A crisply articulated, dynamic presentation of how the debates unfolded and why they still matter today.




Two-time Lincoln Prize winner Guelzo (Civil War Era History/Gettysburg Coll.; Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America, 2004, etc.) colorfully chronicles the most famous Senate campaign in American history.

By 1858, intense controversy over slavery had brought the country to a boil, and partisans rightly looked to the Senate race in the swing state of Illinois for clues to the 1860 presidential election. There, the brilliant orator and incumbent Stephen A. Douglas, father of the incendiary Kansas-Nebraska Act and champion of the doctrine of “popular sovereignty,” battled the little-known, lightly regarded prairie lawyer Abraham Lincoln. Douglas painted Lincoln as a thinly disguised abolitionist and an inconstant patriot, intent on ending the Founders’s experiment in diversity by dictating a way of life to the South and inciting civil war. Lincoln attacked Douglas for destroying the Missouri Compromise and refusing to recognize that the moral issue of slavery was not susceptible to the whims of popular demand. Thanks largely to seven joint debates (actually serialized speeches) instantly transcribed and printed in newspapers that transfixed readers far beyond the state’s borders, Lincoln emerged from the campaign with a national reputation, the glittering star of the still-new Republican Party. Though Douglas prevailed, he was reduced to an exhausted husk of his once powerful self, his national prospects severely diminished. Guelzo memorably describes the campaign’s centerpiece, the Lincoln/Douglas face-offs in the little towns of Freeport, Ottawa, Galesburg, Quincy, Charleston, Alton and Jonesport. He also ably elucidates the importance and the timelessness of the philosophical differences at the heart of the Lincoln/Douglas debates, but he excels most at placing them in their original context, as only a part of a sharply contested, often ugly political campaign, wherein each man spent as much time tending to his own splintered party as he did explaining himself or hammering his opponent.

A crisply articulated, dynamic presentation of how the debates unfolded and why they still matter today.

Pub Date: April 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-7432-7320-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2008

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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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