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An intriguing, eye-opening spiritual biography.

Even history’s most famous conqueror had a soft side.

An acclaimed expert on Mongolia, Weatherford (The Secret History of the Mongol Queens: How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued His Empire, 2010, etc.) introduces readers to a Genghis Khan (c. 1162-1227) not discussed in most history books. Though he was unquestionably a ruthless and violent conqueror, the author wants readers to see his subject as a thoughtful leader marked by extraordinary forethought and wisdom, paired with a religious personality. Among Weatherford’s most startling revelations is that, centuries before John Locke and similar thinkers, Genghis Khan believed in and promoted religious tolerance within his great empire. Early in the book, the author does an admirable job explaining the physically harsh and brutal life into which Temujin—the name of the future Khan—was born and raised. Readers may grow to feel empathy for the young and unlikely future ruler, until fratricide and other acts of violence quickly taint his image. Founding the nation of Mongolia in 1206 with 1 million followers, Genghis Khan showed early wisdom in deciding to bring the written word to his empire, and he set about having scribes put the Mongolian spoken language into writing. Military success led to vastly increased landholding, and his empire grew. Weatherford details his conquest of China and then of Muslim lands to the west. Throughout, Genghis Khan considered himself “the whip of heaven,” chosen to bring order and justice to a troubled world. This included a solemn religious duty: “As heaven’s representative on earth, he felt it was his duty to examine the religions of the people he had conquered to determine what they were doing incorrectly and to correct their errors.” As he aged, however, Genghis Khan transformed from judge to student, as he spent more time learning about the religions of his conquered lands and incorporating their finest points into his administration and lawmaking.

An intriguing, eye-opening spiritual biography.

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2115-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 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...

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 wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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