Readers may not sort out the innumerable Baldwins, Rogers, Fredericks, or battles, but they will keep the pages turning.

READ REVIEW

CRUSADERS

THE EPIC HISTORY OF THE WARS FOR THE HOLY LANDS

The centuries of campaigning to reclaim the Holy Land retain their fascination, as demonstrated by this expert mixture of cutthroat politics, battlefield fireworks, and mass murder.

Bestselling British historian Jones (Templars: The Rise and Fall of God’s Holy Warriors, 2017) reminds readers that Christians had been warring against Islam since its warriors burst out of Arabia in the seventh century and advanced well into Europe. By the 11th century, when the author begins the narrative, Spain and Sicily were already battlegrounds. Matters were critical further east where the Byzantine Empire was fending off attackers on all sides, most significantly from the Turks, who had advanced perilously close to the capital at Constantinople. In 1095, its emperor requested military aid from Pope Urban II. For many reasons, not all admirable, Urban responded enthusiastically. Jones does his best to explain, but historians still scratch their heads over the fanatic response. Masses of the poor slaughtered local non-Christians (i.e., Jews) and then walked east in the thousands; most died. Soon after, armies under French and Norman leadership marched the entire distance, more than 2,000 miles, capturing much of Palestine, including Jerusalem, in 1099 after a bloody campaign. The result was a kingdom of Jerusalem and several other Christian principalities that spent the next two centuries fighting, ultimately unsuccessfully, for survival. At intervals, European leaders organized vast, expensive, poorly organized expeditions (crusades) that trundled toward the Holy Land, sometimes reached it, wreaked havoc, and suffered horribly. Readers may recall the Third Crusade’s epic clashes between Richard the Lionheart and Saladin. Jones does not neglect officially sanctioned, bloody crusades against Muslims in Spain, pagans in northern Europe, and religious heretics at home. As usual, the author has done his homework, laboring mightily to recount century after century of gruesome warfare between profoundly religious cultures with apparently no inhibition against lying and profound cruelty. Two appendices list the kings and queens of Jerusalem and the popes.

Readers may not sort out the innumerable Baldwins, Rogers, Fredericks, or battles, but they will keep the pages turning.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-42831-2

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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...

NIGHT

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?

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

Did you like this book?

more