Another memorable slice of 20th-century history, measuring up to such earlier Halberstam classics as The Best and the...

THE COLDEST WINTER

AMERICA AND THE KOREAN WAR

The master journalist’s 21st and final book: a magisterial account of the Korean War.

Halberstam’s latest (The Education of a Coach, 2005, etc.) is a vivid chronicle packed with anecdotes and the stories of great men. North Korea’s Kim Il-Sung was a loyal Stalinist. America had installed Syngman Rhee in the South because he was Christian, spoke English and was the only Korean known in Washington. Halberstam describes both as thoroughly unpleasant autocrats but fierce nationalists, each equally anxious to unite Korea under his own leadership. Kim yearned to invade, but Stalin refused to provoke America until 1950, when he gave reluctant permission. Far East Commander Douglas MacArthur insisted North Korea would never attack; after being proven wrong, he remained mysteriously inactive for several days. Everyone feared Stalin was launching World War III and cheered Truman’s decision to intervene. At first, MacArthur handled the defense competently; his brilliant behind-the-lines landing at Inchon in September 1950 shattered North Korea’s army. Ignoring Washington’s suggestions to stop at the 38th parallel, MacArthur pushed north toward the Chinese border, despite good intelligence that Chinese units were pouring south. Once again, he dithered when disaster struck and did little to rally his defeated forces. A national icon but detested by his superiors, MacArthur finally overstepped by loudly advocating total war against China. Truman dismissed him, an act now considered courageous that at the time outraged the nation. MacArthur’s successor, WWII hero Matthew Ridgway, performed brilliantly in stopping the Chinese, but more than two years of bloody stalemate followed. As America’s first modern war without victory, Korea was the conflict everyone wanted to forget. It was a black hole of history, Halberstam writes, a war with China that never should have happened.

Another memorable slice of 20th-century history, measuring up to such earlier Halberstam classics as The Best and the Brightest (1972) and The Powers That Be (1979).

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2007

ISBN: 978-1-4013-0052-4

Page Count: 736

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2007

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?

The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics,...

HOW DEMOCRACIES DIE

A provocative analysis of the parallels between Donald Trump’s ascent and the fall of other democracies.

Following the last presidential election, Levitsky (Transforming Labor-Based Parties in Latin America, 2003, etc.) and Ziblatt (Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy, 2017, etc.), both professors of government at Harvard, wrote an op-ed column titled, “Is Donald Trump a Threat to Democracy?” The answer here is a resounding yes, though, as in that column, the authors underscore their belief that the crisis extends well beyond the power won by an outsider whom they consider a demagogue and a liar. “Donald Trump may have accelerated the process, but he didn’t cause it,” they write of the politics-as-warfare mentality. “The weakening of our democratic norms is rooted in extreme partisan polarization—one that extends beyond policy differences into an existential conflict over race and culture.” The authors fault the Republican establishment for failing to stand up to Trump, even if that meant electing his opponent, and they seem almost wistfully nostalgic for the days when power brokers in smoke-filled rooms kept candidacies restricted to a club whose members knew how to play by the rules. Those supporting the candidacy of Bernie Sanders might take as much issue with their prescriptions as Trump followers will. However, the comparisons they draw to how democratic populism paved the way toward tyranny in Peru, Venezuela, Chile, and elsewhere are chilling. Among the warning signs they highlight are the Republican Senate’s refusal to consider Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee as well as Trump’s demonization of political opponents, minorities, and the media. As disturbing as they find the dismantling of Democratic safeguards, Levitsky and Ziblatt suggest that “a broad opposition coalition would have important benefits,” though such a coalition would strike some as a move to the center, a return to politics as usual, and even a pragmatic betrayal of principles.

The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics, rather than in the consensus it is not likely to build.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6293-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

Did you like this book?

more