Presidential reputations often improve with time and rarely decline. Aware of this, Mann delivers a remarkably evenhanded...

GEORGE W. BUSH

The latest in the admirable American Presidents series is premature because too little time has passed to evaluate our 43rd president, but Mann (Fellow in Residence/Johns Hopkins Univ. School of Advanced International Studies; The Obamians: The Struggle Inside the White House, 2012, etc.) writes an insightful biography without much partisanship.

Before he was elected in 2000, George W. Bush’s life gave few hints of what would follow. Son of a moderate Republican president, his intemperate youth gave way after marriage and conversion to evangelical Christianity. He gained experience helping with his father’s campaigns, and he won the Texas governorship in 1994. His conservative administration favored business and law and order but lacked the confrontational approach that came later. Mann maintains that, as president, Bush followed the lead of advisers, mostly veterans of his father’s term, but proved a quick study and soon exercised effective leadership. When he entered office, the United States budget was running surpluses. Eight years later, two tax cuts and two multitrillion-dollar wars financed entirely by borrowing left a gigantic deficit that frightens even Republicans (although they blame it on Democratic social programs). After the devastating events of 9/11, Bush faced the rage that swept the nation and its leaders. The result was not an attack on terrorism (largely a police matter) but a massive, expensive military buildup and pugnacious foreign policy that seemed aimed at demonstrating America’s fighting prowess. Sheltered from traditional wartime inconveniences (higher taxes, conscription), anti-war opinion remained muted until years of frustration in Iraq and Afghanistan finally eroded Bush’s popularity.

Presidential reputations often improve with time and rarely decline. Aware of this, Mann delivers a remarkably evenhanded account, eschewing the painful emotions many readers will feel until historians sort matters out.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0805093971

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Times/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

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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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