Despite the occasional good point, Nader’s current influence extends no farther than preaching to the choir.

TO THE RAMPARTS

HOW BUSH AND OBAMA PAVED THE WAY FOR THE TRUMP PRESIDENCY, AND WHY IT ISN'T TOO LATE TO REVERSE COURSE

The consumer gadfly and former third-party candidate continues to offer answers to the nation’s political problems.

Having published one book of letters he had written to presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama without receiving any response (Return to Sender, 2015), Nader returns with imaginary letters he would have written to those presidents during times of crisis, an imagined encounter between Obama and the ghost of Osama bin Laden, and various lists “to promote a people’s agenda.” The author recognizes that in the public eye, he has been branded with “the politically bigoted word ‘spoiler’" since his Green Party candidacy might have tipped the 2000 election of Bush over Al Gore, but he insists that Bernie Sanders played the same role and faced the same charges: “The unfortunate truth Bernie discovered was that anybody who challenges the positions of the corporatist, militaristic, Wall Street–funded Democrats, led by Hillary Clinton…is, by their twisted definition, a ‘spoiler.’" Not that there was all that much to spoil, in Nader’s analysis, though he never says that the Democrats would be as bad as “the self-destructive, unstable, unorganized, fact- and truth-starved, egomaniacal, bigoted, cheating, plutocratic Donald Trump.” However, he holds what he calls “the ObamaBush White House” responsible for the rise of Trump and chastises Obama for not targeting his predecessor as “a war criminal.” Nader draws from old clippings and some of his own writing at the time to make familiar complaints about Obama governing more toward the center after campaigning as more of a progressive and about the claims of progressivism by the hawkish and corporate-funded Hillary. He insists that the Electoral College, responsible for Trump’s victory, is “antiquated, atavistic,” and way overdue for reform, if not removal. For the most part, though, he seems to want to have a direct voice in this discussion rather than shouting from far away on the sidelines.

Despite the occasional good point, Nader’s current influence extends no farther than preaching to the choir.

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-60980-847-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Seven Stories

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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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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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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