An odd but appealing mixture of science and literary analysis.



European and English science during the time of Shakespeare (1564–1616), as revealed in his works. It’s a peculiar juxtaposition, but it works…mostly.

Science writer Falk (In Search of Time: The Science of a Curious Dimension, 2008, etc.) has done an admirable job of boning up on the output of the playwright whose works contain lines, hints and metaphors that refer to the latest discoveries. Over the centuries, scientific revolutions are a dime a dozen. The author resists the temptation to single out his era but emphasizes that big changes were occurring (“Looking back after four centuries, it’s obvious to us that Shakespeare lived in a remarkable time”), and the biggest was a new description of the universe. In 1543, Copernicus’ publication of On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres, which replaced the Earth with the sun at the center of the universe, created no popular stir, but natural philosophers (“scientist” is a 19th-century word) noticed. Galileo, born the same year as Shakespeare, is best known, but several obscure Englishmen made major contributions. Thomas Harriot (1560–1621) may have examined the sky with a telescope at the same time. Thomas Digges (1546–1595), a neighbor of Shakespeare, was the first Englishman to promote Copernicus’ findings. Shakespeare himself makes liberal reference to this new universe but does not ignore astrology, still a respectable branch of astronomy, as well as Elizabethan medicine, magic, psychology and even theology. All Christian creeds find much to admire in Shakespeare, but skeptics also claim him as one of their own. Leaving no stone unturned, Falk devotes perhaps too many pages to enthusiasts who have pored over the works and discovered astonishing allegories, hidden messages and discoveries far ahead of his time.

An odd but appealing mixture of science and literary analysis.

Pub Date: April 22, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-250-00877-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

  • National Book Award Winner



The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

Did you like this book?