THE CALIPH'S SPLENDOR

ISLAM AND THE WEST IN THE GOLDEN AGE OF BAGHDAD

A valiant, if superficial, attempt at rendering in readable format this significant period in Muslim history.

A nonscholarly depiction of the cultured, cosmopolitan world of the early Abbasid caliphate.

Bobrick (Master of War: The Life of General George H. Thomas, 2009, etc.) gives a fresh overview of the turbulent state of the Middle East and Europe during the 8th century, just as Islam was consolidating power under the Abbasid caliphate of Abu Jafar Abdullah al-Mansur, who founded the new capital at Baghdad in 766. His grandson Harun al-Rashid acceded to the caliphate at age 23 in 786, becoming King of Kings, creating a diverse, hierarchical theocracy with many military and administrative trappings held over from the Persian kings. His enlightened rule was fancifully portrayed in the much later Thousand and One Nights, a legendary source Bobrick refers to constantly. At the same time that Harun was establishing Islam’s Golden Age with Baghdad as its jewel, Constantinople as the Christian capital of the East Roman Empire was feeling embattled from within, while Western Europe was overrun by the Lombards and Saxons, and was soon to be violently quelled by Charlemagne. The kingdoms of the Franks and the Abbasids opposed the Byzantines and Umayyads of Spain, and thus had communicated by diplomatic envoy, though inconclusively, as if only to prove to the Muslims that their caliph was of greater wealth and significance. The author helpfully compares the reigns of Charlemagne as the source of Carolingian Renaissance and Harun as instigator of Islam’s Golden Age, though the overall sprawl here, also encompassing Al-Andalus, Empress Irene’s Constantinople and “Iron Charles’ ” Aachen, rather overwhelms this modest effort.

A valiant, if superficial, attempt at rendering in readable format this significant period in Muslim history.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4165-6762-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2012

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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

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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