An energetic read for sailors, SEALs, and the greater population of armchair SEALs.




A you-are-there–style narrative of the most extreme military training in existence, the Navy’s six-month Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) program.

Novelist Couch (Silent Point, 1993, etc.), an alumnus of BUD/S Class 45 and SEAL Platoon Commander in Vietnam, clearly brings the necessary fervor to this subject, as he understands why SEAL training is so severe, producing enormous attrition among the officers and enlisted men who attempt BUD/S each year. Couch follows Class 228 through every aspect of this strictly regimented training, conveying an unprecedented intimacy with the process, and documenting the camaraderie of men put to the test. The three phases of BUD/S combine harsh physical training (PT) and constant competition with the omnipresent escape route of Drop On Request (DOR), which allows overwhelmed trainees a face-saving exit, while insuring that each class is winnowed down to the most hardcore. The First Phase culminates in Hell Week—a period of sleep deprivation and constant, borderline-sadistic PT, much of it (like “drown proofing”) in the water, which forces many DORs, including those who must withdraw due to Hell Week–related injuries, but may return in a later class. Those who continue into Second and Third Phases learn SEAL specialties, from night swimming to tactical shooting and covert demolitions, while continuing with PT evaluations, and increasingly realistic combat and emergency simulations. The author offers a good historical understanding of the SEALs, whose group identity developed in the crucible of Vietnam, where their loss rates were high, and also some anecdotes of real SEAL combat missions, which demonstrate why such severe training is necessary. While Couch’s stylized macho prose (e.g., unease described as a “gut check”) is nothing if not appropriate to the material, the superior element here is the empathy and texture within his character depictions, of the earnest, youthful trainees (many of whom sooner or later DOR) and the merciless yet knowing instructor cadre.

An energetic read for sailors, SEALs, and the greater population of armchair SEALs.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60710-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2001

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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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