Some choice nuggets hidden among an uneven “reference” book.



Not the comprehensive reference the title promises, but a long-winded volume of music criticism by journalist Jones (When Ziggy Played Guitar: David Bowie and Four Minutes that Shook the World, 2012, etc.), editor of the U.K. version of GQ.

The author has written a number of books about music and musicians, mostly of the rock variety. Coming-of-age just about when punk and new wave livened up the music scene in Britain and around the world, Jones shows off his intricate familiarity, particularly with London scenesters from ABC to X-Ray Spex. His tastes, though, seem to have grown more conservative and a bit broader to encompass some jazz, hip-hop and schmaltzy pop. “Like many critics, I tend to have an aversion to any hysterical celebration of the new and the fashionable,” writes Jones in the opening of his entry on Gary Numan, “often choosing to be contrary just for the hell of it.” This self-conscious awareness of how his words will be taken continues throughout the book, which is not so much a biographical dictionary of popular music as an autobiographical dictionary about pop music’s relationship to Jones. The hapless buyer who takes the title seriously and expects a reference book will learn this, and only this, about Crosby, Stills & Nash: “A varnished log cabin.” The next entry, for Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, reads in its entirety, “A varnished log cabin with an unvarnished door.” On Genesis: “ ‘The Carpet Crawlers’ and ‘Los Endos’ are officially the two Genesis songs you’re allowed to like.” Jones is witty and enjoyable enough in small doses, but the book is filled with odd choices. One of the longest entries is on actress Shirley MacLaine, who gets 13 pages, while Aretha Franklin receives no mention (other than brief appearances in the entries on Michael Hutchence and Dave Stewart).

Some choice nuggets hidden among an uneven “reference” book.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-250-03186-0

Page Count: 912

Publisher: Picador

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2012

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?