A provocative, readable indictment for our time.

READ REVIEW

THE CASE AGAINST GEORGE W. BUSH

A sharp prosecution against the former president for the disasters of 9/11 and the Iraq War.

As Christopher Hitchens did with Henry Kissinger, so Markoff does with George W. Bush—without the literary flair, granted, but with every bit of the righteous indignation. In the manner of a prosecuting attorney, Markoff serves a brief that enumerates three kinds of actionable offense. The first is that Bush was criminally negligent in ignoring intelligence, from the moment he entered office in January 2001, that terrorists were mounting an imminent assault on the U.S. homeland. By way of evidence, the collective body of which is drawn from 600 annotated sources, Markoff analyzes the 379 speeches Bush gave between his first inauguration and Sept. 10, 2001, to show that Al-Qaida and/or Osama bin Laden turn up precisely zero times while Saddam Hussein, Iraq, and/or some combination of nuclear and chemical threats appear 143 times, oil another 41 times. “The numbers above,” writes the author, “seem at least close to courtroom proof that George W. Bush was far more interested in Hussein and Iraq’s oil than the risks to our country from Al-Qaida and bin Laden so often communicated to him.” Markoff’s second charge is that Bush—no puppet of Dick Cheney’s or some other master, he insists, but instead “an enthusiastic participant”—criminally wasted American blood and treasure in going to war with Iraq, at a direct cost of 4,400 American dead and $2 trillion, to say nothing of American wounded and psychologically shattered, along with untold numbers of Iraqi casualties. Bush’s authorization of torture and rendition for torture constitutes the third charge. Throughout, Markoff restrains himself from hyperbole and rhetorical flourish, at least until the very end of the book, when he asks, pointedly, “Did he think he was above the law or did he care?” His answer, that we’ll likely never know, does not diminish his characterization of the offenses as “reckless, dishonest, and tragically unnecessary.”

A provocative, readable indictment for our time.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64428-135-2

Page Count: 356

Publisher: Rare Bird Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

HUMANS

The creator of the hit internet series Humans of New York takes it global, chasing down a panoply of interesting stories.

In 1955, Edward Steichen staged a show called “The Family of Man,” a gathering of photographs that emphasized the commonality of humankind. Stanton’s project seemingly has much the same ambition. “You’ve created this magic little corner of the Web where people feel safe sharing their stories—without being ridiculed, or bullied, or judged,” he writes. “These stories are only honestly shared because they have a long history of being warmly received.” The ask is the hard part: approaching a total stranger and asking him or her to tell their stories. And what stories they are. A young Frenchwoman, tearful, recounts being able to see things from the spirit world that no one else can see. “And it’s been a very lonely existence since then,” she says. A sensible teenager in St. Petersburg, Russia, relates that her friends are trying to be grown-up, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, whereas she wants to remain a child close to her parents: “I’d like these times to last as long as possible.” A few stories are obnoxious, as with a Dutch incel who has converted himself into a pickup artist and outright cad: “Of course it’s manipulation, but why should I care? I’ve been manipulated so many times in my life.” A great many stories, some going for several pages but most taking up just a paragraph or two, are regretful, speaking to dashed dreams and roads not taken. A surprising number recount mental illness, depression, and addiction; “I’d give anything to have a tribe,” says a beleaguered mother in Barcelona. Some are hopeful, though, such as that of an Iranian woman: “I’ve fallen in love with literature. I try to read for one or two hours every day. I only have one life to live. But in books I can live one thousand lives.”

A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11429-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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This guide to Black culture for White people is accessible but rarely easy.

UNCOMFORTABLE CONVERSATIONS WITH A BLACK MAN

A former NFL player casts his gimlet eye on American race relations.

In his first book, Acho, an analyst for Fox Sports who grew up in Dallas as the son of Nigerian immigrants, addresses White readers who have sent him questions about Black history and culture. “My childhood,” he writes, “was one big study abroad in white culture—followed by studying abroad in black culture during college and then during my years in the NFL, which I spent on teams with 80-90 percent black players, each of whom had his own experience of being a person of color in America. Now, I’m fluent in both cultures: black and white.” While the author avoids condescending to readers who already acknowledge their White privilege or understand why it’s unacceptable to use the N-word, he’s also attuned to the sensitive nature of the topic. As such, he has created “a place where questions you may have been afraid to ask get answered.” Acho has a deft touch and a historian’s knack for marshaling facts. He packs a lot into his concise narrative, from an incisive historical breakdown of American racial unrest and violence to the ways of cultural appropriation: Your friend respecting and appreciating Black arts and culture? OK. Kim Kardashian showing off her braids and attributing her sense of style to Bo Derek? Not so much. Within larger chapters, the text, which originated with the author’s online video series with the same title, is neatly organized under helpful headings: “Let’s rewind,” “Let’s get uncomfortable,” “Talk it, walk it.” Acho can be funny, but that’s not his goal—nor is he pedaling gotcha zingers or pleas for headlines. The author delivers exactly what he promises in the title, tackling difficult topics with the depth of an engaged cultural thinker and the style of an experienced wordsmith. Throughout, Acho is a friendly guide, seeking to sow understanding even if it means risking just a little discord.

This guide to Black culture for White people is accessible but rarely easy.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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