Quirky, idiosyncratic, oddly balanced and surpassingly entertaining.


This entry in the Penguin Lives series focuses on Branch Rickey’s game-changing efforts to bring Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers, shattering baseball’s race barrier.

At the age of 80, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Breslin (The Good Rat: A True Story, 2008, etc.) retains his legendary savvy street smarts and crustiness. In a brief volume about a baseball executive, he creates opportunities to crack wise (“Baseball was a sport for hillbillies with great eyesight”), skewer (actress Tallulah Bankhead was “a loud dimwit from Alabama”) and appropriately condemn (he blasts baseball journalists of the Robinson era for their unconscionable social blindness and moral retardation). Wesley Branch Rickey (1881–1965), born on an Ohio farm, attended Ohio Wesleyan University, played baseball, made it to the pros (he didn’t excel), went to law school and then returned to baseball, where he spent most of the rest of his life as an executive. Breslin credits him for inventing the farm system—a system he compares, fairly crudely, with slavery. The author skims across most of Rickey’s career, rightly highlights his efforts to integrate Major League Baseball and shows how the trio of black players Rickey brought to the Dodgers—Robinson, pitcher Don Newcombe, catcher Roy Campanella—elevated the team to elite status. Breslin covers Rickey’s final years in a furious few pages, including a stand-alone chapter about legendary black pitcher Satchel Paige. Along the way, we catch glimpses of Rickey’s Christian piety, his GOP allegiance and his hand in assembling the 1960 Pirates, a team that defeated the Yankees in Game 7 of the World Series with a home run by second baseman Bill Mazeroski, the last player Rickey had scouted. Breslin ends in 2008 with the election of Barack Obama, an event he alluded to on page one.

Quirky, idiosyncratic, oddly balanced and surpassingly entertaining.

Pub Date: March 21, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-670-02249-6

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Dec. 30, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2011

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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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