Perfect for bathroom reading or a doctor’s waiting room.




The British journalist continues to collect little-known events and factoids from history.

Readers seeking something along the lines of 1066 and All That or The Book of Heroic Failures should look elsewhere, as Milton (When Hitler Took Cocaine and Lenin Lost His Brain: History's Unknown Chapters, 2016, etc.) offers very brief tales of massacres, slavery, World War II failures, and world leaders and the truth about their lives and demises—e.g., George III may have suffered from bipolar disorder, and Stalin was poisoned. The author also shares the story of Witold Pilecki, who broke into (and out of) Auschwitz and whose 1943 report was pointedly ignored and not published until 2000, while Auschwitz escapees Rudolph Vrba and Alfred Wetzler finally—and too late—convinced the Allies with their 1944 report. Many of Milton’s tales contain entertaining trivia facts, such as the source of the 18th-century South Sea Bubble and the framing of Mata Hari, but many are also horror stories, such as the Allied firebombing of Pforzheim and the 946 men who died in a D-Day practice run, some torpedoed, some killed by friendly fire. Personal stories of survivors shed light on history’s horrors, and the author’s research has turned up quite a few incidents that don’t make the history books. Part of the reason is that some of the tales are just not interesting anymore. However, the entries are short and highly readable. Regarding the title episode, Milton chronicles Churchill’s testing of biological weapons (in this case, anthrax bombs) during the war on a remote island whose current inhabitants “are a flock of sheep who munch on the grass, blissfully unaware of the deadly spores that until recently infected their island home.”

Perfect for bathroom reading or a doctor’s waiting room.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-250-07875-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Picador

Review Posted Online: Sept. 8, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

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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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