An effortless, accessible way to learn history.



A lively sequel to Fawcett’s 100 Mistakes that Changed History (2010), with few surprises.

From the first ancient Chinese emperor’s vainglorious quest for immortality to the Japanese building of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant directly over a fault line, the author plucks out of a long historical dateline some of the glaring follies in leadership that, if handled differently, just might have changed history. Had Qin Shi Huang properly educated his son for succession rather than jealously isolating him, the first great Chinese empire might have survived and thrived. Had the Japanese updated rather than denied safety regulations, the nuclear fallout after the 2011 tsunami might have been minimized. If Hannibal hadn’t insisted on crossing the Alps with elephants in 218 B.C., he would not have destroyed his Carthaginian army. If Harold II had not precipitously declared himself king of Britain and rushed into battle, he might have been able to withstand the onslaught of William of Normandy at the decisive Battle of Hastings. Fawcett examines myriad shoulda-woulda-coulda examples concerning history’s great names, narrated in fairly flat-footed prose but supported by proficient research. How would history have changed had France and England challenged Hitler immediately on the occupation of the Rhineland; had Hitler not given a stop order at Dunkirk in 1940; or had he not invaded Russia? What if the United States had not underestimated the Japanese military threat before being tested at Pearl Harbor? And how would the world have turned out today if President George W. Bush had heeded ominous terrorist signs well before 9/11?

An effortless, accessible way to learn history.

Pub Date: Dec. 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-425-25736-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2012

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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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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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