The definitive account of a watershed in American history.



A thorough recounting—as full in human terms as in scientific and technical detail—of NASA’s first manned Moon landing.

Ever since that day, Jul. 16, 1969, when the Apollo 11 mission put its lunar module on the surface of the Moon and astronaut Neil Armstrong took the last long step down its ladder, critics have argued the purpose and strategic value of that incredibly daunting, expensive and risky project. In the capable hands of Nelson (Thomas Paine: Enlightenment, Revolution, and the Birth of Modern Nations, 2006, etc.), however, those arguments simply give way to inspirational history. The event seems strangely remote, something brief and shining—or, as the author quotes one NASA executive, “almost a kind of blip.” The author’s real achievement is the vivid re-creation of the atmosphere within the program, complete with unsolvable problems, oscillating team morale and serious career envy. For example, astronaut Buzz Aldrin was initially slotted to step first to the surface, but mission commander Armstrong exercised the privilege of rank. The result, the author calculates, negatively affected Aldrin for years afterward. (For more detailed information, see Aldrin’s upcoming Magnificent Desolation, 2009.) Nelson also offers lucid insights into the gilded bureaucracy of the space program—NASA’s tech-speak often served to isolate the press and public from the complexity of longer odds and much higher risks than outsiders suspected. Nelson capably decodes it as the tale unfolds. He quotes astronaut Michael Collins, who stayed in lunar orbit: “To me, the marvel is that it all worked like clockwork. I almost said, ‘magic.’ There might be a little magic mixed up in the back of that big clock somewhere. Because everything worked as it was supposed to, nobody messed up, and even I didn’t make mistakes.”

The definitive account of a watershed in American history.

Pub Date: July 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-670-02103-1

Page Count: 362

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2009

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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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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