Anyone concerned with the planet’s ecological future will want to spend time with this excellent book.

A LIFE ON OUR PLANET

MY WITNESS STATEMENT AND A VISION FOR THE FUTURE

The eminent traveler and naturalist delivers a combination of memoir and manifesto, the first leisurely, the second earnest.

Now 94, Attenborough, longtime nature documentarian and a fluent, always interesting writer, recounts growing up in the countryside of Leicester, “in the middle of England,” the kind of place where a kid could hop on a bicycle and spend a day poking around. While his older brother, later a distinguished filmmaker and actor, got involved in local drama societies, the author found himself fascinated by “turning over a stone and looking at the animals,” and he determined that “the most important knowledge was that which brought an understanding of how the natural world worked.” Little did he know that the natural world even then was on the edge of precipitous decline, with catastrophic loss of species, habitats, and biodiversity—and, he notes, “for life to truly thrive on this planet, there must be immense biodiversity.” The converse is true: Diminish biodiversity, and life does not decline but instead begins to go pear-shaped. “We have a choice to make,” he insists: We can pretend that nothing is happening, live out our lives as best we can, and leave it for the next generations to worry about, “or we could change.” The recipe for change constitutes a plan of attack for returning to the Holocene from the Anthropocene, from biological impoverishment to wealth. A critical ingredient is that biodiversity, a critical habitat the forests of which humankind “is such a determined and effective destroyer.” Another critical ingredient is “to change the way in which we power our activities,” building a world in which carbon-free energy technologies replace fossil fuels. We are far along in terms of engineering and economics but far behind overall because of “the abstract force we might call vested interests.” Recognizing that we are at a tipping point, Attenborough is refreshingly optimistic, noting that one thing humans do well is solve problems.

Anyone concerned with the planet’s ecological future will want to spend time with this excellent book.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-1998-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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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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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

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