An engaging personal look at the 20th century and one man’s place in it.

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THE POWER OF A MOTHER'S PRAYER

THE LIFE STORY OF D. RALPH YOUNG

Young recounts the events of his life, from his tough early years during the Great Depression to his profession, travels, children and marriages.

Young, the youngest of 11 children, grew up on a farm in Kentucky. His family and most of his community was so poor that a teacher taught students to clean their teeth with tree branches and baking soda. With that humble beginning, Young tells his life story, which includes a stint in the Navy during World War II, a career in engineering, travels all over the world and raising a family. The book splits fairly evenly between family and work stories, both of which depict Young’s personality—hardworking, serious and devoted to his family but also wryly funny. Young includes family photos, letters and other documents to illustrate his story, giving it the feel of a family album. While the book would be a treasure for anyone related to Young, it also serves as a crash course in 20th-century history and culture. Young provides context for his life activities, such as describing what he was doing when the Pearl Harbor attack occurred and how he entered the Navy. The title refers to the prayers Young’s mother made when he joined the Navy, and he repeatedly thanks her throughout the text for praying and keeping him safe. The narrative breaks into many chapters, some so short they include paragraphs of only a few sentences. The result is a quick read and a style that often feels like simple sketches of life events, like a list of everything Young did without much consideration for how it affects the larger story. The numerous personal and family details might not appeal to readers beyond friends and family; in fact, readers might wish someone in their family had written a book like this to keep family history alive.

An engaging personal look at the 20th century and one man’s place in it.

Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-1466944572

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Trafford

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2012

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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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A thimbleful of fresh content lies buried in tales familiar and often told.

THE LAST DAYS OF JOHN LENNON

Beatlemania meets autopsy in the latest product from the Patterson factory.

The authors take more than half the book to reach John Lennon’s final days, which passed 40 years ago—an anniversary that, one presumes, provides the occasion for it. The narrative opens with killer Mark David Chapman talking to himself: “It’s like I’m invisible.” And how do we know that Chapman thought such a thing? Well, the authors aver, they’re reconstructing the voices in his head and other conversations “based on available third-party sources and interviews.” It’s a dubious exercise, and it doesn’t get better with noir-ish formulas (“His mind is a dangerous neighborhood”) and clunky novelistic stretches (“John Lennon wakes up, reaches for his eyeglasses. At first the day seems like any other until he realizes it’s a special one….He picks up the kitchen phone to greet his old songwriting partner, who’s called to wish him all the best for the record launch”). In the first half of the book, Patterson and company reheat the Beatles’ origin story and its many well-worn tropes, all of which fans already know in detail. Allowing for the internal monologue, things improve somewhat once the narrative approaches Chapman’s deranged act—300-odd pages in, leaving about 50 pages for a swift-moving account of the murder and its aftermath, which ends with Chapman in a maximum-security cell where “he will be protected from the ugliness of the outside world….The cell door slides shut and locks. Mark David Chapman smiles. I’m home.” To their credit, the authors at least don’t blame Lennon’s “Happiness Is a Warm Gun” for egging on the violence that killed him, but this book pales in comparison to Kenneth Womack’s John Lennon 1980 and Philip Norman’s John Lennon: The Life, among many other tomes on the Fab Four.

A thimbleful of fresh content lies buried in tales familiar and often told.

Pub Date: Dec. 7, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 2021

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