Fits well alongside such politico-aspirational books as Barack Obama’s Dreams from My Father, and better written than most...

THE TRUTHS WE HOLD

AN AMERICAN JOURNEY

California’s junior senator limbers up “to be a joyful warrior in the battle to come.”

Harris (Smart on Crime: A Career Prosecutor's Plan to Make Us Safer, 2009, etc.), who recently announced her candidacy for president, follows immediately with an entry in the genre that might be called the Obligatory Campaign Biography, blending how-did-we-get-here memoir with political platform. In that sense, this book is by-the-numbers, with all the expected elements. Yet the author’s background is unusual enough on many scores to set her autobiography apart: She is the first American of Indian or Jamaican descent to serve in the Senate and the first African-American senator from California, having served prominently and sometimes controversially as the state’s attorney general. Countering the whispering birther movement surrounding her early campaign, Harris recounts that she was born in Oakland of mixed descent, with an Indian immigrant mother who “understood very well that she was raising two black daughters” and took pains to “make sure we would grow into confident, proud black women.” The author excelled in school but, she recounts in a moment of reversal, failed her first effort at the bar, overcoming defeat to take a visible role in the Bay Area legal community. Her efforts at judicial reform figure in her timely call for an overhaul of sentencing procedures, all as part of a platform of “what I see as women’s issues: the economy, national security, health care, education, criminal justice reform, climate change.” Harris also reveals a policy-wonk side, enthusiastically addressing issues such as cybersecurity (“a new front in a new kind of battle”) and economic inequality (“with millions of Americans hanging by a thread,” she deftly writes of the current president, “the White House reached for scissors”). The talking points of the book are surely those she’ll be revisiting in speeches and debates to come, and suffice it to say that you can bet Jamie Dimon won’t be endorsing her.

Fits well alongside such politico-aspirational books as Barack Obama’s Dreams from My Father, and better written than most in the category.

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-56071-5

Page Count: 370

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2019

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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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