Those enthralled by Rome will find this a worthy companion, if one that might prompt nostalgia for golden ages of yore.




Sweeping history over three millennia of the center of the ancient world.

Rome is famously known as the city of seven hills. But, writes London-based historian Addis in opening, “why stop at seven?” There are more: the Janiculum, the Pincian, Monte Mario, the Vatican, and so forth, yet the count has held at seven since time immemorial. So it is that the entire history of Rome, republic and empire and beyond, has been punctuated by set pieces and legends, some of which the author debunks, others of which he illuminates. For instance, in telling the story of the foundation of the ancient republic after the overthrow of the Etruscan kings, he nicely notes that Lucius Junius Brutus emerged victorious, having hidden behind a last name that means “stupid.” “Up stepped Brutus, casting off the pretense of foolishness he had worn for so long,” Addis spryly writes after setting up a bloody scene, after which Brutus swore that Rome would not see a king again. So it was for a few hundred years until the rise of the emperors, who started off strong but devolved into gangsters and tyrants, “too busy with enemies from outside Rome’s borders to worry about enemies within.” Consequently, Christianity, its early adherents true enemies of the Roman state, was able to take hold. Addis writes with due admiration of Cola di Rienzo, the exponent of “a well-established tradition of Italian communal government” after the revival of the Senate in 1143, who recapitulated the ancient struggle between commoner and nobility and wound up the worse in the bargain. The author takes readers to the walls of the city in the 19th century, where "patrician ladies,” students, and militia alike joined to battle French invaders. The narrative sometimes runs a bit long, but Addis writes clearly and effectively, though without the flair of a Mary Beard or Luigi Barzini.

Those enthralled by Rome will find this a worthy companion, if one that might prompt nostalgia for golden ages of yore.

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68177-542-5

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 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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