The thick historical detail may amount to overkill for the average reader, but it's a winning hand for the true student of...




Man's unending thirst for the jackpot, from primitive dice games in early antiquity to the current online poker craze.

Schwartz (Suburban Xanadu, 2003), a Las Vegas resident and gambling scholar, provides a study on gambling's deep-rooted place in history, and compelling proof that gambling comes as naturally to humankind as eating. He also demonstrates that gambling can come in many forms. In 2004, Hong Kong police arrested 115 people after breaking up an insect-fighting ring, seizing nearly 200 fighting crickets. In the Philippines, gamblers can go online to bet on cockfights. In Japan, bettors wager millions on bicycle races at any one of 50 bike tracks. Schwartz guides us through the origins of dice (originally cut from the knuckle bones of animals), playing cards (the modern 52-card deck can be traced to the Italian Renaissance) and the lottery (the first was held in 1444 in Flanders). There are fascinating tidbits on well-known historical figures and their forays into gambling. Galileo and Blaise Pascal made early studies of gambling probability. Voltaire outsmarted the 18th-century French lottery and won nine-million francs. Casanova helped institute the first Italian lottery and got rich operating a lottery sales office. Less lucky were Russian gamblers Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoevsky, the latter of whom, author of the brilliant short novel The Gambler, went broke repeatedly at the German gambling resort in Baden-Baden. Schwartz's tome bogs down when he insists on providing the playing rules for a score of obscure and long-defunct card and dice games, detours that aren't helped by the author's dry, textbook-like prose. Still, the history of gambling has more than enough color to keep readers satisfied, from the gambling saloons of the Wild West to the black-tie baccarat parlors of Monte Carlo to the unlikely evolution of the gilded Las Vegas “mega-casino.”

The thick historical detail may amount to overkill for the average reader, but it's a winning hand for the true student of gambling.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2006

ISBN: 1-592-40208-9

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Gotham Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2006

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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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