Certain hokum for skeptics, but the more open-minded will savor this chillingly convincing testimonial.

WHISPERERS

THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE SPIRIT WORLD

Prolific Irish author and lecturer Brennan’s (Magic & Mysticism in Tibet, 2010, etc.) lifelong fascination with psychic phenomena fuels this comprehensive analysis of potential supernatural influences on history.

The author engagingly embraces the phenomenon of spiritual interaction with the living in a dense exploration of historical figures who he asserts have become influenced by suggestive spirits. In early sections, Brennan examines the spirit beliefs of the Ubaidian people and the Egyptians, who etched spectral “utterances” into pyramid walls. He then moves on to profiles of prominent historical leaders believed to have both directly and indirectly altered history through spiritual intervention. They include Joan of Arc, Nostradamus, Rasputin, 18th-century Christian mystic Emanuel Swedenborg, Napoleon Bonaparte, controversial occultist Alessandro Cagliostro and a loosely formed spirit-human association with Adolf Hitler. Brennan’s sweeping examination also cites modern evidence by incorporating the use of Ouija boards, mesmeric suggestion and conjurations into the mix. An equitable author who recognizes that his assertions, for some, will be construed as “superstitious hocus-pocus,” Brennan posits that visions and voices may arise not from the spectral plane, but from historical experimentation with mind-expanding hallucinogens such as peyote, mandrake root and LSD. He logically ponders whether these drugs simply induce artificial delusions or expand the human consciousness sufficiently to receive phantasmal messages. The source for Brennan’s unblinking faith in such a predominantly conjectural subject may lie in late, hair-raising chapters describing his own eerie, nonverbal encounters with spirits and poltergeists in Ireland. Ultimately, his deftly corralled, intriguing research translates into unsettling, if academically written, “proof” of the existence of spiritual suggestion.

Certain hokum for skeptics, but the more open-minded will savor this chillingly convincing testimonial.

Pub Date: June 13, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-59020-862-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2013

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An educational and inspiring biography of seminal American innovators.

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THE WRIGHT BROTHERS

A charmingly pared-down life of the “boys” that grounds their dream of flight in decent character and work ethic.

There is a quiet, stoical awe to the accomplishments of these two unprepossessing Ohio brothers in this fluently rendered, skillfully focused study by two-time Pulitzer Prize–winning and two-time National Book Award–winning historian McCullough (The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris, 2011, etc.). The author begins with a brief yet lively depiction of the Wright home dynamic: reeling from the death of their mother from tuberculosis in 1889, the three children at home, Wilbur, Orville, and Katharine, had to tend house, as their father, an itinerant preacher, was frequently absent. McCullough highlights the intellectual stimulation that fed these bookish, creative, close-knit siblings. Wilbur was the most gifted, yet his parents’ dreams of Yale fizzled after a hockey accident left the boy with a mangled jaw and broken teeth. The boys first exhibited their mechanical genius in their print shop and then in their bicycle shop, which allowed them the income and space upstairs for machine-shop invention. Dreams of flight were reawakened by reading accounts by Otto Lilienthal and other learned treatises and, specifically, watching how birds flew. Wilbur’s dogged writing to experts such as civil engineer Octave Chanute and the Smithsonian Institute provided advice and response, as others had long been preoccupied by controlled flight. Testing their first experimental glider took the Wrights over several seasons to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, to experiment with their “wing warping” methods. There, the strange, isolated locals marveled at these most “workingest boys,” and the brothers continually reworked and repaired at every step. McCullough marvels at their success despite a lack of college education, technical training, “friends in high places” or “financial backers”—they were just boys obsessed by a dream and determined to make it reality.

An educational and inspiring biography of seminal American innovators.

Pub Date: May 5, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4767-2874-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2015

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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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