Conversational, sometimes playful—not the sort of book that would survive vetting by school-system censors these days, but a...

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A LITTLE HISTORY OF THE WORLD

A lovely, lively historical survey that takes in Neanderthals, Hohenzollerns and just about everything in between.

In 1935, Viennese publisher Walter Neurath approached Gombrich, who would go on to write the canonical, bestselling Story of Art, to translate a history textbook for young readers. Gombrich volunteered that he could do better than the authors, and Neurath accepted the challenge, provided that a completed manuscript was on his desk in six weeks. This book, available in English for the first time, is the happy result. Gombrich is an engaging narrator whose explanations are charming if sometimes vague. (Take the kid-friendly definition of truffles: “Truffles,” he says, “are a very rare and special sort of mushroom.” End of lesson.) Among the subjects covered are Julius Caesar (who, Gombrich exults, was able to dictate two letters simultaneously without getting confused), Charlemagne, the American Civil War, Karl Marx, the Paris Commune and Kaiser Wilhelm. As he does, he offers mostly gentle but pointed moralizing about the past, observing, for instance, that the Spanish conquest of Mexico required courage and cunning but was “so appalling, and so shaming to us Europeans that I would rather not say anything more about it,” and urging his young readers to consider that perhaps not all factory owners were as vile as Marx portrayed them to be, even though the good owners “against their conscience and their natural instincts, often found themselves treating their workers in the same way”—which is to say, badly.

Conversational, sometimes playful—not the sort of book that would survive vetting by school-system censors these days, but a fine conception and summarizing of the world’s checkered past for young and old.

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2005

ISBN: 0-300-10883-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2005

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A compellingly investigated, relentlessly gloomy report on the drug distribution industry.

DREAMLAND

Discouraging, unflinching dispatches from America’s enduring opiate-abuse epidemic.

Veteran freelance journalist Quinones (Antonio’s Gun and Delfino’s Dream: True Tales of Mexican Migration, 2007, etc.) cogently captures the essence of the festering war on drugs throughout the 1990s. He focuses on the market for black tar heroin, a cheap, potent, semiprocessed drug smuggled into the United States from Nayarit, a state on the Pacific coast of Mexico. The author charts its dissemination throughout American heartland cities like Columbus and Portsmouth, Ohio, home to a huge, family-friendly swimming pool named Dreamland, which closed in 1993, after which opiates “made easy work of a landscape stripped of any communal girding.” Assembling history through varying locales and personal portraits, Quinones follows a palpable trail of heartbreak, misery and the eventual demise of seemingly harmless people “shape-shifted into lying, thieving slaves to an unseen molecule.” The author provides an insider’s glimpse into the drug trade machine, examining the evolution of medical narcotic destigmatization, the OxyContin-heroin correlation and the machinations of manipulative pharmaceutical companies. His profiles include a West Virginia father burying his overdosed son, a diabolically resourceful drug dealer dubbed “the Man,” and “Enrique,” a Mexican citizen who entered the drug trade as a dealer for his uncle at 14. Perhaps most intriguing is the author’s vivid dissection of the “cross-cultural heroin deal,” consisting of an interconnected, hive-minded “retail system” of telephone operators, dealers (popularly known as the “Xalisco Boys”) and customers; everything is efficiently and covertly marketed “like a pizza delivery service” and franchised nationwide with precision. The author’s text, the result of a five-year endeavor of remote research and in-person interviews, offers a sweeping vantage point of the nation’s ever expanding drug problem. Though initially disjointed, these frustrating and undeniably disheartening scenarios eventually dovetail into a disturbing tapestry of abuse, addiction and death. Thankfully, for a fortunate few, rebirth is possible.

A compellingly investigated, relentlessly gloomy report on the drug distribution industry.

Pub Date: April 21, 2015

ISBN: 978-1620402504

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2015

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Engaging accounts of dogs working in war zones and aiding their handlers despite the imminent dangers.

WAR DOGS

TALES OF CANINE HEROISM, HISTORY, AND LOVE

Stories of dogs and their human handlers on the front lines of war.

Frankel tells the stories of canines and their companions who have aided soldiers in the first and second world wars, Vietnam, and the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. On the battlefields and off them, dogs bring an added level of security to highly unstable situations, since their ability to sniff out potential danger far outshines that of their human counterparts. For instance, in Iraq and Afghanistan, IEDs are used with increasing frequency and have become the “single biggest threat to U.S. troops on the ground.” As the author notes, "the role of military working dogs in these wars has almost exclusively been devoted to combating IEDs." In order to distinguish a plain pile of rocks from a pile with a bomb underneath, the dogs must be able to identify the different smells found in mortar shells, C-4, detonation cords and pressure plates, while their handlers must watch for anything out of the ordinary or anything that shows the tiniest sign of human interference. Together, the dog and handler form tight bonds that remain strong on and off the battlefield. Frankel chronicles her discussions with handlers and kennel masters who have worked with numerous dogs during their military careers, bringing to light the personal stories of love and devotion each feels toward the other. Although "canine training can be a rough-and-tumble business" with multiple scratches and bite marks as evidence, Frankel discovered that having dogs involved in combat situations brings a much-needed layer of understanding to the complex experience of war. For those not in the military, the author’s observations will aid them in gaining a deeper appreciation of what the troops on the ground and their dog companions endure.

Engaging accounts of dogs working in war zones and aiding their handlers despite the imminent dangers.

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-137-27968-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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