A model of academic scrupulousness and popular accessibility.



A concise history of the role that science and technology played during World War II.

In 1942, the triumph of the Allies over Nazi Germany and imperial Japan was anything but a foregone conclusion; in fact, the prospects for victory seemed grim. Feiveson (Unmaking the Bomb, 2014) looks at scientific innovation during the Allied prosecution of the war effort, focusing on different fields of battle: the Battle of Britain; the race for actionable intelligence; the struggle against German U-boats; the challenges of air combat, D-Day, and the invasion of Europe generally; and, of course, the Manhattan project. In each case, the author provides a brief but impressively thorough investigation of the ways in which technological know-how tilted the scales. For example, breakthrough advances in radar were decisive in gaining the upper hand against German U-boats as well as in assuming command of the air. Also, the collaborative decryption of Japanese naval code was integral to victory at the Battle of Midway. Feiveson also takes edifying detours into other significant discoveries—for example, of an anti-malarial other than quinine, which the Japanese monopolized—and the strategic effectiveness and moral defensibility of the Allied bombing campaigns. The gripping narrative that emerges shows that the Germans didn’t have the practical mechanisms in place to efficiently channel their scientific resources into the war effort, while the Allies did. Feiveson was a senior research scientist for the Program on Science and Global Security at Princeton University, and his mastery of the historical material in this work is magisterial. He succinctly and successfully covers a great deal of territory with intellectual rigor and rhetorical transparency. Furthermore, this book serves as a marvelously clear introduction to the war as a whole, including the tumultuous years that preceded it and the uncertain aftermath.

A model of academic scrupulousness and popular accessibility.

Pub Date: March 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4808-5478-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Archway Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 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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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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