A brisk chronicle of a strong-willed, tireless, and determined leader.



A celebratory biography of Africa’s first female president and 2011 Nobel Prize winner.

The Pulitzer Prize–winning Pentagon correspondent for the New York Times, Cooper (The House at Sugar Beach: In Search of a Lost African Childhood, 2008, etc.) traces the improbable career of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (b. 1938), a woman of spectacular political achievement. Drawing heavily on Sirleaf’s autobiography and interviews with her and her supporters, Cooper creates an admiring portrait that would have benefited from some distance, wider research, and more probing examination. Sirleaf perpetuated the legend that she was destined for greatness from birth, and after graduating from high school, she looked for ways to fulfill that prophecy. When reversed family fortunes precluded her going to Europe or America “to acquire finishing,” at 17, she married a Western-educated 24-year-old who seemed “suave and sophisticated.” After the births of four sons within the next few years, she felt frustrated about her future in sexist, desperately impoverished Liberia. When her husband went to Wisconsin for graduate study, she decided to go, too, to earn a business degree. Within a decade, she had left her abusive spouse, taken a position at Liberia’s Ministry of Finance and then an assignment as a loan officer at the World Bank, where “she began to build her international contacts with the Western leaders who controlled the purse strings for developing countries.” She proved herself adept at networking in financial circles, becoming a vice president at Citibank before moving to Equator Bank. With an invaluable financial career behind her, she entered politics. Cooper details the horrifying atrocities (dismemberments, rapes, mass executions) perpetrated by ruthless tyrants, the last of whom, Charles Taylor, Sirleaf initially backed. The author also reveals the support of these regimes by a succession of American administrations. Sirleaf won the presidency in 2005, inciting a violent backlash against women, including ritualistic killings. She was re-elected in 2011 despite charges of nepotism and corruption, which Cooper allows Sirleaf to defend.

A brisk chronicle of a strong-willed, tireless, and determined leader.

Pub Date: March 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4516-9735-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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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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