Tragic, gripping, and authentic, this book deserves a wide audience.

THE SPIRAL NOTEBOOK

THE AURORA THEATER SHOOTER AND THE EPIDEMIC OF MASS VIOLENCE COMMITTED BY AMERICAN YOUTH

An investigation into the plague of violence engulfing a generation of American youth.

When Stephen Singular (The Wichita Divide: The Murder of Dr. George Tiller and the Battle over Abortion, 2011, etc.) and his wife, Joyce, set out to write a book about James Holmes, who in 2012, walked into an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater where he killed 12 people and wounded another 58, they had no idea how little information about the case would be available to them. But they used the lack of accessible material as a starting point, with Aurora as the ever present backdrop rather than the sole subject. The spiral notebook of the title, a diary kept by Holmes, was presumed to hold the reasons behind the attack, but a court order kept it sealed from the public. With Holmes’ motives obscured, the Singulars went in search of answers by exploring the nationwide epidemic of mass shootings. They spent time talking to their own 20-something son before embarking on a quest to engage with millennials in conversations about the tragic commonality of school shootings and other violent acts. The result is a disturbing yet fascinating treatise on the impacts of growing up in a world that previous generations would barely recognize. While violent video games get their due, the authors also pinpoint widely prescribed drugs, the pressures of social media, a world at war, and more. What makes this book special is that for every theory they present, the Singulars reference not only experts in psychology, sociology, crime, and other fields, but also 20-somethings, whose opinions seem at once benign in their simplicity and also imbued with the ability to shatter the worlds of their peers. These acts may never be fully understood, but this work certainly helps the process along.

Tragic, gripping, and authentic, this book deserves a wide audience.

Pub Date: June 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-61902-534-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 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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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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