The Six-Point Inspection

Tough Middle School Kids, Tougher Middle East Politics, Toughest Medical Decisions

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character

by Paul Tough

The Nutshell:

Journalist Tough interviewed psychologists, teachers, parents, students, and education administrators and reformers to find out how kids succeed—in school and beyond. The best predictors, it turned out, were less tangible than an SAT score: character and grit.

Literary Lovechild Of:

Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney’s Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength and Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman’s NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children.

You'll Find It On Your Bookshelf If:

You’re wondering why that dumb former classmate is so much richer than you are.

Cocktail Party Fodder:

In 1961, the average full-time college student spent 24 hours a week studying outside the classroom; in 2003, that had fallen to 14 hours a week.

For Optimal Benefit:

Get this book into the hands of parents with young children—especially lazy young children.

Snap Judgment:

Tough is the perfect name for an author who argues that we need to experience some adversity in order to succeed. His synthesizing of psychological and sociological studies with compassionately written profiles also makes for easy reading.

Islam and the Arab Awakening

by Tariq Ramadan

The Nutshell:

Oxford University Islamic Studies scholar Ramadan rejects the West’s easy analyses of the “Arab Spring,” putting forth instead a nuanced analysis that goes beyond typical (and, Ramadan argues, much less useful than we think) dichotomies like secular vs. Islamist and Sunni vs. Shiite.

Literary Lovechild Of:

John R. Bradley’s After the Arab Spring: How Islamists Hijacked The Middle East Revolts and Vali Nasr’s The Shia Revival: How Conflicts within Islam Will Shape the Future.

You'll Find It On Your Bookshelf If:

You toss around terms like “MENA zone” (Middle East and North Africa) at cocktail parties.

Cocktail Party Fodder:

Libyan oil made up 10 percent of French imports and as much as 25 percent for Italy.

For Optimal Benefit:

Read before toppling additional leaders.

Snap Judgment:

Ramadan makes the American understanding of the Arab Spring feel oversimplified—and he won’t let us forget it.

At Liberty to Die: The Battle for Death With Dignity in America

by Howard Ball

The Nutshell:

How did Terri Schiavo and Jack Kevorkian become household names? University of Vermont political scientist Ball chronicles the legal battles that, from 1975 to today, have shaped how Americans die and the options afforded to terminally ill patients and their families.

Literary Lovechild Of:

Derek Humphry’s Final Exit: The Practicalities of Self-Deliverance and Assisted Suicide for the Dying and Linda Greenhouse and Reva B. Siegel’s Before Roe v. Wade: Voices That Shaped the Abortion Debate Before the Supreme Court’s Ruling.

You'll Find It On Your Bookshelf If:

You have a do-not-resuscitate order tattooed on your forehead.

Cocktail Party Fodder:

In 1900, tuberculosis and pneumonia were the numbers one and two causes of death in America; in 2010, over half of Americans died of heart disease or cancer.

For Optimal Benefit:

Use this book as a prop by your hospital bed when you’re having your tonsils removed.

Snap Judgment:

Ball clearly has a dog in this fight, but his scholarship is top-notch.