A general lack of records compromises Dolin’s efforts, leaving one wanting to know more about notorious pirates such as...




A brief but intriguing history of piracy’s heyday.

The word “pirate” evokes numerous symbols and legends, but what were the pirates of yore actually like? Focusing on American waters during piracy’s “Golden Age” of the late 17th and early 18th centuries, Dolin (Brilliant Beacons: A History of the American Lighthouse, 2016, etc.) explains that pirates thrived in times of war, when privateering commissions provided a cover for more illicit activities. For a time, North American colonists welcomed these brigands, who simultaneously spent their ill-gotten gains in Colonial ports and provided an effective counter to unpopular English trade laws. Inevitably, however, they wore out their welcome, and a multipronged response by Colonial and English authorities in the aftermath of Queen Anne’s War (1702-1713) virtually eliminated them. The author helpfully dismisses some of the more potent pirate myths. For example, there is little evidence that Cpt. William Kidd buried treasure on Gardiner’s Island, New York; pirates tended to spend their treasure right away, not inter it. Moreover, no documentation exists of any “Golden Age” pirate forcing someone to walk the plank. But Dolin is at his best when he offers generalizations of pirates and their trade. The majority of pirates were white men in their 20s, but a significant number were black slaves taken from captured ships who “became valued crewmembers who fought alongside their white pirate brethren and shared in the spoils.” Despite their reputation for violence, most pirates “never wanted to fight if they could avoid it,” as confrontation only put their lives, ships, and potential cargo in jeopardy. Finally, a pirate ship was a highly democratic and regulated place, as buccaneers selected their captains by majority vote and abided by a written code that “governed their behavior, the distribution of treasure, and the compensation provided in case of injury.”

A general lack of records compromises Dolin’s efforts, leaving one wanting to know more about notorious pirates such as Blackbeard and Edward Low. Nonetheless, the author offers an informative and often entertaining blend of narrative history and analysis that should appeal to a general audience.

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63149-210-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: Aug. 5, 2018

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


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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