An upbeat survey of a decent, likable modern leader.



A sincere, adoring look at the life and legacy of the humanist pope who helped modernize the Catholic Church with the convening of Vatican II.

Although he served only briefly, from 1958 to 1963, Pope John XXIII, born a Bergamo peasant farmer’s son named Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, pushed back against the ultraconservative wing dominating the papacy since Pius X’s turn-of-the-century reign. In this accessible biography, Tobin (Holy Holidays!: The Catholic Origins of Celebration, 2011, etc.) marks the 50th anniversary of the convening of the Second Vatican Council in October 1962 and John’s likely canonization in 2013. At times, the author sounds a little awestruck in describing Roncalli’s many diplomatic talents. Born in 1881 and ordained a deacon in 1903, he was formed by his early apprenticeship under Bishop Radini-Tedeschi of Bergamo, who employed a circle of liberal clergy advocating “the idea of Christ as an instrument of social change.” Under his tutelage, Roncalli became an activist and world traveler, tiptoeing around Pius X’s thundering denunciation of modernism; Roncalli was appointed by the more liberal Benedict XV for missionary work, then by Pius XI and Pius XII for diplomatic missions in Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey and postwar France. Revered for his work with refugees and ability to bring factions together, and well-liked by the other cardinals, Roncalli was nevertheless elected as a “transitional figure” to the papacy on October 28, 1958. Immediately, John began planning the first ecumenical council of the Church in 90 years, in the hope of embracing new currents of reform and renewal, especially as played out by the Cold War. The role of priests, evangelizing, use of the vernacular in Mass and changes in the liturgy, among others, were all reconsidered in the spirit of aggiornamento (“bringing up to date”).

An upbeat survey of a decent, likable modern leader.

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-208943-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: HarperOne

Review Posted Online: Aug. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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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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