A fine, readable work of advocacy journalism, of a piece with Marc Reisner’s Cadillac Desert, that deserves to inform...




A gimlet-eyed look at the place of the wild horse in the landscape of the American West and at the poor legacy of human relations with that spirited animal.

If you do not live in the mountain West, you might not know that a fierce controversy rages over wild horses, or mustangs, on public lands and whether they should be removed and, in some cases, exterminated. Ranchers, as Colorado-based New York Times reporter Philipps (Lethal Warriors: When the New Band of Brothers Came Home, 2010) writes, are vocal in their hatred of both the federal agencies in charge of those lands and of the wild horses: “Mention mustangs in almost any small-town bar or café and prepare for an earful.” Lifting the argument a notch or two above where it usually rests, the author examines the natural history of these wild creatures—feral, their ancestors long-ago domesticated horses that escaped and formed their own herds—writing that while they may look a little scruffy, they are prized for intelligence and stamina: “The desert prunes any deficiencies.” Traveling through mustang country, Philipps considers a long history of mismanagement on the part of the federal government, based on rather haphazard roundups for most of the last half-century, with halfhearted efforts at adoption. When left to their own devices, ranchers have followed a program of trapping wild horses, selecting the best to incorporate into their herds, and then—well, one Nevada rancher tells the author, “we would chicken feed whatever nobody wanted.” Philipps proposes that we recognize the mustang, as with other wild species, as an animal that has a people problem, not the other way around, adding that some of the old saws about mustangs are inaccurate: it’s not true, for instance, that they lack natural predators, since mountain lions are vigorous in culling the herd.

A fine, readable work of advocacy journalism, of a piece with Marc Reisner’s Cadillac Desert, that deserves to inform discussion about the mustang issue as it plays out in courts and in Congress.

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-393-24713-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Aug. 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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