A valuable road map that shows us how we got where we are today.




A lucid history of the first decade of the 21st century, which set trends in motion that are with us today.

What to call that time? Washington, D.C.–based historian Peck dismisses “the aughts” as “too Victorian,” and he suggests that the “decade of disruption” is just about right to describe an era in which technology ravaged entire industries. He examines many other trends that seemed to happen overnight but that took years—e.g., the constantly threatened right of gay couples to marry, the rise of the tea party as a directly racist response to Barack Obama, and the still reverberating consequences of the Great Recession, among them the political polarization that reigns supreme today. Peck has a keen eye for the small but telling detail, such as the fact that Wall Street analysts were publicly promoting the dot-com boom but privately keeping their distance, aware that it was a bubble about to burst. (Make that two bubbles: the internet and the telecommunications sector.) The cynicism of Wall Street and Washington are constant threads, with “shareholder value” and giveaways to the already rich being the main ends of the denizens of both. Disruption holds sway throughout Peck’s narrative, but there are plenty of old-fashioned decadence and con games as well, from the fraudulent Trump University to Tiger Woods’ infidelities. By Peck’s account—and he’s a military veteran—the single greatest mistake of the decade was an act of hubris: “following a false trail of evidence and messianic zeal to overthrow a Middle Eastern dictator,” thus leading to the invasion of Iraq. In his nimble yet fact-dense account, the author enumerates many other errors, from gerrymandering and the expansion of the imperial presidency to the ideological sclerosis of the Republican Party and the destruction of the middle class.

A valuable road map that shows us how we got where we are today. (16 pages of color photos)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64313-444-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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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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