Of considerable interest to health policymakers and public-safety officials as well as students of epidemic disease.



The former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration assesses the systemic failures underlying the world response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Numerous public entities within the federal government, writes Gottlieb, are charged with preparing for the outbreak of epidemic diseases. Most of their energies were directed toward fighting the flu. “The federal government started off in a weak position, with plans that were ill suited to countering a coronavirus,” writes the author. “This mismatch between the scenarios we drilled for and the reality that we faced left us unprepared. Poor execution turned it into a public health tragedy.” It took time, of course, to recognize fully that Covid-19 spread through a handful of “superspreaders” and mostly indoors in areas that were both crowded and poorly ventilated—the White House during Trump’s frequent self-congratulatory public events, for one. Trump, Gottlieb makes clear, bears plenty of responsibility for the government’s inadequate response, as do lieutenants who politicized the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suppressed information, and followed Trump’s lead in rejecting mask-wearing and other safety measures. “The president could have found a middle ground on masks,” Gottlieb writes. “His message could have been: We don’t need mandates….However, we’re going to act responsibly and wear masks.” The author argues that even under different leadership, the response would likely have been little better, at least in part because there is not enough coordination among agencies. He urges that preparation for pandemics be considered a part of national security, with the Pentagon fully involved and with a system that works its way around informed consent “to address a public health emergency” so that data is quickly shared. Moreover, he argues that testing procedures be standardized, as they are not now, with a full inventory of equipment in both public and private hands. These and other measures are urgently needed: If Covid-19 was the worst pandemic in recent history, “it won’t be the last.”

Of considerable interest to health policymakers and public-safety officials as well as students of epidemic disease.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-308001-0

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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A solid work of investigation that, while treading well-covered ground, offers plenty of surprises.

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An account of the last gasps of the Trump administration, completing a trilogy begun with Fear (2018) and Rage (2020).

One of Woodward and fellow Washington Post reporter Costa’s most memorable revelations comes right away: Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, calling his counterpart in Beijing to assure him that even after Jan. 6 and what Milley saw as an unmistakable attempt at a coup d’état, he would keep Trump from picking a war with China. This depiction has earned much attention on the talking-heads news channels, but more significant is its follow-up: Milley did so because he was concerned that Trump “might still be looking for what Milley called a ‘Reichstag moment.’ ” Milley emerges as a stalwart protector of the Constitution who constantly courted Trump’s ire and yet somehow survived without being fired. No less concerned about Trump’s erratic behavior was Paul Ryan, the former Speaker of the House, who studied the psychiatric literature for a big takeaway: “Do not humiliate Trump in public. Humiliating a narcissist risked real danger, a frantic lashing out if he felt threatened or criticized.” Losing the 2020 election was one such humiliation, and Woodward and Costa closely track the trajectory of Trump’s reaction, from depression to howling rage to the stubborn belief that the election was rigged. There are a few other modest revelations in the book, including the fact that Trump loyalist William Barr warned him that the electorate didn’t like him. “They just think you’re a fucking asshole,” Barr told his boss. That was true enough, and the civil war that the authors recount among various offices in the White House and government reveals that Trump’s people were only ever tentatively his. All the same, the authors note, having drawn on scores of “deep background” interviews, Trump still has his base, still intends vengeance by way of a comeback, and still constitutes the peril of their title.

A solid work of investigation that, while treading well-covered ground, offers plenty of surprises.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982182-91-5

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.


Bestselling author Haig offers a book’s worth of apothegms to serve as guides to issues ranging from disquietude to self-acceptance.

Like many collections of this sort—terse snippets of advice, from the everyday to the cosmic—some parts will hit home with surprising insight, some will feel like old hat, and others will come across as disposable or incomprehensible. Years ago, Haig experienced an extended period of suicidal depression, so he comes at many of these topics—pain, hope, self-worth, contentment—from a hard-won perspective. This makes some of the material worthy of a second look, even when it feels runic or contrary to experience. The author’s words are instigations, hopeful first steps toward illumination. Most chapters are only a few sentences long, the longest running for three pages. Much is left unsaid and left up to readers to dissect. On being lost, Haig recounts an episode with his father when they got turned around in a forest in France. His father said to him, “If we keep going in a straight line we’ll get out of here.” He was correct, a bit of wisdom Haig turned to during his depression when he focused on moving forward: “It is important to remember the bottom of the valley never has the clearest view. And that sometimes all you need to do in order to rise up again is to keep moving forward.” Many aphorisms sound right, if hardly groundbreaking—e.g., a quick route to happiness is making someone else happy; “No is a good word. It keeps you sane. In an age of overload, no is really yes. It is yes to having space you need to live”; “External events are neutral. They only gain positive or negative value the moment they enter our mind.” Haig’s fans may enjoy this one, but others should take a pass.

A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-14-313666-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Penguin Life

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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