An often engaging memoir that is especially strong in its insights into global poverty.

A GLOBAL LIFE

MY JOURNEY AMONG RICH AND POOR, FROM SYDNEY TO WALL STREET TO THE WORLD BANK

The story of the author’s unlikely ascent from middle-class Australian Jewish upbringing to Wall Street wealth, president of the World Bank and Middle East peace negotiator.

Born in 1933, Wolfensohn rose above his modest upbringing to earn a law degree at the University of Sydney and MBA at Harvard University. Always curious and talented, he learned fencing well enough to compete in the 1956 Olympic Games, served in the Royal Australian Air Force and became a talented cello player. He found world finance fascinating, especially as he tried to figure out the global wealth-poverty gap. The first half of the book frequently reads like a family album, as the author and his wife Elaine and their three children move among the cities of London, New York and Washington, D.C., because of his job shifts. The author’s candor about people he respects and dislikes is refreshing, as is his frank assessment of his own strengths and shortcomings. The memoir picks up noticeably in 1995, when Wolfensohn won the approval of President Clinton and other leaders to become president of the influential and controversial World Bank. Since the end of World War II, the World Bank had tried to help impoverished nations with infrastructure such as roads and dams, and had also played a role, along with its related agency, the International Monetary Fund, in curing the economies of debtor nations. Wolfensohn tells of resistance he faced inside and outside the World Bank as he tried to emphasize the elimination of poverty, improved treatment of subjugated women and environmental degradation in dozens of nations on multiple continents. The author served his second five-year term as bank president during the George W. Bush administration, and in general contrasts that administration unfavorably compared to Clinton's. After leaving the bank presidency, Wolfensohn served as an envoy trying to broker Israeli disengagement from Gaza, an effort that went poorly by his own admission, in part due to the doctrinaire positions of almost everybody involved.

An often engaging memoir that is especially strong in its insights into global poverty.

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-58648-255-8

Page Count: 480

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2010

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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

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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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