Exemplary writing about the intersection of the animal and human worlds.

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VESPER FLIGHTS

Falconer and writer Macdonald follows on elegant memoir H Is for Hawk (2015) with a set of essays on nature.

“I choose to think that my subject is love,” writes the author at the beginning, “and most specifically love for the glittering world of non-human life around us.” Love sometimes turns to lamentation as she notes how much of the natural world has been destroyed in her lifetime. There are some particularly wonderful moments in this altogether memorable collection, as when Macdonald recounts retreating from a shy girlhood, teased and even bullied by her schoolmates, with the aid of binoculars and field guides that allowed her to escape into a different, better world: “This method of finding refuge from difficulty was an abiding feature of my childhood.” Later in that passage, she continues, “when I was a child I’d assumed animals were just like me. Later I thought I could escape myself by pretending I was an animal. Both were founded on the same mistake. For the deepest lesson animals have taught me is how easily and unconsciously we see other lives as mirrors of our own.” The author also recounts her treks looking for wild boars, the descendants of once-domesticated pigs that are now not quite like pigs at all, having reclaimed ancestral fierceness. Macdonald allows that while her encounters with such creatures are eminently real, she’s fully open to the possibilities of symbolic encounter as well. Anthropomorphism may be a sin among biologists, but as long as it doesn’t go to silly lengths, she’s not above decorating a nest box—and those decorations, she writes in a perceptive piece, are as class-inflected as anything else in class-conscious Britain. Perhaps the finest piece is also the most sobering, a reflection on the disappearance of spring, “increasingly a short flash of sudden warmth before summer, hardly a season at all.”

Exemplary writing about the intersection of the animal and human worlds.

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8021-2881-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: April 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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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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A chatty autobiography brimming with heart and humor.

PLAYING WITH MYSELF

Debut memoir from the popular comedian, actor, and writer.

In his debut memoir, Rainbow (“my very real last name”) shares his memories, beginning with his star turn in a backyard production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs on his eighth birthday. Growing up on Long Island with a “showbiz-positive family,” the author depicts a flamboyant childhood influenced by his grandmother and her celebrity fascinations. “My eight-year-old childhood bedroom,” he notes, “looked more like the men’s room at a gay bar in Hell’s Kitchen.” Rainbow’s engagement with ballet classes and musical theater provoked relentless schoolyard bullying until a family move to Florida introduced him to the unique strengths to be found in coming out and celebrating his obsession with his “lord and savior,” Barbra Streisand. As his parents’ relationship deteriorated, Manhattan beckoned. In between auditions, Rainbow worked as the “jovial gay boy at the host stand” at Hooters. Honing his stand-up comedy skills, he started a blog, which branched off into a series of comedic video sketches that satirized, among other topics, a fictional relationship with Mel Gibson and a tryout for American Idol. When Rainbow began delving into political parodies, particularly his skewering of the chaotic 2016 presidential campaign, his fame exploded. “For the first few years of Trump,” he writes, “I basically lived inside a giant green screen.” Still, he admits that his career has been a constant hustle and that the isolating cross-country tours “ain’t for sissies.” Rapidly paced comic absurdities fill the remainder of the book, as the author provides anecdotes about his struggles to remain upbeat and social media relevant in the fickle entertainment world despite multiple Emmy nominations. In the concluding chapters, the author openly discusses the public backlash from past controversial comments on Twitter, which he attributes to “sloppy efforts as a young comedian” to be funny. Buoyant and campy throughout, Rainbow’s revelations and lighthearted banter will entertain fans and newbies alike.

A chatty autobiography brimming with heart and humor.

Pub Date: April 19, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-27625-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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