An illuminating new biography of a legendary figure in the scientific world whose legacy continues to draw reappraisals.

CHARLES DARWIN

VICTORIAN MYTHMAKER

The prolific novelist and biographer probes the character and controversies of Charles Darwin’s life and the controversial theory that turned the world on its head.

Wilson (The Queen, 2017, etc.) writes that Victorian England, deep into the Industrial Revolution, “was ready for a theory of nature which revealed everything in existence to be in a state of becoming, rather than fixed arrival.” Born into an upper-class family, Darwin followed in the footsteps of his father and attended medical school. However, he was more intrigued by the natural world than human bodies, and when he was given the opportunity to join an exploratory voyage, he took it. The huge collection of natural specimens that Darwin amassed on this five-year voyage was, in Wilson’s eyes, his greatest achievement. After settling down to a quiet country life with his family, Darwin formulated the theory of evolution that he would lay out in On the Origin of Species and further develop in The Descent of Man. Wilson thoroughly analyzes the various facets of Darwin’s life for influences both conscious and unconscious. While Darwin is usually credited with the theory of evolution, another scientist, Alfred Russel Wallace, actually came up with the theory at the same time. Both found inspiration from a tract about human population by Thomas Malthus. While most of us now take evolution as a given, there were plenty of questions left open, some of which Darwin himself recognized. The study of genetics has answered some of these questions, but the idea of evolution as the “survival of the fittest” continues to be challenged. Integrating a wealth of biographical details with in-depth discussions of the criticisms and arguments around Darwinism, Wilson helps readers understand how Darwin was an almost inevitable product of his times. As he writes, “the idea…that he alone was responsible for the scales falling from the eyes of the human race is a piece of mythology.”

An illuminating new biography of a legendary figure in the scientific world whose legacy continues to draw reappraisals.

Pub Date: Dec. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-243349-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2017

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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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