A conventional but richly rewarding history of the last war that turned out well for the U.S.

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The final volume in Toll’s fine Pacific War Trilogy.

The author begins with the July 1944 Honolulu meeting of the key American figures. He rocks no boats in his evaluations of Franklin Roosevelt (canny if slippery politico), Adm. Chester Nimitz (brilliant but colorless technocrat), and Gen. Douglas MacArthur (military genius with a massive ego). At the meeting, American officials reached a decision to invade Japan by way of the Philippines rather than Formosa. By 1944, Japanese leaders knew that victory was impossible but also believed that they were unconquerable. Once Americans, whom they considered technically advanced but soft, realized that every Japanese soldier, civilian, and child would fight to the death, they would lose heart and agree to a compromise peace. “There was a difference between defeat and surrender,” writes the author, a meticulous historian, “between losing an overseas empire and seeing the homeland overrun by a barbarian army.” Ironically, the first part of the Japanese strategy worked. Convinced that the Japanese preferred death to surrender, American military leaders did not quail but simply proceeded with that in mind. There is no shortage of accounts of the brutal island-hopping invasions (Peleliu in September, the Philippines in October, Iwo Jima in February 1945, Okinawa in April), but Toll’s take second place to none. Accompanying the Philippine invasion was the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the largest naval battle in world history. The most effective submarines of the war were not Hitler’s but America’s, which crippled Japan’s economy and sank a torrent of warships. Toll’s account of the coup de grace, the atomic bomb, barely mentions the debate over its use because that began after the war. At the time, a few administration figures protested but did not make a big fuss, and it turned out to require two bombs and the Soviet invasion before Japan decided to surrender.

A conventional but richly rewarding history of the last war that turned out well for the U.S. (32 photos; 20 maps)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-393-08065-0

Page Count: 864

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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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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Another amiable book that is just what you’d expect from Willie.


An epistolary grab bag of memories, lyrics, jokes, and homespun philosophy from the legendary musician.

As an indefatigable touring artist, Nelson (b. 1933) has had a lot of time on his hands during the pandemic. Following his collaboration with his sister, Me and Sister Bobbie, the road warrior offers a loose collection of lessons from a full life. If you’ve never read a book by or about Nelson, this one—characteristically conversational, inspirational, wise, funny, and meandering—is a good place to start. The book is filled with lyrics to many of his best-known songs, most of which he wrote but others that he has made his own as well. For those steeped in The Tao of Willie (2006), some of the stories will be as familiar as the songs—e.g., the origin story of his nicknames, including Booger Red and Shotgun Willie; his time as a DJ and a door-to-door Bible and encyclopedia salesman; early struggles in Nashville with “all the record executives who only see music as a bottom-line endeavor”; and return to his home state of Texas. Many of the personal stories about family and friends can be found in Me and Sister Bobbie, but they are good stories from a rich life, one of abundance for which Nelson remains profoundly grateful. So he gives thanks in the form of letters: to Texas, America, God, golf, and marijuana; the audiences who have supported him and the band that has had his back; those who have played any part in Farm Aid or his annual Fourth of July concert bashes; and departed friends and deceased heroes, one of whom, Will Rogers, answers him back. Nelson even addresses one to Covid-19, which looms over this book, making the author itchy and antsy. Even at 87, he can’t wait to be on the road again.

Another amiable book that is just what you’d expect from Willie.

Pub Date: June 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7852-4154-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper Horizon

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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