Could be better focused, but the author clearly knows his stuff, and Civil War buffs will have a ball.




Close-up examination of eight battles, often revising previous assessments.

For each of the battles he treats, military historian Nosworthy (The Bloody Crucible of Courage: Fighting Methods and Combat Experience of the Civil War, 2003, etc.) focuses on a single small unit. At Gettysburg, he looks at the relatively neglected engagement between Stuart and Custer’s forces on the East Cavalry Field, while at Fredericksburg he puts the emphasis on the Washington Artillery’s repulse of several Union assaults on Marye’s Heights. He cites European tactical manuals and their American adaptations on both sides of the conflict to show the military doctrine in place at the time and the effects of its application on battles. For example, he argues that Burnside’s difficulties at First Bull Run arose partly from asking unseasoned recruits to perform maneuvers that had worked for veteran armies during the 18th century. Nosworthy also corrects misunderstandings about the capabilities of the weapons used. The theoretical ranges of standard-issue firearms were based on noncombat conditions and assumed constant practice; actual results on the battlefield are reflected in an 1863 estimate by Union military authorities that during the Battle of Murfreesboro, one in 145 shots fired by infantry resulted in an enemy casualty. The author refutes the accepted account of the battle of Arkansas Posts, which credits the Union victory to river gunboats. Gunboat fire was inherently inaccurate, he points out; it was land-based rifled Parrott cannons that destroyed the Confederate artillery and prompted surrender. Elementary tactical lapses can lead to the speedy collapse of an apparently superior position, he reminds us, as when the commander at Missionary Ridge placed troops where they had no retreat in the event of failure. Nosworthy is constantly on the lookout for bias in battle reports: The standard account of how North Carolina cavalryman Col. Alexander C. Haskell dealt Grant’s army a setback at Darbytown Road, for example, was written by the colonel’s brother-in-law, otherwise a reliable historian.

Could be better focused, but the author clearly knows his stuff, and Civil War buffs will have a ball.

Pub Date: March 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-7867-1747-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2008

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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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