Readers may never look at their cars in quite the same way again.

THE CAR

THE RISE AND FALL OF THE MACHINE THAT MADE THE MODERN WORLD

A magisterial history of the car that surveys the shape of its future.

Former financial news editor and deputy arts editor at the Times of London, Appleyard is a bona fide automobile enthusiast, but in this well-balanced study, he also assays the ills that car culture has wrought. This book is not just a history of the automobile; it is also a vibrant portrait of an age, a stimulating work of scholarship, and a top-notch example of nonfiction storytelling. The combination of the author’s propulsive writing style and journalistic thoroughness makes for compelling reading, particularly the technological, cultural, and aesthetic critiques he brings to bear. Appleyard evaluates the contributions of every significant figure in the evolution of the car, from its beginnings in France and England to today’s promising electric and autonomous vehicle technologies, along with analyses of the ecological and societal costs this new era portends. Because the U.S. dominated the industry for much of its history, two men receive in-depth, and highly revealing, character studies: “Henry Ford was one of the two inventors of the core features of twentieth-century modernity. He invented and refined mass production and thereby created a mass market of consumers; Alfred Sloan at General Motors invented and refined the techniques of marketing to the masses. In their hands cars remade the world.” It is hard to imagine a more complete study of the automobile, albeit with an ominous coda. Appleyard warns that an “autonomous” future for the car, for all its benefits, will be the death knell of the joys of driving—and perhaps more. If we make the wrong choices, certain freedoms could be lost. “The autonomous cars will not in fact be autonomous—they will be driven by the cloud…they will cast off the capricious exigencies of human control and surrender to the demands of government or corporate clouds.”

Readers may never look at their cars in quite the same way again.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-63936-230-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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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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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

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. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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