Essential for anyone concerned with geopolitics, national security, and the containment of further terrorist actions.


Journalist and national security analyst Bergen delivers a compelling, nuanced portrait of America’s erstwhile public enemy No. 1.

Osama bin Laden, whom the author interviewed long before he became a household name, was an enigmatic and contradictory man: He was rich but insisted on living ascetically—a fact that drove a son of his away in adulthood—and though he had the bearing of a quiet cleric, he engineered the deaths of countless thousands of people, and not just on 9/11. Bergen resists psychobiography while examining some of the facts of his family life that shaped his personality. He barely knew his father, whom his mother had divorced, and he idealized a remote, dusty corner of Yemen, his family seat, even as it gave birth to an offshoot of Islam that worshipped Christian saints alongside Muslim ones. In the last weeks of his life, bin Laden was consumed with the fear that, hidden away in a compound in Pakistan, he was missing out on what he felt should have been a leadership role in the Arab Spring movement—and never mind that it had little to do with his religious fundamentalism. Throughout, Bergen turns up revealing details and sharp arguments against received wisdom: one moment finds bin Laden treating his white beard with Just for Men hair dye; another introduces readers to one of his wives, a “poet and intellectual who…played a key, hidden role in formulating his ideas and helping him prepare his public statements.” Though intelligence presumes him to have delegated the work to lieutenants, Bergen shows bin Laden micromanaging the 9/11 attacks and subsequent operations as the Bush administration bungled its efforts to find him. Meaningfully, the author notes that waterboarding and other torture of captured al-Qaida operatives yielded almost no actionable intelligence, and he disputes the claim that the Pakistani intelligence service shielded bin Laden from American discovery, discounting what has become the near-official narrative.

Essential for anyone concerned with geopolitics, national security, and the containment of further terrorist actions.

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982170-52-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 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...


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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