Not for everyone, but its target audience, however narrow, will love it.




Another testosterone-laced account of another elite combat specialty.

Prolific military writer Halberstadt (Army: The U.S. Army Today, 2006, etc.) maintains that individual snipers rack up more kills than entire brigades. While sharpshooters figured prominently in conflicts from the Revolutionary War to Vietnam, they did not become trained, high-tech professionals until the 1980s, when military thinkers began focusing on antiterrorism and small-unit actions. Snipers parachuted into Panama during the 1989 invasion and, according to one Halberstadt source, shot everyone in sight. They had few opportunities during the 1991 Gulf War, lots more during the ongoing campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, which dominate the book. Snipers never work alone, notes the author. Typically, groups of two to six include “shooters” and security. They move into enemy territory, hide and observe, remaining in radio contact with their base and with patrols in the area to provide invaluable intelligence. This may be all they provide, because under strict rules of engagement months may pass before they shoot. While “one shot, one kill” remains the ideal, it does not represent reality, especially at long distances, and today’s snipers hit targets beyond a mile. The author illustrates his subjects’ activities with a dozen oral histories, the book’s best portions. Military buffs will enjoy colorful accounts of the brutal training regimen plus nuts-and-bolts descriptions of weapons and high-tech observation gear. Ordinary infantry M4 carbines make many kills, Halberstadt notes, but the heavy, wildly expensive, precision-designed, slow-firing, bolt-action M24 is accurate over 2,000 meters. Many chapters describe unruly Iraqi neighborhoods suddenly peaceful because insurgents struck down by hidden snipers now fear showing themselves. Readers who wonder why this hasn’t won the war have picked the wrong book. Those who can turn off their critical faculties will enjoy the author’s admiring portrait of brave, superbly skilled Americans wreaking havoc among our enemies.

Not for everyone, but its target audience, however narrow, will love it.

Pub Date: March 18, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-35456-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2008

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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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