Of natural interest to Jeopardy! buffs, but solid entertainment as well for readers who don’t tune in.

PRISONER OF TREBEKISTAN

A DECADE IN JEOPARDY!

The category is books by former champion players of the long-running game show Jeopardy! This entry may be the most astute yet under that growing rubric.

Just a month behind Braniac (2006), a sizable lesson in trivia by big winner Ken Jennings, this cleverly executed volume displays the obligatory acumen and erudition, as well as considerable wit and writing ability. After all, Harris has been a stand-up comic, a radio humorist and a TV crime-show writer. His text reports on how he won, lost and played the game a decade ago. Harris did frequent finger exercises, the better to hit the buzzer like a Jedi. He assiduously studied reference works jammed into apartments shared with supportive girlfriends. He memorized state flowers and national capitals, obscure body parts and foreign film directors, vice-presidents of the US and read the novels of E.M. Forster. He explored geographical mysteries and brushed up on his Shakespeare. He became a five-time winner (the limit at the time) and went on to play other champions at several tournaments. Harris dramatically sets forth each game, complete with detailed green-room byplay and views from the contestant’s lectern. It’s the epic tale: Appearing on Jeopardy! was a defining moment in the author’s life. Yet here, he goes beyond backstage information and tips on mnemonics to build a substantive memoir of family and growth. It’s about love and a burgeoning devotion to history and science, to fun and facts and connections. For his next report, we look forward to his departure from Trebekistan.

Of natural interest to Jeopardy! buffs, but solid entertainment as well for readers who don’t tune in.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-307-33956-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2006

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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