) but it was essentially the same approach.” Francis sees in the Covid-19 crisis a danger of narcissism for those who refuse to see it as a global catastrophe or who put self above neighbor in their actions and priorities regarding the pandemic. Somewhat awkwardly, he also explains the thoughtful blessings that such a societal “stoppage” can provide for people, and he hearkens back to the stories of Paul and David, and even his own life, for inspiration. In the section on discernment, the author calls upon Christians to identify and choose the voice of God during these uncertain times: “When we find where God’s mercy is waiting to overflow, we can open the gates, and work with all people of goodwill to bring about the necessary changes.” Regarding action, Francis emphasizes the importance of community and restoring the dignity of “the people.” We must actively seek out healing. “This is the time,” he asserts, “to restore an ethics of fraternity and solidarity, regenerating the bonds of trust and belonging. Only the face of another is capable of awakening the best of ourselves. In serving the people, we save ourselves.”

Forward-looking, heartfelt spiritual guidance.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982171-86-5

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.

SO HELP ME GOD

The former vice president reflects warmly on the president whose followers were encouraged to hang him.

Pence’s calm during the Trump years has been a source of bemusement, especially during the administration’s calamitous demise. In this bulky, oddly uncurious political memoir, Pence suggests the source of his composure is simple: frequent prayer and bottomless patience for politicking. After a relatively speedy recap of his personal and political history in Indiana—born-again Christian, conservative radio host, congressman, governor—he remembers greeting the prospect of serving under Trump with enthusiasm. He “was giving voice to the desperation and frustration caused by decades of government mismanagement,” he writes. Recounting how the Trump-Pence ticket won the White House in 2016, he recalls Trump as a fundamentally hardworking president, albeit one who often shot from the hip. Yet Pence finds Trump’s impulsivity an asset, setting contentious foreign leaders and Democrats off-balance. Soon they settled into good cop–bad cop roles; he was “the gentler voice,” while “it was Trump’s job to bring the thunder.” Throughout, Pence rationalizes and forgives all sorts of thundering. Sniping at John McCain? McCain never really took the time to understand him! Revolving-door staffers? He’s running government like a business! That phone call with Ukraine’s president? Overblown! Downplaying the threat Covid-19 presented in early 2020? Evidence, somehow, of “the leadership that President Trump showed in the early, harrowing days of the pandemic.” But for a second-in-command to such a disruptive figure, Pence dwells little on Trump’s motivations, which makes the story’s climax—Trump’s 2020 election denials and the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection—impossible for him to reconcile. How could such a selfless patriot fall under the sway of bad lawyers and conspiracy theorists? God only knows. Chalk it up to Pence's forgiving nature. In the lengthy acknowledgments he thanks seemingly everybody he’s known personally or politically; but one name’s missing.

Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2022

ISBN: 9781982190330

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2022

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