A stately, knowledgeable study jostling for space among the groaning bookshelves devoted to the third president.

JEFFERSON

ARCHITECT OF AMERICAN LIBERTY

A fully fleshed biography of Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) that emphasizes his creative paradoxes and accomplishments.

As presented by Boles (History/Rice Univ.; University Builder: Edgar Odell Lovett and the Founding of the Rice Institute, 2007, etc.), Jefferson, “in all his guises,” displayed an industrious commitment to public service in the young republic, passionate devotion to personal relationships and copious letter writing, and dedication to his state and Monticello homestead. Above all, Jefferson possessed enormous intellectual curiosity, starting from his studies of philosophy and science at the College of William and Mary, and later law, continuing through his years living in Paris as commissioner and later secretary of state, and climaxing in his creation of the University of Virginia. Boles elegantly delineates the milestones of Jefferson’s life and the expression of his mind—e.g., in the writing of the Declaration of Independence, in which, “with consummate artistry, [he] summarized years of thinking and political philosophizing in about two hundred words.” A man of his time, Jefferson was steeped in the revolutionary ideals of the Enlightenment, such as the need for religious tolerance and the belief (ultimately struck from the Declaration) that slaves “had rights identical to those of the rest of the American people”—and yet he notoriously held on to his own slaves. Boles treats Jefferson’s relationship with his young slave Sally Hemings with the same discretion that Jefferson did, though after she bore him five children, the secret was certainly well-known, both at Monticello and publicly. Curiously, Jefferson never traveled farther than 50 miles west of Monticello, yet as president, he was obsessed with America’s western expansion and famously secured the Louisiana Purchase. The author devotes a chapter to Jefferson’s “Living with Paradox” and reminds readers not to judge the sage of Monticello by 21st-century terms. Still, regarding emancipation, “in no other aspect of his life does Jefferson seem more distant from us or more disappointing.”

A stately, knowledgeable study jostling for space among the groaning bookshelves devoted to the third president.

Pub Date: April 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-465-09468-4

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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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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