Nearly 500 pages of names, plots, betrayals, battles, and murders may be more than some readers want to know about ancient...

THE RISE OF ATHENS

THE STORY OF THE WORLD'S GREATEST CIVILIZATION

A thick, lively popular history that tells a complex story without dumbing it down or devoting more than a modest effort to distinguishing fact from myth.

All ancient histories begin with prehistory, and veteran British historian Everitt (The Rise of Rome: The Making of the World’s Greatest Empire, 2012, etc.) describes the Homeric age before 1000 B.C.E. as Greeks themselves viewed it, an ingenious approach that emphasizes the many differences between ancient cultures and modern societies. The heroes of the Iliad were a surly, murderous lot. Lovers of Mary Renault’s classic The King Must Die (1958) may not welcome news that Theseus, the mythical founder of Athens, raped any woman that took his fancy. After a dark age, classic Athens emerged around 700 B.C.E., a turbulent city riven by conflicts between the rich and the poor. The vaunted democracy that emerged after 600 B.C.E. inspired America’s Founding Fathers but also taught them what to avoid. Every male citizen gathered and voted, so it often resembled mob rule. An aggressive aristocratic class remained, and charismatic leaders became populist dictators. Yet it worked. Athens prospered and dominated other cities for two centuries until it tangled with rival city-state Sparta in 434 B.C.E. and lost. After 400 B.C.E. Athens declined into a more modest town, but its intellectual heritage—Socrates, Plato, Euripides, Aristotle, Archimedes, etc.—carried through its fourth-century conqueror, Macedonia, second-century conqueror, Rome, and, subsequently, the Western world. Though dense with incident, the narrative is highly readable, and the glossary and timeline are helpful additions.

Nearly 500 pages of names, plots, betrayals, battles, and murders may be more than some readers want to know about ancient Greece, but Everitt keeps the action moving, making this a worthy alternative to the classic doorstop, Will Durant’s The Life of Greece (1939).

Pub Date: Dec. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9458-2

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2016

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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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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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