A book that should appeal to military history enthusiasts, but those seeking a more standard biography should look elsewhere.

CUSTER

THE MAKING OF A YOUNG GENERAL

A look at the early career of one of the most controversial figures in American military history.

George Armstrong Custer’s place in American history was secured on June 25, 1876, when he and more than 260 of his men perished at the Battle of Little Bighorn. In his latest book, award-winning Civil War historian Longacre (The Early Morning of War: Bull Run, 1861, 2014, etc.) aims to highlight Custer’s Civil War career while “correct[ing] the myths, misconceptions, and misinterpretations that have distorted readers’ impressions of the soldier and the man.” The son of an Ohio blacksmith and farmer, Custer earned admission to West Point, where his indifference toward his studies and predilection for pranks led to graduation at the bottom of his class in 1861. Yet the Civil War provided opportunity for the young soldier. Commissioned as a second lieutenant of cavalry, he saw action in First Bull Run, the Peninsula Campaign, and Antietam. In 1863, under Alfred Pleasonton, commander of the Army of the Potomac’s Cavalry Corps, the 23-year-old Custer won promotion to brigadier general of volunteers. Following his bold and brave fighting in the Gettysburg campaign, he returned home to propose to Elizabeth Clift Bacon, which is where this book ends. Longacre effectively deconstructs several of the myths surrounding Custer, particularly the mysterious circumstances of his admission to West Point. The author also relates a few savory tidbits, including the acrophobic Custer’s periodic balloon ascents during the Peninsula Campaign and the fact that George’s brother Thomas was a two-time recipient of the Medal of Honor. Yet there are several mistakes and errors, including misnaming P.G.T. Beauregard. Furthermore, Longacre’s thorough detailing of military maneuvers and battles slows the narrative.

A book that should appeal to military history enthusiasts, but those seeking a more standard biography should look elsewhere.

Pub Date: July 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5107-3319-0

Page Count: 324

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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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 48 LAWS OF POWER

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...

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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