PositiveNPRHis positions may seem quite extreme to some but they also, by and large, make a lot of sense—and are backed up by ample research ... one of the book\'s most eye-opening aspects is its challenge of the long-running association between drugs and addiction ... he also so importantly emphasizes that anti-drug laws have disproportionately ruined the lives of people of color ... Drug Use for Grown-Ups makes the case for people having the right to use drugs if they want to ... He persuasively argues for us, as Americans, to chart a more humane course for how we see drugs in our society—a course rooted in personal freedom without social stigma.
RaveNPR... briskly paced and quietly bold ... One of Purdy\'s strengths is his ease in exposition. He can even be charmingly teacherlike at times ... In covering the business side of cell-cultured meat, Purdy could have written a hagiographic account of Tetrick and Just; refreshingly, he chose not to. This could have been another Steve Jobs-type story no one needs, where a visionary has a great idea that will change the world and then, after the world gets changed — wait for it — said visionary gets really rich too. Then, as Americans, we\'re left undecided as to whether we admire the accomplishment or the wealth more. Instead, Purdy\'s book reads more realistically, like the teasing out of a tangled dance among entrenched meat producers, a few ambitious start-ups, early pioneers, regulatory complications and consumer skepticism ... It\'s the lack of heroes that, in part, makes this such an interesting story and topic ... in the depiction of Tetrick, Purdy is careful to allow him to tell his story, as well as capture others\' stories of him, some of which are unflattering. Meat, however, stays front and center in this story. It keeps you hungry.
PositiveNPRNotably, [Jollet\'s] earliest years were spent at Synanon, a drug rehabilitation program that devolved into a notoriously violent cult. As a result, the earliest parts of his memoir contain chilling anecdotes about the repressive, bizarre, and dehumanizing experience of life there. What narratively works is that Jollett, being only a small child at the time, didn\'t know a world outside Synanon — so the scenes of cult life have a sheen of innocence to them, lending a real eeriness ... Jollett\'s account of his life in music — as a musician and a journalist — is less compelling than the story of his family, but is not without interest. As he finds meaning in music, it\'s often about how it helped him overcome the pain, the emotional deprivation, the stolen childhood. While this is meaningful and important life experience to share, I really would have liked to have read more about his thoughts on music as an art form, more on the craft of songwriting, or maybe even just more about the ideas that guide his life. He\'s capable of it; the memoir has clear literary ambition ... Hollywood Park succeeds most in compassionately depicting the suffering and struggle of others with addiction: those left to obscurity; those barely holding on. Jollett\'s life story shows that you can pass through the gauntlet of pain and trauma to self-reliance and sustainable meaning. But most importantly, it shows that whether suffering is redemptive or pointless, the pain is the constant. Overcoming it is managing it.
PositiveNPR... quite a good book, full of resonant moments and artistic insights, with only a few overly explanatory passages. Clemmons\' memoir is often disarming in its intimacy and honesty. He vividly recalls his struggle with his homosexuality and his surviving of frequent racism — in some of the book\'s most affecting and powerful moments — as well as his noteworthy career ascent in musical performance ... [Clemmons] doesn\'t ask you to be his neighbor, but rather just to hear his story: one of a man of profound strength and talent who stood up, sang out, and, after great struggle, was heard.
PositiveNPRReading Conor Dougherty\'s informative, evenly paced, but often too locally focused Golden Gate, I waited for solutions. I thought that Dougherty, an economics reporter for The New York Times, might point the way forward — something that has eluded activists and politicians alike for decades. But I quickly realized it wasn\'t going to be that easy. Dougherty, like many good reporters, doesn\'t traffic radical solutions or broad panaceas, but instead tells the story of housing in all its complexity. And, with it, he tells the story of people who have fought pyrrhic battles for the dignity of a roof over their heads ... while it expertly lays out the structural problems precluding affordable housing, the book\'s very local focus makes it seem too much about just the housing tragedy of the Bay Area. It faintly acts as an allegory of the national housing crisis — but you have to remind yourself continually that this is the case. It often evokes nostalgia, as if a love letter to a bygone Bay Area now struggling to keep its soul amidst the torrents of tech money relentlessly raining down on it ... The book\'s real strength is in the stories Dougherty tells of various activists, politicians and residents in their fight for fair housing.
Eve L. Ewing
PositiveViceThe question that remains after reading 1919 is whether exodus and deliverance are still possible ... Ewing’s 1919 is a window into the mental and emotional lives of Black Americans in a Chicago, in an America, where time beckons oppressively ... 1919 places readers in the minds and bodies of Black Chicagoans, Black Americans, and asks readers to see what has been, and what could be.
Jared Yates Sexton
RaveNPRThis book is critically important to our historical moment. It\'s also really good — and Sexton\'s voice is unrelentingly present in it. It crackles with intensity and absolutely refuses to allow the reader to look away for even a moment from the blight that toxic masculinity in America has wrought ... What also makes The Man They Wanted Me to Be work so well is that it\'s largely a personal story ... Sexton also succeeds in a truly difficult task: casting the abusive and self-destructive men in his life as simultaneously contemptible and victims themselves ... So how do we as a culture get past toxic masculinity when, as Sexton suggests, its paragon occupies the Oval Office and its pathology is empowered? Sexton\'s great book points the way.
MixedNPRI had high hopes for Jamil Zaki\'s The War for Kindness: Building Empathy in a Fractured World. But after reading, I was left ambivalent ... if you want a clarion call to action, this might not be it. If you want a wide-ranging practical guide to making the world better, then you\'re in luck ... The main problem with the book is its frequent TED-Talk-like tone. It feels too light, too comfortable, to lend the requisite gravity to the legitimate crisis empathy deficits in the world really pose. Its crisp positivity feels as if it\'s sounding from within a climate-controlled bubble. The considerable range of social research and anecdotes Zaki marshals to demonstrate empathy building is persuasive and encouraging but, again, the book is much more practical than polemical. A mixture of the two could have been helpful ... Jamil Zaki should be commended for compiling such a wide range of research and evidence that show how empathy, like a muscle, can be built or atrophy.
PositiveThe Star TribuneIn writing about doing nothing, Odell could have given us a self-obsessive and self-indulgent tome or, conversely, a sanctimonious or pedantically utopian work. But she sails with capable ease between subjectivity and arid theory with the relatable humanity of her vision. Although she doesn’t strike the pose of a radical, there is a radicalism in her program of doing nothing that transcends normal classification. It’s at once a kind of political ideology, a spiritual practice, a moral imperative and an aesthetic reconception of the world as it can be when attention isn’t monetized, weaponized and atomized. It’s a form of liberation that doesn’t frame itself in direct antagonism to something else so much as it calls for a radical refocusing of attention toward the world around us.
PositiveThe Washington PostThe book is clearly the work of a socially conscious artist and writer who considers careful attention to the rich variety of the world an antidote to the addictive products and platforms that technology provides ... she sails with capable ease between the Scylla and Charybdis of subjectivity and arid theory with the relatable humanity of her vision ... In one of the book’s most persuasive sections, Odell discusses the Greek philosopher Diogenes ... Her portrait of Diogenes is instructive in an unexpected way for understanding the art of doing nothing.
RaveNPRThe book\'s primary purpose is to situate the resistance to the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) at Standing Rock in the broader story of Indigenous American resistance (specifically Indigenous people of the central plains) to land incursion and dispossession. And Estes succeeds more often than not throughout the book by balancing an emphatic but accessible tone with academic (but not too academic) scrupulousness ... Estes deserves praise for having written a very well-paced, highly detailed, morally urgent book in which he keeps his eye trained on the profound injustice he catalogs, condemns, and portrays, really, as beyond immediate redress. Although he traces Indigenous resistance back to the first white settlers, his focus is particularly sharp in his recounting the resistance at Standing Rock, the central form of opposition around which the book makes its case ... points a way forward, with solidarity and without sentimentality, to an idea of Indigenous land alive with ancestry and renewal.
PositiveNPR\"... a fascinating story about one mixed-martial-arts fight, the training leading up to it, and what it all means to the author. It\'s a highly lucid, very personal meditation on selfhood, but it\'s also replete with a wide array of engaging literary and historical excursions ... If it wasn\'t for this balance, the book might have easily slipped into either a kind of dude memoir (no thank you) or an overly Romantic abstract argument destined to be tiresome ... Rosenblatt\'s consistent directness in his writing is laudable, even amidst the author\'s flights of fighting fancy, where he could have easily faltered into clunking dependent clause deployment and clumsy diction. And yet the most subtly successful aspect of the book might also be its greatest feature: Its steady build-up of momentum toward a mixed-martial-arts fight that should have all the trappings of a Rocky-esque drama and yet, mercifully, doesn\'t.\
PositiveThe Millions\"Wootton compellingly writes about the 17th-century French philosopher Pierre Gassendi ... Wootton excels in unpacking [Adam Smith\'s] complicated intellectual legacy ... Wootton’s notion of modest, practical Aristoteilian-esque virtue in the face of limitless appetite is a compelling one, and he stakes his claims methodically and persuasively.\
Craig Morgan Teicher
PositiveThe Atlantic\"In these engaging studies—informed by Teicher’s considerable work as both a poet and a critic, and imbued with a sensibility that is as comfortable in the lyrical mode as it is in the critical—Teicher considers the idea of poetic voice, as well as its complement, form ... Teicher’s charting of a poet’s vocal and formal development might be most compelling in \'Mirror Portraits,\' an essay on John Ashbery’s poetry ... Masterfully, Teicher illuminates the thematic core of [Ashberry\'s \'Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror\'].\
PositiveLos Angeles Review of BooksSometimes though, Robinson’s ideas are more beautiful than persuasive, as much as I’d rather not set up such a contrast ... To see people as utterly improbable, so uniquely themselves, is to see them not as just everyone else, but as yourself too. To see yourself as wrapped in a universe more knowable each day and yet still unfathomable, is to know yourself, and everyone else too. That’s humanism illuminated by belief. That’s the vision of Marilynne Robinson. Take it to heart.
RaveThe Los Angeles Review of Books[Gessen] writes brilliantly about the weight of history and the precariousness of Russian nationhood in grimly kaleidoscopic detail. Beginning around perestroika and glasnost and ending with Putin’s totalitarian consolidation, Gessen’s book admirably weaves the soul-searching of post-Soviet Russia into a tapestry of remarkably distinct narratives … It’s remarkable how shatteringly real Masha Gessen’s great book is. It’s not merely a journalistic or historical account of national collapse and the Putin regime’s strangulation of Russia. It’s also a profoundly novelistic account that should be considered part of the great Russian literary tradition — a tradition through which Russians could possibly pierce the obscuring trauma of their past and trace possibility on the void of their future.
Omar El Akkad
MixedThe MillionsEl Akkad is excellent in judiciously refraining from making clear whether it is Gaines’s ideology or the wanton carnage that radicalizes Sarat ... One weakness of the novel is the lack of development of Sarat’s close childhood friend, Marcus Exum, who departs early for the safety of the North, where he eventually becomes a Union Blue officer ... El Akkad deploys a subtle critique of torture as not only immoral, but ineffective -- and a direct critique of the Bush administration’s embrace of torture and Donald Trump’s lurid flirtation with it.