An often intriguing book on religion and American politics, regardless of one’s ideological bent.


The Miracle of America


An in-depth study of the influence of the Bible on the values underpinning American government.

Kamrath makes an impressive debut with a work that blends Judeo-Christian theology, political science and colonial American history. The majority of early American settlers were religious dissidents who established colonies, in part, to have the freedom to worship as they chose. At the same time they made their fateful migrations, the Protestant Reformation was shaking up the foundations of the established church. This ideologically fertile time serves as Kamrath’s starting point for an intriguing portrait of an often overlooked feature of early American history. She aims to illustrate how Biblical teachings influenced the social structures of the early colonies and ultimately informed the Founding Fathers and their philosophy of governance. She particularly describes how core American principles, such as freedom of conscience and restricted government, have a powerful Biblical foundation. Skeptical readers may suspect that the author is arguing for a more theocratic society or to make a case for America as a nation chosen by God, but she goes to careful lengths to avoid such polemics. In the process, she makes a powerful case that the Bible mandates rather than restricts the pluralist society in American politics. Kamrath collects a prodigious number of Biblical references, historical quotations and scholarly reflections to illustrate the depth of religion’s influence on American ideology, but she’s also careful to acknowledge the work of such influential Enlightenment philosophers as John Locke. In its quest to be comprehensive, the book sometimes sacrifices readability, but this is essentially an academic text which dives deep into complicated subjects. Rather than focusing on individual figures or convenient narratives, the author devotes her attention to the abstract ideas that ultimately coalesced into American democracy. Despite its narrow subject matter, however, the book nonetheless has contemporary relevance, and any reader interested in the link between overlapping moral philosophies may find Kamrath’s arguments enriching.

An often intriguing book on religion and American politics, regardless of one’s ideological bent.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-1628711417

Page Count: 382

Publisher: Xulon Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 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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