A narrative rocket-powered by experience, intelligence, knowledge, and gratitude.

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SAFELY TO EARTH

THE MEN AND WOMEN WHO BROUGHT THE ASTRONAUTS HOME

An engineer and software manager who worked on both the Apollo and space shuttle flights rehearses some behind-the-scenes activity during the decades he worked with NASA.

In his debut, Clemons, now a freelance writer and speaker, begins with some background—e.g., John F. Kennedy’s vow to send Americans to the moon; the author’s youthful love of science fiction—and then proceeds chronologically through some of NASA’s great successes and failures. The author is adept at explaining complicated technical concepts by employing quotidian analogues (how a “free-return trajectory” is similar to tossing a ball), so general readers will have little trouble navigating his pages. He is also generous with praise for his colleagues, celebrating their contributions, and he offers startling reminders: NASA was still basically in the slide-rule, pre-computer era when they first landed men on the moon in July 1969. One of the most gripping segments deals with Apollo 13 (“Houston, we’ve had a problem”) and the eponymous movie, which Clemons discusses flatteringly. (He also alludes to the recent film Hidden Figures.) During the shuttle missions, the author worked on the software, a massive undertaking that he describes in rich detail; he notes how virtually impossible it is to create error-free computer code and how close to that objective the shuttle engineers came. He deals, too, with the great NASA tragedies: the Apollo 1 fire, the Challenger and Columbia disasters. Clemons writes only briefly about his personal life—his marriage, fatherhood, divorce, and eventual change of career when he left the space program in the mid-1980s. These events and experiences are mostly breaths he takes before diving back into his primary narrative. In a lengthy appendix, he deals with some common questions and dismisses as “silly stories” the rumors that the moon landings were faked.

A narrative rocket-powered by experience, intelligence, knowledge, and gratitude.

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-8130-5602-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Univ. Press of Florida

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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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

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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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