A quirky, spellbinding collection that bibliophiles will relish.


Essays about the impact of books on a solitary life.

Pathan’s (The Reclusive Writer & Reader of Bandra, 2018, etc.) collection of essays analyzes how her favorite books and reading haunts in Mumbai shaped her into the person she is today. The 30-year-old self-described “reclusive, bookish introvert” takes readers on her journey as an inveterate reader, author, and publisher. She also weaves significant personal events into the narrative in intriguing ways. Some of the most profound essays center on a favorite book or series (Dracula, Archie comics, The Exorcist, the Tintin series, The Collected Works of A.J. Fikry, Still Alice, The Hidden Life of Trees, The Holocaust as Culture) or a genre (she loves horror, the classics, Agatha Christie’s detective novels, and Robin Cook’s medical thrillers). Some stinging essays voice her disdain for the caste system in India and global injustices; others capture her human rights advocacy (“I am Malala”; “I, Phoolan Devi”). In the essays that form the core of the book, Pathan shares the effervescent joy that she experienced when she discovered special bookshops and libraries that felt like a true home and how she met a few kindred spirits—although she unequivocally states that she prefers books to people. In one single day, she bought 106 books, she says, and she aims to read 200 books a year; they are her teachers, her parents, her friends, her muses, and, most importantly, her refuge. She recounts painful life experiences, such as incidents of street harassment and expressions of derision from her father, so often that it may make readers uncomfortable—a brilliant and subtle way of relating her despair, her anger, and her reasons for retreating into the literary world. At more than 350 pages, the collection is rather lengthy, but the prose is so kinetic that it reads much faster than many readers may expect. It comes complete with a surprise ending that, upon reflection, perhaps isn’t so surprising after all.

A quirky, spellbinding collection that bibliophiles will relish.

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2020


Page Count: 406

Publisher: Freedom with Pluralism

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2020

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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 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...


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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