Roker's account will interest readers who previously knew nothing about the Galveston hurricane. However, Isaac's Storm is...

THE STORM OF THE CENTURY

TRAGEDY, HEROISM, SURVIVAL, AND THE EPIC TRUE STORY OF AMERICA'S DEADLIEST NATURAL DISASTER: THE GREAT GULF HURRICANE OF 1900

Today weather anchor Roker (Never Goin' Back: Winning the Weight Loss Battle for Good, 2012, etc.) recounts the hurricane that leveled Galveston, Texas, during September 1900, killing an estimated 10,000 people.

The narrative of the storm and its gruesome aftermath moves along briskly, but some readers may wonder why the author decided to devote his celebrity name and his time to an account that has been told better in Erik Larson's Isaac's Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History (1999) and John Edward Weems' A Weekend in September (1957). In his "Note on Further Reading," Roker acknowledges those two books as vital sources for his version of the historical record. He also states that his book is the first to use the oral histories collected in Izola Collins’ Island of Color (2004), “which preserves the history of Galveston’s African American community from Juneteenth to the post-segregation era.” How the oral histories collected by Collins fit into Roker’s narrative, however, is unclear. Roker’s accounts of the suffering of hundreds of individuals are, for the most part, compelling. Most are tragic, and some are uplifting. But they drift throughout the book, with little sense to the order in which they appear, disappear temporarily, and then reappear. Roker's weather-forecasting experience serves him well, and the narrative is strongest when he turns from the seemingly random minidramas of individuals to explain the forces of nature at play. The grimmest portion of the book, understandably, deals with how the Galveston residents who survived labored to bury the dead—first in the ocean, which proved difficult to accomplish, and then by cremation via open fires. The stench was pervasive and potentially deadly.

Roker's account will interest readers who previously knew nothing about the Galveston hurricane. However, Isaac's Storm is not out of date and deserves its place as the recommended version.

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-236465-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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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

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Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.

1776

A master storyteller’s character-driven account of a storied year in the American Revolution.

Against world systems, economic determinist and other external-cause schools of historical thought, McCullough (John Adams, 2001, etc.) has an old-fashioned fondness for the great- (and not-so-great) man tradition, which may not have much explanatory power but almost always yields better-written books. McCullough opens with a courteous nod to the customary villain in the story of American independence, George III, who turns out to be a pleasant and artistically inclined fellow who relied on poor advice; his Westmoreland, for instance, was a British general named Grant who boasted that with 5,000 soldiers he “could march from one end of the American continent to the other.” Other British officers agitated for peace, even as George wondered why Americans would not understand that to be a British subject was to be free by definition. Against these men stood arrayed a rebel army that was, at the least, unimpressive; McCullough observes that New Englanders, for instance, considered washing clothes to be women’s work and so wore filthy clothes until they rotted, with the result that Burgoyne and company had a point in thinking the Continentals a bunch of ragamuffins. The Americans’ military fortunes were none too good for much of 1776, the year of the Declaration; at the slowly unfolding battle for control over New York, George Washington was moved to despair at the sight of sometimes drunk soldiers running from the enemy and of their officers “who, instead of attending to their duty, had stood gazing like bumpkins” at the spectacle. For a man such as Washington, to be a laughingstock was the supreme insult, but the British were driven by other motives than to irritate the general—not least of them reluctance to give up a rich, fertile and beautiful land that, McCullough notes, was providing the world’s highest standard of living in 1776.

Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-2671-2

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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