For policy wonks and readers with a particular interest in New York.

SO MUCH TO DO

A FULL LIFE OF BUSINESS, POLITICS, AND CONFRONTING FISCAL CRISES

An exemplary public servant recounts his eventful life at the intersection of business and politics.

In October 1975, with New York City facing bankruptcy, the president announced there would be no federal bailout. The Daily News headline famously translated his declaration as, “FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD.” Meanwhile, at the behest of Gov. Hugh Carey, Ravitch, among others, worked furiously to rescue the city. He had done this sort of financial troubleshooting before as head of the state’s Urban Development Corporation and would do so again as chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and as lieutenant governor. Offering little about his personal life, Ravitch shuttles among stories about these and other high-profile public sector jobs and his work helming his family’s successful real estate development business, heading the Bowery Savings Bank and serving as the chief labor negotiator for Major League Baseball. A parade of famous names marches through the narrative, especially New York politicos—Rockefeller, Lindsay, Carey, Koch, Dinkins, Moynihan—but those looking for dish will be disappointed. With the exceptions of the Cuomos, father and son, Ravitch has little but good to say about his mentors and co-workers. Indeed, readers are surprised when he describes Joe DiMaggio as “a fairly boring fellow.” For the most part, this story features banks and budgets, credit and contracts, finance and finagling, unions and elected officials, negotiations and agreements. From these dull materials—albeit matters critical to the successful operation of our municipalities and states—Ravitch draws some lessons about our need to understand the true costs of public benefits, about balancing revenues and expenditures, and about the consequences of our failure to invest in education and infrastructure. He underlines the importance of our often messy political process and the necessity of establishing sound relationships to influence public policy, and he makes a plea for greater civic engagement.

For policy wonks and readers with a particular interest in New York.

Pub Date: April 29, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-61039-091-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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