An eye-opening spotlight on the nation’s most enduring political document.


The creation of the U.S. Constitution was driven by the desire for democracy—and money.

After the Revolutionary War, 13 loosely aligned, newly independent states had a united nation to run. Their primary political document, the Articles of Confederation, however, was a recipe for economic disaster, with each state espousing autonomous fiscal policies without a powerful central governmental authority to mediate among them. As demonstrated in smart detail by Holton (History/Univ. of Richmond; Forced Founders: Indians, Debtors, Slaves, and the Making of the American Revolution in Virginia, 1999), the result was chaos in almost every corner of the struggling new nation. War bonds, for example, were either unredeemable or worth a fraction of their promised value. Paper currency, a concept widely feared, debated and even banned by certain state legislatures, became a constant source of interstate bickering. Property values plunged, causing the prosperity of many prominent families to vanish almost overnight while economic predators profited from their losses. In especially depressed states where onerous tax bills could only be satisfied by the seizure and auction of property, riots regularly closed courthouses and put judges’s lives in jeopardy. Foreign investment, desperately needed to foster economic growth, remained locked in Europe, posing yet another threat to America’s hard-won independence. In this unstable atmosphere, immense social and political pressure was placed on the Founding Fathers. Politically, many believed that the Articles of Confederation were too weak, but acceptable alternative political models were lacking: Europe’s monarchical systems were naturally considered abhorrent. Economically, the priority was to find ways to increase the money supply and to substantially ease and redistribute the tax burden. Holton painstakingly locates all the key political figures of the era within the divisive, argumentative Continental Congress, including Washington, Hamilton, Adams, Jefferson and Madison, explaining how each was affected by the fiscal turmoil roiling the land.

An eye-opening spotlight on the nation’s most enduring political document.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-8090-8061-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2007

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 11

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

  • National Book Award Winner

  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist



The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

Did you like this book?