A vigorous, fresh look at a critical time in American history.



Abraham Lincoln, a now-revered president, wasn’t always so beloved.

In a capable history of the events of 1865, Providence Journal vice president Achorn (The Summer of Beer and Whiskey: How Brewers, Barkeeps, Rowdies, Immigrants, and a Wild Pennant Fight Made Baseball America’s Game, 2013, etc.) opens with the sanguinary situation that faced the president when hundreds of thousands of Americans lay dead as a result of a Civil War that threatened to grind on. Lincoln, writes the author, had “used every weapon he could get his hands on” to secure Union victory, from incurring massive federal debts to imposing the first income tax, suspending the writ of habeas corpus, and inaugurating a military draft. Such moves gave ammunition to those who would brand him a tyrant, in the North as well as the South. Lincoln’s enemies were legion, among them John Wilkes Booth, who by the time of Lincoln’s second inauguration had developed a fixation around the president and indeed set out to kill him as he was being sworn in, having told friends, “I would rather have my right arm cut off at the shoulder than see Lincoln president again.” There are plenty of scenes in which combatants are losing limbs for real, a bloodletting that Robert E. Lee finally tried to stanch by negotiating a truce with Ulysses S. Grant in the winter of 1865, one that Lincoln refused to entertain unless the parley resulted in unconditional surrender. “The generals had plainly tried to go around the president to strike the peace deal that had eluded Lincoln,” Achorn writes, and Lincoln would have none of it. He lived only a few days after Lee finally surrendered at Appomattox, assassinated in a Washington theater and carried off to die in an apartment nearby because some of the people on hand to attend him “were concerned that a president should not die in a theater, a place that many religious Americans still considered unrespectable.”

A vigorous, fresh look at a critical time in American history.

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8021-4874-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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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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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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