A clever, incisive look at great battles from Saratoga to the American invasion of North Korea at Inchon and their success or failure as per the principles of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War.

Sun Tzu’s work, which appeared 2,400 years ago and has profoundly influenced Asian warfare for centuries, is full of axioms about military strategy, especially keeping a strong hand by striking the weak, and achieving success by indirect means, rather than direct. Mao Zedong apparently drew on Sun Tzu’s strategies in his effective guerrilla warfare against the Nationalists, and only then did Sun Tzu come to the attention of the West, translated by retired general Samuel B. Griffith in the 1960s. Military historian Alexander (Inside the Nazi War Machine: How Three Generals Unleashed Hitler's Blitzkrieg Upon the World, 2010, etc.) fashions an accessible narrative about the world’s most fascinating battles and how they were won or lost, according to the Chinese sage. For example, the Colonial American way of fighting the British—hiding behind trees and picking off the bright lines of stand-up mercenaries—would have won high marks from Sun Tzu. The British, however, failed to follow the most important maxims of war: Devise a practical plan to gain victory, advance into the enemy’s “vacuities” and know when to retreat. Napoleon, usually a master at striking indirectly, violated several of Sun Tzu’s maxims at Waterloo—namely, reliance on lame, sycophantic generals and waging a frontal attack into the bulwark of Wellington’s army—and was submerged. Robert E. Lee, repeatedly ignoring the Sun Tzu–like advice of Stonewall Jackson, insisted on aggressive, direct and, ultimately, disastrous assaults. Alexander also examines other famous violations of Sun Tzu’s principles, including at the Marne 1914, Stalingrad and the Allied invasion of Normandy. A work as much fun to read as it is knowledgeable and authoritative.


Pub Date: May 31, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-393-07813-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2011

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?


For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet