Aboujaoude is obviously proud of his work—and he should be—but his skills as a writer are seriously lacking.

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COMPULSIVE ACTS

A PSYCHIATRIST’S TALES OF RITUAL AND OBSESSION

Sketchy profiles of obsessive-compulsive patients, from the director of Stanford’s Impulse Control Disorders Clinic.

During his tenure as a psychiatrist specializing in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), Aboujaoude, whose work has appeared in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, among other publications, has treated numerous cases of behavioral addiction. Here, the author offers five stories of odd psychiatric conditions he has encountered, salting the narrative with breezy discussions of pertinent medical information (OCD afflicts between one and two percent of the population, males and females are equally likely to be affected, “excessive checking” is the most common form of OCD, etc.). With the steady assistance of his trusted clinic clerk Dawn (“Our schedule is like a symphony of which she is the masterful conductor”), Aboujaoude navigates the difficult psychological terrain of five unique patients, with all identifying details removed, of course. There’s George, who must maintain a certain distance between his nose and everything else; Pat, who suffers from trichotillomania, in which patients (often unconsciously) pull out their hair; Hannah, a 48-year-old kleptomaniac comparative-literature professor; Mr. Kuong, a Chinese-American who fell victim to the gambling meccas of Las Vegas and eventually committed suicide; and Alex, who’s online persona, “Sasha,” overtook his reality and led him to break up with his real girlfriend in favor of “Nadia,” his online “masterpiece girlfriend.” After relishing the opportunity to help each person, the author draws conclusions about the behavior and provides more information that may be helpful for those suffering from similar conditions. But the narrative fails to reflect Aboujaoude’s insistence that the book “is not merely a disjointed collection of research anecdotes and clinical tales.” The anecdotes transition awkwardly into the doctor’s evaluations and medical opinions, and the remembered dialogue is often stilted and riddled with excessive exclamation points.

Aboujaoude is obviously proud of his work—and he should be—but his skills as a writer are seriously lacking.

Pub Date: April 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-520-25567-8

Page Count: 190

Publisher: Univ. of California

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2008

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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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