A worthwhile and understated conclusion closes an unremarkable Reformation history.

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REBEL IN THE RANKS

MARTIN LUTHER, THE REFORMATION, AND THE CONFLICTS THAT CONTINUE TO SHAPE OUR WORLD

To understand our modern world, one must understand the Reformation.

Gregory (European History/Notre Dame Univ. The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society, 2012, etc.) jumps on the bandwagon of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation with this uneven retelling. He opens by promising that “a major theme of this book” is the fact that “the Reformation’s influence remains indirect and unintended.” However, he waits until the last quarter of the book to expound on this conclusion. This serves to undermine one of the author’s greatest strengths: his ability to explain how the Reformation molded—unintentionally—our current, largely secularized world. Gregory instead focuses on the life of Martin Luther, the movement he sparked, and its immediate aftermath throughout Europe. He begins with Luther’s troubled faith life, leading up to his disputes with Rome over points of theology as well as church authority. The author then examines the early Reformation, including such significant figures as Huldrych Zwingli, before moving ahead to John Calvin, the religious upheavals in England, and the Thirty Years’ War. Though intermittently interesting, these chapters add few new insights to supplement the many biographies of Luther or histories of the Reformation already in print. Further, Gregory’s use of the present tense eventually becomes grating. It is at the end that the author partially redeems himself, coming to the insightful conclusion that “the long-term outcome of the Reformation era—and its ultimate irony—has been the gradual, unintended secularization of modern Western society.” Essentially, Gregory explains that as Europe grew weary of religious warfare, it found ways of separating faith from governance as a way of keeping the peace. It is an intriguing conclusion that deserves more than the pages allotted to it.

A worthwhile and understated conclusion closes an unremarkable Reformation history.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-247117-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: HarperOne

Review Posted Online: Aug. 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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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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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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