An informative history of a man of “adamantine strengths and…very human weaknesses” who incited a theological revolution.

BRAND LUTHER

HOW AN UNHERALDED MONK TURNED HIS SMALL TOWN INTO A CENTER OF PUBLISHING, MADE HIMSELF THE MOST FAMOUS MAN IN EUROPE—AND STARTED THE PROTESTANT REFORMATION

Anticipating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, Royal Historical Society vice president Pettegree (Modern History/Univ. of St. Andrews; The Invention of News: How the World Came to Know About Itself, 2014, etc.) offers a cogent and authoritative overview of Martin Luther (1483-1546) and of the burgeoning printing industry that disseminated his ideas.

Railing against clerical corruption, Luther gained renown through his prolific writings. Pettegree contends that Luther “invented a new form of theological writing: short, clear, and direct, speaking not only to his professional peers but to the wider Christian people.” In 1517, when Luther posted his 95 theses on the door of the Wittenberg church—a common place for announcements to the community—he was an unknown monk who had rarely published. His document, harshly critical of the selling of indulgences that duped Christians into believing they could buy salvation, was widely circulated; “thanks to print,” the author contends, “the indulgence controversy” became “a public matter.” Four years later, after publishing prolifically, Luther was declared a heretic and excommunicated. By the time he died, he was a bestselling author whose works included anti-Semitic (On the Jews and Their Lies) and violently abusive tracts. Pettegree attributes Luther’s fame both to his ideas and—a bit repetitiously—to his shrewd use of publishing. Although he acknowledges that “a large proportion of the population could not read, even in relatively sophisticated urban societies such as the German imperial cities,” readership among the clergy and intelligentsia was enough to warrant massive printings of Luther’s pamphlets, catechisms, and vernacular translation of the Bible. His friend and ally the artist Lucas Cranach designed attractive title pages highlighting Luther’s name, an innovation that contributed to the creation of what Pettegree calls “Brand Luther.”

An informative history of a man of “adamantine strengths and…very human weaknesses” who incited a theological revolution.

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-59420-496-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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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

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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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