A highly relevant study featuring much food for thought and prospects for change.




The noted law historian, author of Impeaching the President, examines the handful of seriously problematic presidential elections in American history and what the Constitution elucidates about the process of undoing such an event—namely, nothing.

Like many historians and political analysts, Hirsch believes the Electoral College is direly flawed and should be abolished. In his latest book, he begins with an overview of the presidential election process, set out in Article II of the Constitution, which was soon to be revealed by Alexander Hamilton as a “defect.” In the election of 1800, between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr, each received the same votes, and the crisis resulted in the 12th Amendment, creating a distinct ballot for president and vice president. However, in 1824, the race between John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson resulted in a tie and had to be brokered by the House of Representatives, as per the Constitution. It came down to the wheedling of charismatic Speaker of the House Henry Clay to throw his support behind Adams—perhaps in return for his appointing him secretary of state, the so-called “corrupt bargain.” In the 1876 election, Samuel Tilden received 250,000 more votes than Rutherford B. Hayes, yet three states were “too close to call” (South Carolina, Florida, and Louisiana)—an eerie similarity to the future 2000 nail-biter between Al Gore and George W. Bush, which came down to one state, Florida, and was thrown to the courts for a decision. Hirsch quotes election law expert Edward Foley: “the Hayes-Tilden dispute exposed structural frailties in the nation’s constitutional order that…were unchanged in 1876 and remain unchanged today”—decidedly unnerving news as we approach the 2020 election. In the concluding chapters, the author delineates the “fraud and chaos” rampant in the EC and argues for a constitutional amendment for handling future crises.

A highly relevant study featuring much food for thought and prospects for change.

Pub Date: yesterday

ISBN: 978-0-87286-829-8

Page Count: 200

Publisher: City Lights

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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?

No Comments Yet

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet