A charming, if unfocused, memoir that offers readable reflections from start to finish.

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A BROADER VISION

A 96-year-old Canadian physicist and entrepreneur looks back on his long life in this debut memoir.

Burgener gives a thorough accounting of his life, from his birth in 1917 through his childhood, education, later family life and extensive career in the physical sciences. His main career focus was spectrographic sampling and analysis, and although he writes mostly about the workings and growing complexity of the spectrography business, he also takes the time to briefly describe the science behind his life’s work. Throughout, he sketches in important historical events, including both world wars, the Cold War and the 1945 Soviet invasion of Hungary, and their effect on his life and career. Burgener has a sharp mind, and his writing style and voice reflect the straightforward, rational approach he describes in his work. His sentences are clear and unadorned, if a touch lengthy at times (as in the book’s subtitle, “107 Years of Interesting Anecdotes in the Life of a Canadian Physicist Who Changed the World with Spectroscopy and Analytical Chemistry”). As a result, his prose is easy to absorb. More to the point, Burgener’s life is truly fascinating, filled with relevant work, travel all over the world and a family life that was clearly fulfilling. The picture that emerges is of a man who’s humble and grateful for the life he’s led. His story is so wide-ranging, however, that it lacks focus; it feels more like a compilation of memories than a unified narrative, and some readers may wish that the memoir had a more coherent framework. Most others, however, will simply enjoy Burgener’s clear thinking and grateful appreciation.

A charming, if unfocused, memoir that offers readable reflections from start to finish.

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2014

ISBN: 978-1460206324

Page Count: 272

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Feb. 28, 2014

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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