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TEN CAESARS

ROMAN EMPERORS FROM AUGUSTUS TO CONSTANTINE

Fresh documentary evidence on these times rarely turns up to add to the skimpy surviving chronicles (by Pliny, Tacitus,...

A set of lively biographies of the 10 best-known emperors of Rome.

Few educated readers respect many of Hollywood’s grandiose versions of events (though HBO’s series, Rome, did better), so history buffs will not wince to read about the cruelty, murder, betrayal, and arrogance of even highly regarded emperors. Rocking no boats, Strauss (History and Classics/Cornell Univ.; The Death of Caesar: The Story of History's Most Famous Assassination, 2015, etc.), who has written numerous useful popular books on the classical period, agrees that the ancient Republic was moribund when Julius Caesar delivered the coup de grace. But it took a vicious 20-year civil war before his grand-nephew took power in 27 B.C.E. and proclaimed the restoration of the old Roman Republic; then he gradually assumed the mantel of emperor as Augustus. Historians and contemporaries agree that he did a solid job as emperor, and he was widely mourned at his death. Few historians but Strauss admire his dour successor, Tiberius, who, although a general, avoided war and continued the nearly 200 years of Pax Romana. The author delivers short accounts of all emperors during these years, expanding on the not-always-awful Nero and the admirable Vespasian, Trajan, Hadrian, and ending with Marcus Aurelius, who closed out Rome’s golden years. Strauss skims over the disastrous century that followed before concentrating on Diocletian and Constantine, who stabilized the empire mostly through persistent warfare but also reorganized the administration, largely abandoning the city of Rome and the western realm, which vanished a century later, leaving the wealthier eastern Byzantine empire to continue for more than another 1,000 years.

Fresh documentary evidence on these times rarely turns up to add to the skimpy surviving chronicles (by Pliny, Tacitus, Cassius Dio, Suetonius et al.), so popular histories have little new ground to break. They must be read for pleasure, and this one delivers good value.

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4516-6883-4

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Awards & Accolades

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  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015


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  • IndieBound Bestseller


  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist


  • National Book Award Winner

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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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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