The book has entertainment value, but some of the material should be taken with many grains of salt.

THE END OF THE WORLD IS JUST THE BEGINNING

MAPPING THE COLLAPSE OF GLOBALIZATION

Geopolitical strategist Zeihan argues that we are heading toward a period of deglobalization, with ensuing chaos and disaster.

The author believes that the period between 1980 and 2015 was an aberration in human history: an era of plenty, reliability, and relative stability. Going forward from 2022, he writes, everything is going to become more expensive and more difficult to obtain. He traces part of the problem to demographic struggles, as rapidly aging populations are leading to significant decreases in viable labor forces. Another issue is the withdrawal of American leadership on the global state, including the protection of the vital sea lanes that made globalization possible. The most recognizable element is climate change, undermining food production in key parts of the world. Zeihan predicts that nations will increasingly resort to aggressive tactics to ensure their own security, with the emergence of regional blocs dominated by the player with the biggest guns. Countries that depend on trade will find it tough going. The U.S. is in the best position due to its natural resources, agricultural capacity, industrial base, and inherent adaptability. However, notes the author, radical reform and increased costs are inevitable. Zeihan is enthusiastic in his writing, and he covers a great deal of territory, some of it in superficial or questionable fashion. Are countries really going to develop their own pirate fleets to seize supply ships? Will the U.S. establish a quasi-empire of the Americas, using food as a weapon of intimidation? Is China facing collapse within a decade? Predictions of world-ending resource depletion and geopolitical disaster have been made before—and often. The Club of Rome and Paul Ehrlich were saying it in the 1970s, and their fears turned out to be misplaced. Humans face significant obstacles, but that has been the case for centuries. The climate crisis, however, has never been more urgent. Zeihan captures that sense, at least, but his cynicism was more palatable in Disunited Nations.

The book has entertainment value, but some of the material should be taken with many grains of salt.

Pub Date: June 14, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-063-23047-7

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Harper Business

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 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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