An absorbing and informative history from a significant historian/biographer.



The engaging lives of two American visionaries.

In a vivid, deeply researched dual biography, Howard, a historian of architecture and design, pays homage to two men who exerted a huge influence on America’s homes, parks, and public spaces: landscape designer and environmentalist Frederick Law Olmsted (1822-1903) and architect Henry Hobson Richardson (1838-1886). The men, who became collaborators, friends, and neighbors, could not have been more different. The ebullient Richardson, the son of a wealthy Southern mercantile family, was brilliant, handsome, and privileged. A grandson of naturalist Joseph Priestly, he went to Harvard, and when he decided to enter the relatively new profession of architecture, he enrolled at the prestigious École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where he embarked on a productive apprenticeship. Olmsted, quieter and reserved, had been prevented from going to college because of an eye problem; after working at several jobs, he thought he might become a farmer. During a trip abroad in the early 1850s, however, he was inspired by Europe’s public parks to stand for election as superintendent of Central Park in Manhattan—a project that earned him accolades. The Civil War changed both men’s lives. Louisiana-born Richardson faced financial straits; Olmsted headed the Army’s Sanitary Commission and, after the war, worked for a mining company in California, where he obtained a commission to design what would become Berkeley, including the University of California campus. Howard details their many collaborative projects, including the Albany Capitol, the grounds of the U.S. Capitol, the Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane, and many private estates. Olmsted designed Brooklyn’s Prospect Park as well as other parks across the country. Richardson was the acclaimed architect for Boston’s Brattle Square Church and Trinity Church as well as for his innovative open-plan homes. Howard chronicles their family lives and health problems as well as their creative work, illustrated with period photographs. As he did in Architecture's Odd Couple: Frank Lloyd Wright and Philip Johnson, the author brings the architectural world to life on the page.

An absorbing and informative history from a significant historian/biographer.

Pub Date: Jan. 25, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-8021-5923-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: Oct. 20, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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