An insightful, often funny account of a man who follows a fiscally rewarding path but knows that life’s meaning involves...

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GULAG 401K

TALES OF A MODERN PRISONER

A memoir chronicles the life of a financial professional who studiously avoids retirement.

Marin (Mater Gladiatrix, 2017, etc.) characterizes retirement and, more specifically, the 401(k) plan as a “gulag,” suggesting the notion of slavishly spending a life toiling away only to be metaphorically incarcerated in one’s later years. “Retirement,” writes the author, “starts as a dream in the naïveté of youth, becomes a tantalizing and confusingly flirtatious goal in mid-career, and turns into a dreaded outcome in advancing age.” It is therefore not surprising that Marin neither accepts nor embraces the notion of retirement; rather, he has a knack for continually reinventing a financial career, even late in life, that takes more turns than a switchback road. Getting to the end of that road is half the fun; his entertaining book is really a series of career-related vignettes that occur over many years. Each chapter is a priceless little nugget composed of highly competent narration and populated with memorable characters, such as the morally questionable “Bogey Schu” and the unrepentant womanizer “Gross Bob.” Perhaps most celebrated is Herman, the unassuming subway rider befriended by Marin who turns out to be nothing less than a shrewd investor with a $9 million portfolio. It is revealed later in the book that Herman becomes the leading character in a tale the author submits to HBO for what is to become a filmed suite of New York “subway stories.” Marin’s recollections are not all filled with levity. Central to his tale is an episode notoriously familiar to most readers: the author was the chairman and CEO of ill-fated Bear Stearns Asset Management during the 2007-2008 financial meltdown. Marin painfully but eloquently recounts the humiliating experience he lived through (barely, as he was forced to resign), offering a rare insider’s view from the eye of the storm. Still, he has the ability to maintain a sense of perspective: “I prided myself on never having been sued, never having been named in a lawsuit nor ever having initiated a lawsuit. To be a veteran banker and never sue or be sued is quite unique.” As the author charts his lifelong course, he reports on various roles as financial executive, venture capitalist, professor, and, ultimately, CEO of the New York Wheel, the giant observation wheel planned for Staten Island for which Marin secured the seed capital. (A court battle has delayed the project’s completion.) The author writes with a storyteller’s eye; his tales are rich in detail, his observations are noteworthy, and his prose is often filled with wry humor. The pictures he paints of colorful personalities are endlessly appealing. There is an occasional wistfulness to Marin’s quirky, engaging memoir, as if he knows he is in the twilight of his career but cannot quite accept it. Even as he approaches his personal retirement gulag, though, the author manages to seek and find fulfillment: “I can think of nothing as meaningful as emptying oneself into a worthwhile effort.”

An insightful, often funny account of a man who follows a fiscally rewarding path but knows that life’s meaning involves more than money.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 303

Publisher: Lulu

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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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

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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