A bighearted debut book sure to please horse lovers.



A New York Times staff reporter profiles horses and horse lovers across the country while delving into her own lifelong passion.

Born into an upper-middle-class Jewish family, Nir began riding horses when she was 2. Equines became her source of comfort as she grew up “outsourced to…nannies” and feeling like an outsider in the world of wealth she inhabited. In her debut book, Nir weaves “the lifelong dialogues I’ve had with these animals” into a narrative about her life as a horse lover. She begins with the dawn horse, the predecessor of the modern equine. The author returned to a place she would often go as a child—the American Museum of Natural History—to see the remains of this proto-horse. Her journey then took her to Kentucky, where she visited a yearly gathering of the Breyer model horse collectors. As a girl, she writes, “the perfect plastic replicas called Breyer model horses were my solace and fixation.” Nir’s study of horse icons in the American imagination led her to travel to the two Virginia coast islands, Chincoteague and Assateague, that served as the setting for Marguerite Henry’s beloved book Misty of Chincoteague. Throughout the book, Nir remembers horses she owned—e.g., Amigo and Willow—and how they eased the pain of a lonely childhood. Conversations with a veteran California horse “listener” helped her better understand how equines communicate, and she explores the history of black cowboys via her visit to an African American–owned riding academy for disadvantaged New York City children. Later in the text, a ride-along on a high-society fox hunt brought Nir into unexpected—and personally affirming—contact with the master of the hunt, who reveals his personal hero was a Holocaust survivor—Nir's own father. This thoughtful, well-researched book offers a charming portrait of horses in America as well as of a woman who found self-acceptance in their graceful company.

A bighearted debut book sure to please horse lovers.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-9623-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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A lucid (in the sky with diamonds) look at the hows, whys, and occasional demerits of altering one’s mind.


Building on his lysergically drenched book How to Change Your Mind (2018), Pollan looks at three plant-based drugs and the mental effects they can produce.

The disastrous war on drugs began under Nixon to control two classes of perceived enemies: anti-war protestors and Black citizens. That cynical effort, writes the author, drives home the point that “societies condone the mind-changing drugs that help uphold society’s rule and ban the ones that are seen to undermine it.” One such drug is opium, for which Pollan daringly offers a recipe for home gardeners to make a tea laced with the stuff, producing “a radical and by no means unpleasant sense of passivity.” You can’t overthrow a government when so chilled out, and the real crisis is the manufacture of synthetic opioids, which the author roundly condemns. Pollan delivers a compelling backstory: This section dates to 1997, but he had to leave portions out of the original publication to keep the Drug Enforcement Administration from his door. Caffeine is legal, but it has stronger effects than opium, as the author learned when he tried to quit: “I came to see how integral caffeine is to the daily work of knitting ourselves back together after the fraying of consciousness during sleep.” Still, back in the day, the introduction of caffeine to the marketplace tempered the massive amounts of alcohol people were drinking even though a cup of coffee at noon will keep banging on your brain at midnight. As for the cactus species that “is busy transforming sunlight into mescaline right in my front yard”? Anyone can grow it, it seems, but not everyone will enjoy effects that, in one Pollan experiment, “felt like a kind of madness.” To his credit, the author also wrestles with issues of cultural appropriation, since in some places it’s now easier for a suburbanite to grow San Pedro cacti than for a Native American to use it ceremonially.

A lucid (in the sky with diamonds) look at the hows, whys, and occasional demerits of altering one’s mind.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-29690-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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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 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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