A worthwhile work that will please armchair travelers and historians.



A lively journey down the Ganges River via off-the-beaten-path destinations and historical moments.

Journalist Black (Empire of Shadows: The Epic Story of Yellowstone, 2012, etc.) traveled from the source of the Ganges to its mouth in a series of short trips. The river is known as “Ma Ganga,” a mother goddess, and it feeds half a billion people by irrigating rice and wheat fields. The author’s fascination with the Ganges began at age 11 when he saw a woodcut of a widow throwing herself on her husband’s funeral pyre on the banks of the river in a 19th-century book he bought from a junk shop. In his quest to discover the modern Ganges and its historical importance, he started in New Delhi before proceeding to the Gangotri Glacier, one of the largest in the Himalayas, and the Rajasthan Desert. From cold, bare lodgings to tourist-trap hotels, Black experienced the extremes of Indian hospitality, and he even learned Hindi insults as a result of some scary rides. Interviews and dialogue enhance the vivid scenes, and the author doesn’t limit himself to high-profile destinations Western tourists are likely to see. His stops included a temple on the border with Tibet and a rickshaw graveyard in Dhaka, and he observed a cremation and joined in the search for a problem tiger. Throughout, Black shows that he is aware of the Western travelers who went before, everyone from Sir Edmund Hilary and Mark Twain to the Beatles and Allen Ginsberg. The most poignant moments come when past and present, or various cultures, meet in surprising ways—e.g., relics of the 1857 Indian Rebellion appear alongside Muslim icons and a squatter colony. Black powerfully reveals the contradictions of modern South Asia by way of this body of water, “a seducer, a magnetic field” that is both “place of worship and…open sewer.”

A worthwhile work that will please armchair travelers and historians.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-05735-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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