Well-written but with the feel of a magazine article masquerading as a book.




The story of a basketball journeyman caught up in the civil war in Libya.

Born in Nigeria, where he began shooting hoops into a milk crate nailed to a tree at age 6, Owumi came to the United States with his parents at age 11. Though he played solid basketball at Alcorn State, a small black college in Mississippi, Owumi went undrafted in the 2008 NBA draft. Faced with a choice between playing in the NBA minor league or with better-paying overseas teams, he embarked on an adventure that brought him from playing for French, Macedonian and other teams to his 2010 acceptance of an offer to join a Libyan team funded by the family of President Moammar Gadhafi. More than half the book traces the scrappy Owumi’s early life (his grandfather was a village chief), his early days bouncing around among community college basketball teams, and his satisfying two seasons at Alcorn State, where he finally learned “the harsh lesson of life after college basketball: You are where you played.” Although Paisner (Chasing Perfect: The Will to Win in Basketball and Life, 2013, etc.) foreshadows the coming Libyan crisis nicely, the early pages are overblown and less than exciting. Finally, Owumi arrived in Benghazi, where he lived in a penthouse apartment owned by Gadhafi’s son and learned he was expected to play winning ball or be beaten. Play had hardly begun when the violence erupted outside his window. Frightened and without food, water or phone service, Owumi remained trapped in his apartment for two weeks, surviving by eating cockroaches and worms. The scenes of violence outside his door and in the streets are rendered vividly, and readers will cheer his eventual escape to Egypt, where Owumi joined yet another basketball team and won an MVP award.

Well-written but with the feel of a magazine article masquerading as a book.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-60961-516-1

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Rodale

Review Posted Online: Sept. 10, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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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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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

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