A thoroughly engaging examination of the irreversible changes emerging from a year when the nation’s very survival remained...

RISE TO GREATNESS

ABRAHAM LINCOLN AND AMERICA'S MOST PERILOUS YEAR

A historian zeroes in on the year Lincoln found his footing as president and set the country on a bold new course.

“Never has there been a moment in history,” said one U.S. senator, “when so much was all compressed into a little time.” Von Drehle (Triangle: The Fire that Changed America, 2003, etc.) charts the tumultuous year, month by month, to demonstrate how the momentous events of 1862 unfolded. Amid the turmoil of Civil War, the largely Republican Congress passed legislation with far-reaching postwar consequences: funding a transcontinental railroad and land-grant colleges, strengthening the Army and Navy, establishing a Bureau of Agriculture, adopting new fiscal and monetary policies, outlawing slavery in the District of Columbia, instituting a draft and authorizing the enlistment of blacks in the military. For all these enterprises to flourish, though, the war still had to be won. With rumors of domestic conspiracies and coups swirling and with the allegiance of border states still tenuous, the Civil War turned savage and hard with unprecedented slaughters at places like Shiloh, Antietam and Fredericksburg. At the center of the storm, Von Drehle deftly places Lincoln, gradually mastering the art of war, ultimately firing the too-timid McClellan, solemnly accepting and desperately searching for a general to apply the cruel arithmetic necessary for Union victory. In 1862, Lincoln suffered the loss of a son and the near loss of another, and he watched his grieving wife become unmoored. All the while, the president maneuvered around Taney’s Supreme Court, quelled an insurrection in the Republican caucus, mediated the squabbling in his Cabinet, held off the Democrats in the midterm elections and prepared the ground for the Emancipation Proclamation. Two years of bitter fighting remained, but Confederate armies would never again be as formidable. Meanwhile, under Lincoln’s steady hand, the Union put in place the political and military machinery that would win the war and assure a future few imagined before Fort Sumter.

A thoroughly engaging examination of the irreversible changes emerging from a year when the nation’s very survival remained in doubt.

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8050-7970-8

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

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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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