An exemplary work of history that should bring Reagan a touch more respect in some regards but that removes the halo at the...

REAGAN

THE LIFE

Monumental life of the president whom some worship and some despise—with Brands (History/Univ. of Texas; The Man Who Saved the Union: Ulysses Grant in War and Peace, 2012, etc.) providing plenty of justification for both reactions.

At least some of Ronald Reagan’s (1911-2004) perceived greatness, suggests the author, came about as a gift of historical accident. Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker “squeezed the inflationary expectations out of the economy and put it on the path to solid growth” in the middle of Jimmy Carter’s recession-plagued presidency, just in time for Reagan to harvest the praise when things did turn around. Some came about because the man, though actually distant, expressed a warmth that made people think he cared about them, a good talent for a politico to have. Some came about because, though Reagan had an ideology, he was also a pragmatist who understood that the reason to enter government is to govern—something so many of his followers have forgotten. Brands, a lucid, engaging writer, traces interesting connections between Reagan the politician and Reagan the actor: he was typecast early on as a good guy who played the law-and-order type against more compelling villains, and he learned from Errol Flynn’s blacklisting for left-wing views that conservatism was a safer bet. Brands gives Reagan full honors for realism and hard work, as well as a grasp of the need to do sometimes-unpopular things like raising taxes: “American conservatives…disliked taxes but disliked deficits even more.” Given the timidity of later politicians to own up to unpleasant facts, there’s fresh air in all that, even when it had bad or mixed results—the “most sweeping revision of the tax code since World War II,” say, or Iran-Contra, which, by Brands’ account, was a phase in Reagan’s long war against his “ultimate target,” Fidel Castro.

An exemplary work of history that should bring Reagan a touch more respect in some regards but that removes the halo at the same time.

Pub Date: May 12, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53639-4

Page Count: 816

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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

Did you like this book?

more