A fresh, lucid and lively volume of profiles and analysis.

AMERICAN SKETCHES

GREAT LEADERS, CREATIVE THINKERS, AND HEROES OF A HURRICANE

Journalist and biographer Isaacson (Einstein: His Life and Universe, 2007, etc.) on various great Americans.

The author, former managing editor of Time magazine, collects essays and other journalistic pieces focusing on the personalities behind significant figures in American history. Brief, illuminating portraits of Benjamin Franklin and John Adams set the tone, as Isaacson delves into the quirks of temperament that drive history as surely as political forces. The author explores Einstein’s complicated relationship with God, Henry Kissinger’s preoccupation with realpolitik at the expense of “sentimental” ideals and values and Bill Gates’s boyish love of games and competition. Woody Allen’s famous defense of his relationship with his girlfriend’s adopted daughter—“the heart wants what it wants”—occurred in an interview with Isaacson, and the author has interesting things to say on the complex balance of strengths and flaws that complicate the legacy of Bill Clinton. A New Orleans native, Isaacson movingly addresses the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and advises a slow rebuilding approach in order to retain that city’s strange, delicate magic. Other figures profiled include Ronald Reagan, McGeorge Bundy, Madeleine Albright and Colin Powell. In each piece, Isaacson identifies an essential value or quality in the individual and analyzes the ways in which it influences political policy, social change or scientific or technological advancement. It’s an effectively engaging approach, and the short, punchy essays make their points quickly and sustain interest over the course of the book. A few pieces—such as a remembrance of Time editor Henry Grunwald and a couple of prescient op-ed pieces—feel inessential and a bit self-indulgent, but, on the whole, this is a compelling, highly readable collection of fresh perspectives on some of the most significant names in American history.

A fresh, lucid and lively volume of profiles and analysis.

Pub Date: Nov. 24, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4391-8064-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2009

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

Did you like this book?

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

Did you like this book?

more