Engaging revelations about land and property, often discouraging but never dull.

LAND

HOW THE HUNGER FOR OWNERSHIP SHAPED THE MODERN WORLD

The latest sweeping, satisfying popular history from the British American author and journalist, this time covering a topic that many of us take for granted.

Having bought 123 acres north of New York City, Winchester muses on what land ownership means. At the most basic level, it means that “you have the right to call the police to throw anyone else off what the title documents say belongs to you.” Bronze Age farmers began the process of defining boundaries, but human ingenuity, technology, and avarice produced increasingly accurate markers, surveys, and maps that delineated national borders, a matter of obsessive concern to governments around the world. Winchester delivers a riveting history of mapmaking, which culminated over the past few centuries as heroic surveyors trudged with their instruments thousands of miles to produce charts that were both beautiful and dazzlingly precise. (For a particularly illuminating example, see Winchester’s The Map That Changed the World.) For most of history, human yearning for land outstripped that for money, and the author offers familiar, disheartening accounts of mass acquisitions and theft: Native America (and Australia, Canada, and New Zealand) to Whites, Arab Palestine to Jewish immigrants, Africa to European powers. Readers looking for inspiration will perk up to read about the Netherlands, which acquired its land from the sea and didn’t evict anyone. Although less well known than tech billionaires, America’s land billionaires are prospering, increasing their holdings by 50% since 2007. In fact, the top 100 own land equal to the size of Florida. With some exceptions, they are strangers to public spirit and sometimes fiercely opposed to anyone setting foot on even their wilderness property. The chapters on the Stalin-ordered mass famine in Ukraine and the shameful World War II imprisonment of Japanese Americans (and confiscation of their property) make for painful reading but important historical reminders. The author also discusses climate change and the land that continues to disappear as rising temperatures melt the ice caps.

Engaging revelations about land and property, often discouraging but never dull.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-293833-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 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...

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 solid work of investigation that, while treading well-covered ground, offers plenty of surprises.

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PERIL

An account of the last gasps of the Trump administration, completing a trilogy begun with Fear (2018) and Rage (2020).

One of Woodward and fellow Washington Post reporter Costa’s most memorable revelations comes right away: Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, calling his counterpart in Beijing to assure him that even after Jan. 6 and what Milley saw as an unmistakable attempt at a coup d’état, he would keep Trump from picking a war with China. This depiction has earned much attention on the talking-heads news channels, but more significant is its follow-up: Milley did so because he was concerned that Trump “might still be looking for what Milley called a ‘Reichstag moment.’ ” Milley emerges as a stalwart protector of the Constitution who constantly courted Trump’s ire and yet somehow survived without being fired. No less concerned about Trump’s erratic behavior was Paul Ryan, the former Speaker of the House, who studied the psychiatric literature for a big takeaway: “Do not humiliate Trump in public. Humiliating a narcissist risked real danger, a frantic lashing out if he felt threatened or criticized.” Losing the 2020 election was one such humiliation, and Woodward and Costa closely track the trajectory of Trump’s reaction, from depression to howling rage to the stubborn belief that the election was rigged. There are a few other modest revelations in the book, including the fact that Trump loyalist William Barr warned him that the electorate didn’t like him. “They just think you’re a fucking asshole,” Barr told his boss. That was true enough, and the civil war that the authors recount among various offices in the White House and government reveals that Trump’s people were only ever tentatively his. All the same, the authors note, having drawn on scores of “deep background” interviews, Trump still has his base, still intends vengeance by way of a comeback, and still constitutes the peril of their title.

A solid work of investigation that, while treading well-covered ground, offers plenty of surprises.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982182-91-5

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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