This first volume of a definitive new Darwin biography is full of insight into both the man and his era. Browne (History of Science/The Wellcome Institute, England) draws on her background as an associate editor of the eight- volume edition of Darwin's correspondence. In his early years, Darwin showed no great ambition; the youngest son of a country doctor, he was an unmotivated medical student in Edinburgh, and a Cambridge scholar nominally studying for the ministry. The opportunity to sail with HMS Beagle in 1831 came more or less out of the blue; he was invited to act as a gentleman companion to its neurotic young captain, Robert Fitzroy, as much because of his respectable family background as because of his connections in the Cambridge naturalist community. But motivated now by the chance to observe nature directly, Darwin made the most of it. Browne devotes considerable space to his eye-opening experiences in South America, the Gal†pagos Islands, New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa—giving a remarkable picture of life at sea as well as of the scientific explorations. Returning to England, Darwin quickly made important scientific friends, who were impressed both by his collections and by his quick mind. But it was only slowly—after a closer study of the finches he had found in the Gal†pagos and after his reading of Malthus's population theories—that his theory of natural selection took shape. At first, especially after his marriage to his conventionally pious cousin Emma Wedgwood, Darwin was afraid to do more than hint at his speculations, and then only to trusted scientific colleagues. But as he became more sure of the meaning of his data, he realized that he was obligated to make his findings public. The book closes in 1856, as Darwin is preparing to write On the Origin of Species. An exciting and richly evocative portrait of one of the most important thinkers in scientific history that leaves the reader wishing the second volume were already on hand. (48 pages photos and 4 maps, not seen)

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1995

ISBN: 0-394-57942-9

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1995

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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 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...


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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