MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewStewart...presents meteorological detail with obsessive care, although not without wry humor ... pages of isobars, barometric pressure, physics equations and meridians. Where humans appear, they are almost incidental ... Stewart misses no opportunity to philosophize ... But by looking down on society from the height of a tempest, he frames all human and animal lives—earnest and ignorant, shaped by forces they forget to consider—as being on the same side as they strive for meaning and survival ... Storm is a product of its era in ways both troubling and benign. Stewart sometimes invokes ethnic slurs and stereotypes, particularly disturbing for a book whose central—if subtle—moral is that we all ought to get along. The book has been called the first eco-novel, and falls prey to a common shortcoming of the genre, at least among white American writers: An author fancies himself neutral, capable of the pleasant illusion of stepping outside humanity, and thus projects his cultural biases onto nature itself. Storm is also a testament to attention spans of the past; it’s hard to imagine a novel with more science than plot selling a million copies today. For the first few chapters, I felt I was reading a highly unusual textbook, albeit an often beautiful one. But by the middle of the book, the humans in their small lives seemed dear, and I rooted for each as I would for, say, a hamster digging in shavings for a pellet of lost food.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewIt’s the resulting search — for a body, for answers, for absolution — that forms the heart of the book. But its soul lies in the love that Dial has for his family and adventure both — the love that drove him to combine them ... Altogether the book is a complicated ethical read, and thus gripping and unnerving at once. Perhaps its truest title would be The Adventurer’s Father. This is what it means to raise a child, to introduce that child to the world, and to bet his life — and his joy — on the odds.
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewThese chapters are vibrant as individual stories, but as a collection they’re transcendent, rendering a complex portrait of an unseen and disturbing world. Urbina pursues a depth of reportage that’s rare because of the guts and diligence it requires—not to mention the budget, which must have been enormous. The result is not just a fascinating read, but a truly important document. It is also a master class in journalism. As he enters these worlds, Urbina provides glimpses into his methods, his fears and misconceptions. He describes how, even at home, he keeps a backpack ready to leave at a moment’s notice; he recounts failed attempts to reach ships, bribes and begging and desperate solutions ... This kind of writing—a catalog of the reporter’s process—can veer into self-indulgence, but for Urbina it’s another tool by which he invites readers into communities, demonstrating how isolated they are, how vulnerable and suspicious, and how their governance is designed to hold no one truly accountable. For all it exposes, The Outlaw Ocean doesn’t offer the comfort of a call to action. No buy-this-instead-of-that seafood guides; no illusion of consumer choices as an answer. Instead, we are left with the discomfort of complicity. There is no clear solution to the ocean’s problems because our entire world—our economic system, our geography—is the cause.
MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewThe Impossible Climb is an accomplished portrait of two remarkable lives — but its major weakness, of both style and imagination, lies in Synnott’s depictions of women. Professional climbing is largely a man’s world, but rather than examine this dynamic as he does countless others, Synnott uses descriptions that further diminish and objectify the women he encounters ... Like a jazz record or a dog-eared book by Dostoyevsky, the women here are simply another tool for characterizing the men around them — as well as vehicles for Synnott’s fascination with the younger Honnold’s sex life. This fascination is shameless and enduring, fitting into themes of aging that build throughout the book.