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The Death of Truth: Notes on Falsehood in the Age of Trump

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  2,492 ratings  ·  501 reviews
NEW YORK TIMES Editors' Choice

From the Pulitzer Prize-winning critic comes an impassioned critique of America’s retreat from reason

We live in a time when the very idea of objective truth is mocked and discounted by the occupants of the White House. Discredited conspiracy theories and ideologies have resurfaced, proven science is once more up for d
Kindle Edition, 190 pages
Published July 17th 2018 by Tim Duggan Books
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Eugene Galt I don't think it's that likely, since the book is addressed primarily to people who already agree with her. As for Jacoby's work, I haven't read the…moreI don't think it's that likely, since the book is addressed primarily to people who already agree with her. As for Jacoby's work, I haven't read the updated version. The previous edition was both more comprehensive and more evenhanded than The Death of Truth, although in a sense, it would be less accessible to some readers for just that reason.(less)
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3.84  · 
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 ·  2,492 ratings  ·  501 reviews

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Being Reasonable

Epistemology - learning what it means to be reasonable - has become fashionable once again. With any luck this might prove to be Donald Trump’s most important achievement: a backlash against the reality (largely his) of fake news. Unfortunately The Death of Truth is yet more fake news not a way to beat it.

More formally, epistemology is the study of how we know what we know, of what constitutes a fact, and logically therefore about what constitutes an anti-fact, that is a lie (see
Jun 04, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I broke my rule about not reading books with Trump in the title for the ARC of this very solid extended essay by Michiko Kakutani. I particularly liked the way she incorporated her extensive reading in fiction and non-fiction to provide examples and commentary on today's politics and how we got here. Also, good footnotes provide a guide to further reading. My big reservation is that the only people who are likely to read this book are very unlikely to learn anything new. This can be read in one ...more
Jun 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, 2018, arc
As the former chief book critic of The New York Times, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Michiko Kakutani has apparently spent the past three decades noting and commenting on the decline of “objective truth” in American literature and public life – and while she approves of this postmodern paradigm as it relates to art, she has been horrified to watch as disestablishmentarianism has migrated from a necessary Leftist pushback against the military-industrial complex to an alt-right, “drain the swa ...more
Gary Moreau
Jul 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The truth is this: If you like literature, this is the best book you’ve read this year. If you don’t like Trump, this will be the best book you’ve read since he descended the gilded escalator. And if you don’t like the tone of modern politics, it is the best book you’ve read in a couple of decades. It’s informative, extremely well written, and there is no personal mud slinging. It’s a book about literature and will tell you more about the politics of today (and literature) than any pundit could ...more
Aug 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have a very close friend who is highly intelligent and whose opinion I value. I had mentioned to him something about the basketball player Kyrie Irving and his quote that having flown around the world multiple times as an NBA player, he believes the earth is flat. I was incredulous that a highly educated man such as Irving who attended Duke University could believe this. My friend however had a slightly different view on it. “Well, we live in a post truth world now. You and I may believe that ...more
Jun 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Simply put, this is essential reading if you want to understand, at least in part, the political chaos caused by technology, and perpetuated by those who harness its power for authoritarian purposes.
May 04, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, usa, uni
"The Death of Truth" - the book is now available in German!
Kakutani's book is more like a long essay with features of an opinion piece than a thoroughly argued non-fiction book. The text's strength is clearly that the author, the former chief book critic of The New York Times, draws parallels between current phenomena and how writers like David Foster Wallace or Philip Roth commented on and described them - thus, she is highlighting how literature reflects and sometimes even shapes real life. Es
Jul 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
“The Death of Truth” is a short book that reads like a long essay. The author, Michiko Kakutani, is a well known literary critic and former chief book review editor of the New York Times. She is (or should be) a legend to anyone interested in reading good books and being highly and critically discerning about the books that one reads. It is not necessary to agree with all that she writes, although that may well happen. It is difficult to be a discerning reader and not pay attention to what she t ...more
Marc Gerstein
Jul 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Immediately below is my preliminary 4-star review. Having finished now (after a more careful re-read from the start), I find it necessary to cut the rating to 3 for reasons discussed in the second part of the review.

* *

Halfway through but I feel I want to put some things out there right now (and by the way, although I’m early post publication, I’m reading a purchased — pre-ordered — ebook, not the holder of an ARC copy).

I’m not a Trump lover at all (I voted for Hillary), but Chapter 1 is a Trump
Kent Winward
There is a certain amount of hubris in Kakutani's take that the world and politics revolves around literary trends and theories. As much as I want to buy in whole hog, the hubris is the downfall of the book. Maybe I'm getting old and cynical, but it seems much more likely (and realistic) to me that literary trends are usually in response to changes in the political and social world, not the instigators of the change. Trump seems more a product of reality television than post-modern, relativistic ...more
Jun 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book scares the hell out of me.

The current state of the world and Nationalist leaders scares the hell out me.

This book does nothing to help put those fears to rest.

This book fuels these fears further.

This is the point of this book.

I hope it works for you how it has worked for me.

There was a one star detraction in the review from a perfect score as there is no breathing room. This book is unrelenting with facts and continues to hammer at the reader from the first page to the last.

Peter Mcloughlin
Very deep reading of the current crisis which has roots that go back pretty far to elements of 20th-century movements like postmodernism and the totalitarian movements from the 1930s. Postmodernism and Nihilism were the tools to pry apart institutions and the idea of the truth and replace it with a nihilistic will to power that is at the center of the far right which holds the reigns of government in the US. The carefully written philosophical piece puts together the trends from the sixties of q ...more
Sep 16, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is not a book. It's a series of current event articles and then a rant about the current state of our discourse. I liked the point about some of the deconstruction theories leading to the post-truth environment, but there was really not much interesting or new substance here.
Jennifer Malinowski
The Death of Truth by Kakutani is a fairly short read, coming in ~200 pages. But it is densely written and full of quotes and insights from a large number of sources. To get the most from it, I recommend reading only a chapter at a time and really mulling over the premise of each before moving on. (Do as I say, not as I did.) That said, Kakutani is merely one of the newest authors in a long line in the past several decades to call out the attack on intellectualism, truth, and government.

My firs
Sep 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kakutani, as a former Times book critic, has read widely and is familiar with a plethora of philosophical authors. She quotes many of them in this condensed argument regarding the loss of accepted facts in our current political discourse. She attributes much of this phenomenon to postmodernist arguments that challenge consensus opinion in favor of marginal ones. Just look at anti-vaxxers and global warming deniers that reject the work of an overwhelming majority of scientists.
Kakutani recites a
Aug 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I bet you've never thought of Trump as a postmodernist, but according to legendary literary critic Michiko Kakutani, Trump is a product of the postmodern school of thought. According to Kakutani, a consequence of the postmodern movement was a prevalent spirit of skepticism toward "the establishment," i.e. an attitude of doubt when considering mainstream news, scholarly facts/statistics, and even established science. A product of the times, Trump has latched on to this viewpoint and, alongside hi ...more
Joe M
Jul 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliantly researched and assembled by an author who is undeniably, a legend. Sure, I could knock off a star for being a bit scattershot and slightly overwhelming, but the importance of this book in 2018 can't be understated.
Danita L
An exceptional book, The Death of Truth is not just a book on falsehood in the age of Drumpf. In every instance, Michiko Kakutani documents her opinions and facts with quotations from other works, making the book an amazing reference tool on democracy and freedom and the attempts by tyrants throughout history to subvert truth and freedom of the press.

I cannot recommend The Death of Truth more highly and encourage everyone to read it. Although it would be difficult for followers of Drumpf to read
Aug 14, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Cataloging America's truth decay does not make for easy bedtime reading. While Kakutani does an excellent job of reiterating all the misrepresentations, falsehoods, and outright lies of the Trump administration, most of us have heard all of them before. Stacking them up in one volume makes the reader alternately despondent and outraged. The author's historical and cultural analysis is impressive, but more suggestions for how we might bring back truth and decency could have made this a stronger w ...more
Jul 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
For my money, the most important book on politics, culture and the phenomenon of "fake news" over the past two years. Brilliantly written and argued.
Mar 07, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book, and agreed with her, but feel that the book suffered from preaching to the choir. A bit more objectivity, insight, and forward-thinking would have benefited this novel.
Sep 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is important for all of us who care about saving our democratic institutions and empowering the checks and balances of our three branches of government. At this time in our history, when authoritarian rule seems to becoming a possibility in the United States of America, Michiko Kakutani's book, "The Death of Truth: Notes on Falsehood in the Age of Trump" clearly spells out how we have allowed ourselves to arrive at this demoralizing juncture. Set aside any feelings you may harbor of fa ...more
Apr 28, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, overdrive
While I agree with the author, there is nothing new here. She is just preaching to the choir. This is basically an elongated op-ed piece. At least she got it off her chest, but it didn’t do anything for me and is unlikely to sway anyone to her point of view.
This is a fantastic little book about the death of objective truth in our culture. Kakutani offers a critique of postmodern relativism, showing us how the loss of belief in truth has come about and affects how we live. I agree with what she says and wish more people would read this book.

Therein lies why I gave it 3 and not 4 or 5 stars. I doubt anyone who is already a fan of Trump is going to read this, and even if they did I doubt they'd be convinced. Thus, Kakutani is preaching to the choir. T
Jul 28, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good for college students. I may assign it to one of my classes. Certainly not ground breaking, or analytically deep. Surveyish...
John Muriango
Jun 26, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Worst book ever written! Trump Derangement Syndrome is real!
Regina Lemoine
Aug 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In clear and intelligent prose, Kakutani explains how we got from 1960's counterculture to our current, post-truth, era of Trump. Many of us were left reeling after the election, wondering how this could happen. As Kakutani points out, it happened because the conditions were ripe for it. She writes about the roles that the internet, Russians, the GOP and Democrats, news organizations, the white working class, Brietbart and Bannon, and most every other player have in the current debacle that is A ...more
Mrs. Danvers
This slim volume is one of the most depressing books I've read in recent memory because it is so incisive and straightforward. Kakutani hits the nail squarely on the head and I don't have much faith that the truth will come out of hiding any time soon.
Geri Degruy
Jul 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book should be essential reading for all Americans, (and actually all people in all countries.) Kakutani explains some of the history and seeds of untruth so we can see how this all began and how it has played out in the past. Her nine brief chapters plus Epilogue systematically investigate some of the major causes of our current state of confusion about what is true, from the distortion of language to social media to "fake news" and beyond.

I found this book extremely helpful in its organiz
Michael Jantz
Jul 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A bit of a "preaching to the choir" situation, but if the choir is "people who read books", well of course the rest won't be able to get this message (not that they would be receptive anyways). But my point (and Kakutani's) is that that non-choir is a group of quasi-literate half-baked Postmodernists devoid of not only reason but also the usual array of qualities one might associate with decent neighborly folks (empathy, for example). The book does a nice job of explaining the current strategies ...more
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Goodreads Librari...: Combine Editions 2 18 Jun 10, 2018 08:14AM  

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Michiko Kakutani is a Pulitzer Prize-winning literary critic and the former chief book critic of The New York Times.
“As Hannah Arendt wrote in her 1951 book, The Origins of Totalitarianism, “The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e., the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (i.e., the standards of thought) no longer exist.” 7 likes
“The most appalling racist, sexist, and perversely cruel remarks are served up on social media, often with a wink or a sneer, and when called out, practitioners frequently respond that they were simply joking—much the way that White House aides say Trump is simply joking or misunderstood when he makes offensive remarks. At a November 2016 alt-right conference, the white supremacist Richard Spencer ended his speech, shouting, “Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory!” When asked about the Nazi salutes that greeted his exclamation, Spencer replied that they were “clearly done in a spirit of irony and exuberance.” 4 likes
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