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FOUR LOST CITIES

A SECRET HISTORY OF THE URBAN AGE

A revealing look at the ancient past that speaks thoughtfully to the global-warming present.

An exploration of four far-flung ancient cities, each undone by climate and politics. An alternate title for this book might be A People’s History of Urbanism. Newitz is interested in how cities form, grow, and dissipate, and the author trains their focus on how everyday lives were affected by those processes. To do that, they select a quartet of once-mighty metropolises. Catalhoyuk, located in present-day Turkey 9,000 years ago, marked humanity’s uneasy shift from farming communities to a dense city until sustained cold and drought unraveled the place. Pompeii was famously obliterated by a volcanic eruption in 79 C.E., but before it then exemplified a diverse society whose folkways survived beyond the city’s ruins. Thailand’s Angkor is known now for its majestic temples, but in the 13th century, those were just part of an agriculturally complex and sprawling region with a sophisticated infrastructure that was hard to maintain amid climate fluctuation and shaky leadership. Cahokia, located near present-day Saint Louis, was at its height (circa 1050 C.E.) an agricultural epicenter big on collective gatherings, fun and not (human sacrifices were common), until flood and drought likely took a toll. Newitz colors the narrative with accounts of personal visits to each site and interviews with the archaeologists there, many of whom debunk past scholars who looked at sites through a Western lens. (Not every naked female figurine represents a fertility goddess; not every successful society is rigidly hierarchical.) The author also attacks contemporary scholars like Jared Diamond, who argued that ancient civilizations collapse outright; more correctly, Newitz argues, multiple forces challenge and disperse communities. In an era of climate change, it’s a hearteningly un-dystopian message but still a challenge to leaders to focus on “resilient infrastructure…public plazas, domestic spaces for everyone, social mobility, and leaders who treat the city’s workers with dignity.” A revealing look at the ancient past that speaks thoughtfully to the global-warming present.

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-393-65266-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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NIGHT

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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