McCalman selects his subjects judiciously and writes with flair, creating a multifaceted portrait of one of the world’s...



The history of the Great Barrier Reef told through the stories of men and women who have loved or hated it, lived there, studied it, exploited it or tried to save it.

McCalman (History/Univ. of Sydney; Darwin’s Armada: Four Voyages and the Battle for the Theory of Evolution, 2009, etc.) loves the reef and fears for its future. His account begins with Capt. James Cook, whose ship Endeavor ran aground there in 1770 and who feared being trapped and destroyed in the labyrinth of coral reefs. Some three decades later, while exploring the reef, Royal Navy officer Matthew grasped its immensity and named it the “Great Barrier Reefs.” In the 1840s, the naturalist and geologist Joseph Jukes wrote glowingly of the area’s beauty and accurately of the culture of the indigenous people living there, contrary to fictitious accounts of cannibalistic savages. In one fascinating chapter, McCalman recounts the tale of a young Scottish woman who survived a shipwreck and was taken in by Aborigines. In the 1890s, the British scientist-artist-photographer William Saville-Kent studied the reef intensely for four years, producing a masterpiece that showed the world the wonders of its underwater world. In 1908, Australian E.J. Banfield’s The Confessions of a Beachcomber presented it as multiple island paradises, and the 20th-century attempts of America zoologist Alexander Agassiz to disprove Darwin’s theory of the origin of coral reefs made it the center of scientific interest. McCalman then focuses on two Cambridge scientists whose publications in the 1930s ignited the interest of tourists and inspired the actions of men and women determined to save the islands from exploitation. McCalman’s final chapter, sadly titled “Extinction,” introduces Charlie Veron, an authority on coral reefs, whose message is that forces already underway are destroying the Great Barrier Reef, a message that the author bravely, hopefully attempts to counter in the epilogue.

McCalman selects his subjects judiciously and writes with flair, creating a multifaceted portrait of one of the world’s great wonders.

Pub Date: May 20, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-374-24819-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scientific American/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2014

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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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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