An academic achievement with limited appeal for the nonscholarly audience.

MARTIN LUTHER

REBEL IN AN AGE OF UPHEAVAL

A comprehensive biography of the famed reformer.

Biographical works about Martin Luther (1483-1546) abound. Here, former history professor Schilling (Early Modern European Civilization and Its Political and Cultural Dynamism, 2008, etc.) seeks to capture “the uncontaminated Luther.” As he writes, “this book is not about a Luther in whom we can find the spirit of our own time; this book is about…a Luther whose thoughts and actions are out of kilter with the interests of later generations.” The author portrays Luther in the context of his own time, but the long narrative is rather rambling and far better suited to academics than to general readers. Schilling begins with an in-depth exploration of Luther’s family background and youth, utilizing the name Luder, which Luther used up until his activism began in earnest. The author goes beyond the scope of most biographies by detouring into lengthy histories of towns involved in Luther’s story, the political landscape of the era, and profiles of individuals who were important in Luther’s life. Even Luther’s choice of clothing is carefully discussed. The further Schilling moves into the course of Luther’s story, the more intriguing his exploration of the sociopolitical events that framed the birth of the Reformation. The author makes it a point to dispute myths, none greater than Luther’s nailing the famed 95 theses to the Wittenberg Church door—he notes that if the list was nailed there at all, it was probably not done by Luther, and it was certainly not a dramatic event. Throughout, Schilling admirably avoids the fraught territory of psychoanalysis. His work will appeal most to readers who have exhausted other biographies of Luther and are looking for further minutia about the subject. For general readers seeking a meaningful but accessible biography, there are better choices, such as Derek Wilson’s Out of the Storm (2008).

An academic achievement with limited appeal for the nonscholarly audience.

Pub Date: July 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-19-872281-6

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 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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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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