A delightful journey with excellent sketches, renderings, and resources for museums and organizations.

BRILLIANT BEACONS

A HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN LIGHTHOUSE

A fine history of lighthouses, “among the most beloved and romanticized structures in the American landscape.”

The author of other masterly works on key aspects of American history and growth (Fur, Fortune, and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America, 2010, etc.), Dolin here presents a thoughtful, straightforward chronicle of the American lighthouse, from the earliest, completed in 1716 at Little Brewster, in Boston Harbor, as a harbinger of burgeoning Colonial maritime growth, to the death of the last civilian keeper—at the Coney Island Lighthouse—in 2003, Nearly all the biggest cities in the Colonies were ports, and little by little, the harbors at Rhode Island (Beavertail Point), New York (Sandy Hook), and South Carolina (Charleston’s Morris Island) were constructed in quick succession. Wars wreaked havoc on lighthouses, as they became military targets and were often dismantled—e.g., Sandy Hook was seized by the British during the Revolution, becoming a magnet for loyalist refugees; the Key West, Florida, lighthouse, seized by the Union in 1861, provided the Union naval forces lighted guidance through the dangerous south Florida waters during the entire war. Throughout the book, Dolin ties together important strands to the lighthouse story: the federal government took over from the states the building and upkeep of lighthouses with the Lighthouse Act of 1789, indicating the importance of the institution yet also putting the oversight at the “rule of ignorant and incompetent men,” such as the penny-pinching, shortsighted, long-running auditor Stephen Pleasonton. He relied on the old-fashioned “magnifying and reflecting lantern” of Winslow Lewis rather than the state-of-the-art European Fresnel lens (created by French inventor Augustin-Jean Fresnel), adopted finally by all lighthouses through the Lighthouse Board in 1851. Dolin also weaves in the heroic stories of lighthouse keepers (men and women), and along with engineering feats, there are also fantastic tales of kamikaze birds and other instances of wild nature coming up against these man-made structures.

A delightful journey with excellent sketches, renderings, and resources for museums and organizations.

Pub Date: April 18, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-87140-668-2

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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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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