A provocative argument that runs counter to popular sentiment and conventional wisdom.

THE JUNGLE GROWS BACK

AMERICA AND OUR IMPERILED WORLD

Why a strong, interventionist America remains the world’s best hope against the return of international chaos.

Washington Post columnist and Brookings Institution senior fellow Kagan (The World America Made, 2012, etc.), who served in the State Department during the 1980s, sees the United States in retreat from its responsibility at a time when its leadership is needed most. “If Obama’s policies put a dent in the liberal world order, Trump’s statements and actions have been driving a stake through it,” he writes. “For if the United States cannot be relied upon to provide the secure environment in which members of the liberal world order can flourish, and if in addition it is going to be jealous and spiteful and demand ‘wins’ when they do flourish, then the United States starts to look more like a rogue superpower than a nation defending any order of any kind.” The 20th century elevated America into a unique position through a combination of the country’s ideals and power and geography; to abdicate that position, argues Kagan, would be to fall from “a relative paradise” into a natural disorder of darkness and chaos. In the wake of Vietnam and Iraq, both of which the author sees as strategically sound if unfortunate in outcome, America is less likely to see its responsibilities extend beyond its borders. If America pulls back, Russia, Japan, China, Germany, or another nation might rush to fill that vacuum. Peace isn’t a given, and neither is democracy; they must be guarded and defended. Kagan’s argument should appeal to unrepentant Cold Warriors and to others who believe that might makes right where America’s place in the world is concerned. Yet the metaphor for the title is unfortunate, implying (more strongly than the text does) that without the primacy of developed nations, the hordes of barbarians will infest the planet with their jungle ways.

A provocative argument that runs counter to popular sentiment and conventional wisdom.

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-52165-5

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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

NIGHT

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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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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