Anglophiles will find Bryson’s field notes equally entertaining and educational.




Bryson (One Summer: America, 1927, 2013, etc.) takes us on another fascinating cross-country jaunt.

In 1973, while on a European backpacking tour, the author landed in England, got a job at a psychiatric hospital, met a nurse there, and married her, thus beginning a lifelong love affair with Great Britain, where he’s lived on and off for decades and to which he paid homage in Notes from a Small Island (1996), his first British travelogue. Twenty years later, he again sets out across his adopted land, weaving a great tapestry of historical, cultural, and personal anecdotes along the way. Bryson chronicles his visits to the final resting place of George Everest, a native of Greenwich or Wales (depending upon whom you believe), after whom the Himalayan mountain is misnamed and mispronounced, and his return to Holloway Sanitorium, recalling how the inmates were allowed to roam freely into the nearby town. He expounds on why London is the best city in the world and nominates Oxford as the most pleasant and improved city in Britain, Lytham as the best small town in the north of England, and Morecambe Bay as Britain’s most beautiful bay. En route, we meet myriad colorful historical figures, including an esteemed Nobel laureate who took a side job as a gardener and a Scottish marmalade heir/sexual adventurer who restored the stones at Avebury. Bryson takes a stand against litterbugs and those who would build on London’s Green Belt, and he delves into the history and methodology of British road numbering and the evolution of holiday camps. No words are minced or punches pulled where he finds social decline; he rails against indifferent British shopkeepers and indulges in more than one violent fantasy. However, the majority of his criticisms bear his signature wit, and the bulk of his love/hate relationship with Britain falls squarely on the love side.

Anglophiles will find Bryson’s field notes equally entertaining and educational.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-385-53928-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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