PositiveNew York Review of BooksSobering ... Fungi sicken us and fungi sustain us. In either case, we ignore them at our peril.
MixedThe New YorkerSun is given to punchy pronouncements ... This claim—that the \'laws\' of cheating are universal—is key to The Liars of Nature and the Nature of Liars ... It also explains how Sun ends up as an apologist for humanity’s cheating ways. Lying is in Homo sapiens’ genes, and it has had much the same generative force as deceit in the wild. Indeed, by Sun’s account, it is responsible for human culture ... How to explain [Sun\'s] apparent credulity? Was he actually duped by Abagnale? Or is he only pretending to be, to demonstrate his larger point about the power of deceit? Honestly, who can say?
Eric Jay Dolin
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review...[a] lively chronicle of five tempestuous centuries ...At the start of A Furious Sky, Dolin, who has written several previous books on maritime topics, writes that \'hurricanes have left an indelible mark on American history.\' He suggests that it’s particularly important to attend to this mark now because climate change is only going to make storms \'more powerful and more destructive in the future.\' But he never develops a clear argument as to what the societal impact of hurricanes has been (besides a lot of devastation and death), or what we can expect it to be going forward (aside from more of the same). Where A Furious Sky is most compelling is in its often harrowing details. It’s filled with haunting personal stories.
MixedThe New York Review of Books...[an] ambitious new polemic ... \'What is wrong with us?\' Klein asks near the start of the book. Her answer turns upside-down the narrative that the country’s largest environmental groups have been telling ... Klein’s analysis—of the direness of the situation, of the structural nature of the problem, of the generalized direct and indirect complicity—makes it sound as if This Changes Everything is a downbeat book. But it isn’t, or at least it isn’t intended to be. It’s deeply optimistic, indeed some may say maddeningly so. Klein contends not just that emission trends can be turned around in time, but that pretty much everything else that’s wrong with society today—inequality, unemployment, the lack of access in large parts of the world to electricity or clean water or health care—can be righted in the process ... This, of course, is a rather tall order ... To draw on Klein paraphrasing Al Gore, here’s my inconvenient truth: when you tell people what it would actually take to radically reduce carbon emissions, they turn away ... All the major environmental groups know this, which is why they maintain, contrary to the requirements of a 2,000-watt society, that climate change can be tackled with minimal disruption to \'the American way of life.\' And Klein, you have to assume, knows it too. The irony of her book is that she ends up exactly where the \'warmists\' do, telling a fable she hopes will do some good.
MixedThe New YorkerAccording to Wilson, Barnum’s peculiar gift lay in his relationship to his audience. Better than anyone who’d come before, the Prince of Humbugs understood that the public was willing—even eager—to be conned, provided there was enough entertainment to be had in the process. That theory of Barnum’s genius makes Wilson’s book peculiarly relevant, although it’s not altogether clear that this is the author’s intent ... if, as Wilson suggests, Barnum became \'a better person\' with age, \'better\' is a relative term ... to ask readers to look past Barnum’s faults would seem to miss the point.
PositiveThe New York Review of BooksBeing a Beast is unlikely to move many philosophers or, for that matter, naturalists, but it makes for an extremely entertaining—if shaggily anarchic—read ... The longer this sort of thing goes on, the less conviction Foster seems able to muster.
PositiveThe New YorkerDaley’s account of REDMAP’s craftiness is compelling—so compelling that it almost undoes itself. If gerrymandering is all-important, it’s hard to explain how REDMAP ever got anywhere. In 2010, Republicans were dealing with lines that had, in several key states, been drawn by Democrats. Yet the G.O.P. managed to win control not only of state legislatures but of Congress. Daley addresses this problem by presenting 2010 as an electoral outlier...He finds the situation so disheartening that he proposes the whole election system be revamped. States, he suggests, should return to the multi-member districts that were popular back in Patrick Henry’s day. There is no reason to expect this or any other reform to be enacted. Pretty much by definition, gerrymandering suits those in power.