The maundering rhetoric, all “dudes” and “balls-out” and “badass,” gets old fast, but Thompson’s grasp of history is solid....

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BADASS

ULTIMATE DEATHMATCH: SKULL-CRUSHING TRUE STORIES OF THE MOST HARDCORE DUELS, SHOWDOWNS, FISTFIGHTS, LAST STANDS, SUICIDE CHARGES, AND MILITARY ENGAGEMENTS OF ALL TIME

History for the Ted Nugent set—a follow-up to Badass: A Relentless Onslaught of the Toughest Warlords, Vikings, Samurai, Pirates, Gunfighters, and Military Commanders to Ever Live (2009).

In order for a historical moment—in amateur historian Thompson’s hands, almost always a desperate battle—to be worthy of consideration in this catalog of mayhem, it has to involve high stakes, impossible odds and a blaze of glory. On the last point: “The difference between a heroic victory, a valiant last stand, and a crushing defeat is often measured by the badly outnumbered side’s ability to launch a balls-out attack at exactly the right moment.” That’s probably not the way they’d phrase it at West Point, but Thompson’s compendium includes some sterling examples of bravery under fire, some very little known. One, for instance, involved a Russian paratroop unit that fought nearly to the last man in Chechnya, taking out nearly 10 foes for every paratrooper lost. “The Chechens were so impressed by this bold act of bravery,” writes Thompson, “that they named a street after the Russian unit in the Chechen capital of Grozny—no small gesture considering how much these two groups hate each other.” True enough. Many of the author’s other case studies leave their names emblazoned on streets and other places, from Alcibiades to Napoleon to Wyatt Earp, but others are nearly forgotten—e.g., the Nazi fighter ace who later became a consultant to the U.S. Air Force and the unfortunate participants in what Thompson judges to be “history’s dumbest battle,” evidence of which the grand vizier of the Ottoman Empire later discovered and was “left trying to piece together…like those dudes in The Hangover.”

The maundering rhetoric, all “dudes” and “balls-out” and “badass,” gets old fast, but Thompson’s grasp of history is solid. Think of it as Thucydides for video gamers.

Pub Date: March 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-211234-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2013

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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