An important current affairs book that deserves a wide audience before the 2020 election.

READ REVIEW

14 MILES

BUILDING THE BORDER WALL

A two-year on-the-ground investigation of “The Wall” and how it is affecting lives on both sides of the border.

From 2017 to 2019, Gibson spent his days documenting the planning and construction of the 14-mile portion of the wall along the border between San Diego County and Tijuana. Though there is plenty of information about the numerous prototypes for the physical wall—as well as the tangled bureaucracy involved in choosing one and starting the work—the page-turning, often tense narrative covers much more. The author chronicles his time with men and women on both sides of the 1,954-mile border. In addition to telling Gibson about the tangible effects of the physical wall, many illuminate what the idea of a wall means to them. The author’s range of reporting is impressive. He had discussions with Roque De La Fuente, the land speculator who used to own or still owns property that the U.S. government would need to acquire to complete Donald Trump’s obsessive vision, as well as other entrepreneurs profiting—or not—from its construction. The law enforcement agents who appear in the narrative represent various bureaucracies and points of view, each of them mind-expanding, many antithetical to concepts of civil liberty. These include officers from the Border Patrol, local police departments, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and other units equipped with drug-sniffing dogs. In addition, Gibson examines the plights of Mexicans barely surviving economically within a few hundred yards of the barriers erected by the U.S. government. While the American ranchers and citizen vigilantes portrayed by the author consider themselves well-meaning patriots, the heritage of the Ku Klux Klan in San Diego County does not bode well for desperate asylum seekers from Mexico and points south. Throughout the book, Gibson portrays the varied humanity on both sides with journalistic integrity and readable prose that often includes subtle yet biting social commentary.

An important current affairs book that deserves a wide audience before the 2020 election.

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-8341-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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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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