Raw and compelling; a story well told of a vital and varied life in a war-torn region.

Left Field


The British-born founder of an international nonprofit organization traces his activism in this debut memoir.

Wilson may have been born in Britain, but it wasn’t long before he had an urge to discover the world. At age 13, he was sent to live at a school where he became a social outcast with the nickname “Commie Wilson.” One of his only two school friends mentioned that his father lived in Argentina, so at 17, Wilson announced to his parents that he would be leaving to work there. Coming of age in South America (as well as losing his virginity), the peripatetic Wilson then returned to England only to depart again for a 10-day holiday on an island in Yugoslavia, where he met Renata, the girl who would become his wife. The author had his initial real awakening to the harsh reality of the world when he first visited Zagreb to meet Renata’s family. In 1968, when he returned to Zagreb to marry, it was a time of war in Yugoslavia. Wilson’s connection to that country continued; he ended up representing a Croatian painter and traveling back from London to Zagreb, where he was directly exposed to the Bosnian War. This turning point in Wilson’s life led to the co-founding of War Child, a nonprofit organization originally started to call attention to the plight of Bosnian children. It also ended his first marriage because “I preferred to be in a war zone rather than be at home with her.” Through a series of high-profile, celebrity-laden fundraisers, War Child continued to achieve remarkable success, but it was a charity concert by Luciano Pavarotti that indirectly led to Wilson’s next position as director of the Mostar Music Centre in southern Bosnia and Herzegovina. With a keen eye for detail, the author recounts his diverse experiences in the embattled region, including encountering Bosnian refugees (“I felt fear for myself and sorrow for the plight of these people….They could have been refugees in any war: suitcases tied with string, a live animal if they were lucky”). His shared heart-wrenching observations are clearly a highlight of this richly textured, moving work. The book ends with a different voice in a chapter by Wilson’s second wife, Anne, who writes poignantly about her first trip to Mostar.

Raw and compelling; a story well told of a vital and varied life in a war-torn region.

Pub Date: May 5, 2016


Page Count: 368

Publisher: Unbound Digital

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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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 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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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...


The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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