A fresh way to envision the Medieval era.




Overhauling the notion of the Medieval Ages as a time of zealotry and ignorance and examining the nuts and bolts of crusading.

By concentrating on the “prosaic methods” of crusading rather than on the drama of the campaigns, as historians have traditionally done, Crusades expert Tyerman (History/Univ. of Oxford; The Debate on the Crusades 1099-2010, 2011, etc.) manages to demythologize the process. The outcomes of the Crusades—usually not good, and the author lays out the other numerous smaller ones in addition to the five big ones, from 1096 to the 1290s—do not concern Tyerman as much as the details of planning: recruitment, finance, logistics, supplies, etc. While the author concedes that the recruitment for these massive undertakings required the creation of a religious justification—e.g., “God wills it,” and warriors were assured of a spiritual as well as material reward—the effective propaganda by religious leaders instilled in volunteers a sense of military urgency, even revenge. The missions served as holy wars to push back the threat to the order of Christendom in the Mediterranean especially. The Crusades also tightly involved the culture of the ruling aristocratic elite, expressed through the concept of chivalry, and required persuasion and propaganda by itinerant preachers at local assemblies and open-air sermons to sign up the necessary volunteers. Tyerman uses the examples of two such 12th-century preachers—Henry of Marcy and Gerald of Wales—to illustrate these methods. Much of Tyerman’s work is a fascinating but dense catalog of logistics, including who actually went on crusade (the aristocrats and their retinue, as well as women), where the money came from, and what kind of massive supplies were needed, as delineated so beautifully in the Bayeux Tapestry. The narrative may leave lay readers not familiar with the specific Crusades bewildered, but overall, Tyerman provides a compelling, vivid sense of a lively, pragmatic, driven, and highly organized society.

A fresh way to envision the Medieval era.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-68177-524-1

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: July 24, 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...


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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