A worthwhile look at a freedom too often taken for granted.



Historical review of America’s concept of freedom of religion.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Inalienable Rights series, Pulitzer Prize winner Rakove uses a historical rather than legal approach, providing a balanced and intriguing look at the origins of religious freedom. The author discusses the conflicts, theories, and personalities that led to the creation of the religion clauses of the First Amendment, and then he tracks how that amendment was tested throughout American history, both judicially and culturally. He begins, necessarily, with the experience in mainland Europe and England, demonstrating how many of the rights we take for granted have roots in strife and inequality. The irony of living in a society that promotes religious freedom is that “one no longer needs to know what religious toleration originally meant.” Indeed, this is Rakove’s most significant contribution: causing readers to look past the legal story and realize the social, cultural, and philosophical elements involved in the modern idea of freedom of religion. After exploring the writings of John Locke and the experience of Puritans and early Colonial dissenters, the author discusses the vital roles of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison in translating theories of tolerance into codified law and practice. Looking at the 19th century, Rakove shows how growing numbers of Catholic immigrants and the advent of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints strained the concept of religious freedom in a Protestant-centered America. The 20th century brought further tension, especially where religious conviction ran up against government and civil activity. In the end, Rakove echoes Madison by concluding that greater disestablishment leads to a healthier, freer practice of religion. Though academic in tone, the book will be accessible to diligent readers.

A worthwhile look at a freedom too often taken for granted.

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-19-530581-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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 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...


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?