An illuminating history of early Americans that is especially timely in the ugly, partisan-filled age of Trump.

FRIENDS DIVIDED

JOHN ADAMS AND THOMAS JEFFERSON

The acclaimed historian engages in a compelling examination of the complex relationship of the Founding Fathers who eventually served as the second and third presidents of the United States.

It is well-known that John Adams and Thomas Jefferson lived long lives and famously died on the same day, July 4, 1826. But what might be lesser known is that these two men of vastly different personalities and political views went from close allies to enemies to late-in-life friends. Adams was a self-made man who could seem abrupt and did not win admirers easily. Jefferson, on the other hand, was born to a life of privilege and honor, and he acted diplomatically almost without fail. Northerner Adams felt certain that humans could never achieve full equality, but he opposed slavery. Southerner Jefferson seemed to believe in the possibility of equality yet owned slaves. A leading historian of the Revolution and winner of both the Pulitzer and Bancroft prizes, Wood (History/Brown Univ.; The Idea of America: Reflections on the Birth of the United States, 2011, etc.) traces how these two remarkable yet flawed men viewed each other through the decades and how the changing nature of their relationship influenced the public policy of their fledgling nation, at home and overseas. The author is especially adroit at explaining how Adams’ ambassadorship to England and Jefferson’s ambassadorship to France altered their views of the world and to some extent accelerated the conflicts between them. Wood also clearly explains Jefferson’s popularity among nonhistorians, while Adams often seems overlooked in lay discussions of early American history. Among the other well-known personages in the narrative are Abigail Adams, Alexander Hamilton, and Benjamin Rush, all portrayed vividly by the author, whose approachable writing style is equal to his impressive archival research.

An illuminating history of early Americans that is especially timely in the ugly, partisan-filled age of Trump.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2471-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: July 12, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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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 48 LAWS OF POWER

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...

NIGHT

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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