A skillful psychobiography by an empathetic scholar.

CITIZEN SOLDIER

A LIFE OF HARRY S. TRUMAN

A scholar of American history builds on previous biographies of Harry Truman to offer her own interpretation of his career.

Donald (Lion in the White House: A Life of Theodore Roosevelt, 2007), the former editor in chief of Harvard University Press, was fascinated by Truman's ascendancy to the presidency near the end of World War II. However, she felt that previous biographies (e.g., David McCullough’s Truman and Alonzo L. Hamby’s A Man of the People), despite their overall excellence, failed to emphasize certain of his character qualities. Compared to other Truman biographers, Donald emphasizes the psychology of the man to a greater extent and the outward actions of the man to a lesser extent. She delves into the countervailing influences of Truman's strong mother and weaker father; the future president's despair at spending a decade on the family farm, trying but failing to make it prosperous; the leadership qualities he developed during World War I; his epic love for his wife and total devotion to his daughter; his ability to maintain his personal integrity while struggling with the corrupt political machine of Kansas City; and the forces behind his decision to initiate a nuclear attack on Japan to end WWII. Donald argues that Truman's psychological state while a senator from Missouri opens vital vistas on his performance as an accidental president, and her most searing insight involves Truman's loyalty to family, to political allies and to soldiers with whom he served. That intense loyalty, writes the author, led him to make some personally and politically harmful decisions.

A skillful psychobiography by an empathetic scholar.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-465-03120-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: July 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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