Good reading for military buffs who enjoyed the authors’ previous book.

GODS OF WAR

HISTORY'S GREATEST MILITARY RIVALS

Six long accounts of wars in which great captains fought on either side.

Excepting the occasional masterpiece like John Keegan’s The Face of Battle, military buffs often look down their noses at the “great battles” genre. However, historians and professors Lacey (Marine Corps War College) and Murray (Naval War College) follow their previous book, Moment of Battle: The Twenty Clashes That Changed the World (2013), with another expert mixture of lively nuts-and-bolts descriptions of combat and opinions on why some legendary generals won their wars and others did not. Hannibal kept defeating Roman armies, but Romans never gave up; eventually, their best general, Scipio, defeated Hannibal. Caesar is better known, but Pompey, equally triumphant during his lifetime, chose the wrong allies when the two had a falling out. During the Crusades, Richard the Lionhearted won many victories, but Saladin possessed more resources and patience, so Richard’s goal, Jerusalem, remained out of reach. Napoleon’s early victories saved revolutionary France and then megalomania took over. Against stubborn enemies, megalomaniacal leaders, no matter how brilliant, sooner or later make stupid decisions, and Napoleon did not break the mold. Robert E. Lee knew how to win battles, but Ulysses S. Grant knew how to win the war. Erwin Rommel, Bernard Montgomery, and George Patton were successful despite vastly disparate personalities. “Entirely different cultures, both national and military, formed their approaches to leadership,” write the authors in the “Conclusion” section of that chapter. In this genre, it’s obligatory to tie matters together with an insightful historical analysis, and the authors do their best without breaking new ground. They emphasize that wars are won by generals with a strategic overview of what they must accomplish (Scipio, Saladin, Grant) and lost by those who concentrate on winning battles (Hannibal, Napoleon, Lee). While collections of descriptions of famous campaigns remain the lowest common denominator of military history, this is a solid addition to the genre.

Good reading for military buffs who enjoyed the authors’ previous book.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-345-54755-2

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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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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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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