An exceptional work of scholarship about “our relationships to cars and through cars and the stories we tell about those...



With driverless cars on the way, a journalist asks, is America ready to accept them?

One way to begin formulating an answer is to examine the car culture that has defined America since the 1920s, when Henry Ford turned his “missionary zeal for low, low prices” into the country’s first line of affordable automobiles. In his debut book, Albert, who writes about cars for n+1, provides a witty history of the automobile and a look at the future. He takes readers on a fascinating journey covering a lot of ground: the earliest battery-powered electric vehicles of the 1890s; Ford’s first big triumph with the 1909 Model T; Alfred P. Sloan Jr., “the most important CEO in GM’s history,” who introduced car loans in the 1920s to encourage repeat buying; the birth of America’s interstate highway system in the 1950s, “by any measure the largest government project in American history”; and the push for smaller and more environmentally friendly vehicles in the 1960s and ’70s, thanks in part to Ralph Nader. All of this leads to an incisive analysis of the current culture, in which young people would rather call an Uber than own a car, and the question of whether driverless cars really will achieve their promise of fewer accident-related deaths. A late chapter on the author’s auto-repair prowess feels airlifted in from another project, but the narrative is still an entertaining exploration of American vehicle culture and American culture in general. Along the way, Albert can’t resist political jabs, most of them directed at the right, as when he writes, “America First types may be disappointed to learn that it was France that had the first car culture.” He also notes a few facts that may surprise—that supposedly safe SUVs, among the most profitable vehicles on the market, “tip over at twice the rate of cars.”

An exceptional work of scholarship about “our relationships to cars and through cars and the stories we tell about those relationships.”

Pub Date: June 11, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-393-29274-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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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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