Timely and politically spot-on, this is sure to be a popular title.

OFF WITH HER HEAD

THREE THOUSAND YEARS OF DEMONIZING WOMEN IN POWER

A far-reaching history that directly addresses the “misogynist’s handbook” that still plagues women in power.

From Cleopatra and Anne Boleyn to Theresa May and Hillary Clinton, Herman, author of Sex With Kings and Sex With Presidents, addresses the long history of double-standard practices that troublingly persist today. Why do men—and other women—wish to tear down ambitious, intelligent, accomplished women in positions of power, while often treating men in the same positions with deference? “In each woman’s story,” writes the author, “I discovered organized smear operations churning out unfounded accusations of sexual improprieties and criticisms of her ambition, untrustworthiness, appearance, and unlikability, accusations rarely made about male leaders either in the first century BCE or today.” Herman methodically sifts through these often false accusations, most of which follow the “misogynist’s handbook,” which was crafted to “enforce the Patriarchy, a concept so towering it must be capitalized.” In a typically amusing passage, the author writes about a “clear pattern of vilification across the millennia and throughout history to bring down powerful individuals suffering from chronic no-penis syndrome.” She shows how misogyny usually involves a fear of women’s bodies as life-giving forces and the male need to eclipse and harness that mysterious power for their own purposes, and she underscores how many religious traditions emanated from that need to control. Using enlightening humor as well as righteous, well-founded frustration and anger, Herman effectively deconstructs the tendency of men to focus on hair, voice, clothing, and body type rather than pertinent qualifications and accomplishments. Not content to merely call out these biases, the author advocates for the importance of electing more women to public office and getting men to stand up for women in the face of sexism. With chapter titles like “The Alarming Shrillness of Her Voice,” “She’s a Bitch and Other Animals,” and “Additional Tools To Diminish Her,” the text offers a nice balance of serious inquiry and well-placed levity.

Timely and politically spot-on, this is sure to be a popular title.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-309567-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 22, 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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