Readers will want to add in the many COVID-19 falsehoods, but all in all, this is an extremely valuable chronicle.



All politicians lie. But the current occupant of the White House? Yikes….

Kessler, editor of the Washington Post “Fact Checker” column, allows that every recent president is associated with “one big lie”—e.g., not having sex with “that woman,” fudging about overflights over the Soviet Union, dismissing concerns about illness. Donald Trump is transcendent. He is, by Kessler and his colleagues’ account, “the most mendacious president in U.S. history,” the author not of one big and sometimes necessary lie but of thousands of little, useless ones. As of the third anniversary of his inauguration, they reckon, the lie count was 16,241—which means that Trump publicly lied 15 times per day on average, though some days were richer than others, such as November 5, 2018, which rang in 139 false claims. The lies are part of a program of an attack on truth, the authors assert, and given that “Republicans have grown less concerned about presidents being honest than they were a decade ago,” the lies find a willing audience. Parsing those 16,241 lies, the Post staffers calculate that immigration is the single subject most liable to be lied about, “accounting for 15 percent of the total…we fact-checked in the first three years of Trump’s presidency.” But everything else is fair game, too, with concomitant fits of projection—accusing others of lying, for instance—and refusal to accept responsibility for anything except the rare success. Then there are the simple misunderstandings, as when he called his impeachment “illegal and unconstitutional” even though, Kessler and company observe, “it’s literally spelled out in the Constitution.” Most valuable, in this rather depressing catalog of untruths, are the fact checkers’ point-by-point analyses, lie by lie, of the relative falsehoods uttered, measured by “Pinocchios.” They even give Trump credit for those extremely unusual moments when his outbursts are “mostly accurate.”

Readers will want to add in the many COVID-19 falsehoods, but all in all, this is an extremely valuable chronicle.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982151-07-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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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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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. 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.


“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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