An effective reach across time that is both poignant and entertaining.




Nearly one century ago, a year full of inspiring, thrilling, sad and sordid events left Americans eyeing the future with a remarkable optimism.

In his critically acclaimed High Steel: The Daring Men Who Built the World’s Greatest Skyline (2004), Rasenberger demonstrated a knack for capturing the zeitgeist in a nation determined to grow, and his unique talent is on display again in his take on a year for which he makes a compelling case: More than any other in the 20th-century’s initial decade, 1908 portended America’s destiny. Wealth was obscenely concentrated, especially after a private capitalist, J.P. Morgan, almost single-handedly yanked Wall Street back from the brink of collapse. There was the assault on the North Pole by two Americans—one eventually lionized, one dismissed as deluded or worse—and Henry Ford introduced the Model T, a piece of technology viewed by Rasenberger as unsurpassed in its impact on American society until the atomic bomb. An ebullient Theodore Roosevelt sent a fleet of U.S. battleships around the world, and the Wright Brothers publicly demonstrated (one tragedy aside) that flight was not only possibly, but here to stay. Not to mention a baseball season that began its final week with a triple dead heat for the National League pennant. The author admits that much of his information has already been covered in previous books. The murder of architect Stanford White, seducer of Evelyn Nesbit, for instance, put the insanity defense on the map and is an irresistibly seamy tale. A full-blown race riot in Springfield, Ill., was the northern urban precursor for violence in decades to come. But Rasenberger’s talent lies in his ability to synchronously thread it all together, as the year unfolds, with random happenstances—some wistful or intriguing, others obscure. It may not be foolproof—some readers may find color and texture, others nagging digression—but it’s continually engaging.

An effective reach across time that is both poignant and entertaining.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-7432-8077-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2007

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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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Never especially challenging or provocative but pleasant enough light reading.


Former Dirty Jobs star Rowe serves up a few dozen brief human-interest stories.

Building on his popular podcast, the author “tells some true stories you probably don’t know, about some famous people you probably do.” Some of those stories, he allows, have been subject to correction, just as on his TV show he was “corrected on windmills and oil derricks, coal mines and construction sites, frack tanks, pig farms, slime lines, and lumber mills.” Still, it’s clear that he takes pains to get things right even if he’s not above a few too-obvious groaners, writing about erections (of skyscrapers, that is, and, less elegantly, of pigs) here and Joan Rivers (“the Bonnie Parker of comedy”) there, working the likes of Bob Dylan, William Randolph Hearst, and John Wayne into the discourse. The most charming pieces play on Rowe’s own foibles. In one, he writes of having taken a soft job as a “caretaker”—in quotes—of a country estate with few clear lines of responsibility save, as he reveals, humoring the resident ghost. As the author notes on his website, being a TV host gave him great skills in “talking for long periods without saying anything of substance,” and some of his stories are more filler than compelling narrative. In others, though, he digs deeper, as when he writes of Jason Everman, a rock guitarist who walked away from two spectacularly successful bands (Nirvana and Soundgarden) in order to serve as a special forces operative: “If you thought that Pete Best blew his chance with the Beatles, consider this: the first band Jason bungled sold 30 million records in a single year.” Speaking of rock stars, Rowe does a good job with the oft-repeated matter of Charlie Manson’s brief career as a songwriter: “No one can say if having his song stolen by the Beach Boys pushed Charlie over the edge,” writes the author, but it can’t have helped.

Never especially challenging or provocative but pleasant enough light reading.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-982130-85-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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