An engaging history, especially appropriate for travel enthusiasts.

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DR. ECKENER’S DREAM MACHINE

THE GREAT ZEPPELIN AND THE DAWN OF AIR TRAVEL

An ardent, readable history, by British travel writer and biographer Botting (Gerald Durrell, 1999, etc.), traces the rise and fall (or self-immolation) of Zeppelin travel.

For nearly 40 years, the Zeppelin vied with the airplane for a niche in the air travel market. The brainchild of the eccentric German Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin, the lighter-than-air vehicles were originally intended as military machines—a use shot down by British airplanes in WWI. After Zeppelin’s death in 1917, management of the project fell to his top assistant, Dr. Hugo Eckener, an experienced and prudent pilot of both the vehicles and the enterprise. The war had proven airplanes faster and more powerful than Zeppelins, but they remained uncomfortable and unable to fly long distances. By contrast, Zeppelins could fly thousands of miles without stopping for fuel, and did so with unmatchable ease and grace. Both advantages made them natural vehicles for transcontinental passenger flights, and it was Eckener’s dream to establish such a service. After struggling to raise funds and develop a clientele, he sought to prove the Zeppelin’s capabilities through a first-class, around-the-world voyage in the largest, most-powerful airship ever built—the Graf Zeppelin. This voyage, the apex of Zeppelin flight, is the focus of Botting’s narrative, which describes the ship as “almost as long as the Titanic, twice as beautiful, and three times as fast”—suggesting that the flight of the Graf Zeppelin is as much Botting’s dream voyage as it was Eckener’s. Reconstructing the flight from passenger accounts, he marvels at what it must have been like to glide along so close to the earth’s surface. The 1928 trip established the Zeppelin as the supreme transcontinental air carrier, a position first challenged by worldwide depression and the rise of the Nazis in Germany, then literally exploded in flames with the Hindenburg disaster in 1937.

An engaging history, especially appropriate for travel enthusiasts.

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2001

ISBN: 0-8050-6458-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 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...

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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

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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