Though James McPherson is still the preeminent Civil War historian, no reader should pass up the chance to read Keegan.

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THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR

A MILITARY HISTORY

A solid history of the Civil War by the grand master of military writing.

After two modern classics—The Face of Battle (1976) and The Price of Admiralty (1988)—Keegan has followed with numerous coffee-table books as well as fine histories of World Wars I and II and a less-successful account of the Iraq war. Here he turns his attention to America, with dependably satisfying results. Downplaying battle descriptions, the author delivers a shrewd portrait of mid-19th-century America and the background to the war. Keegan stresses big-picture issues of politics, diplomacy, strategy and daily life, so history buffs who skim the battle scenes will still have plenty of rich insights to contemplate. Though he is no revisionist, the author delivers a few jolts, including the fact that, on a per capita basis, the Confederacy was wealthier than the Union—provided slave property was included in the calculation. The Union’s vaunted industrial superiority was a fact but contributed only modestly to victory; Southern troops never lacked arms and ammunition. In war, the side with the most soldiers wins unless the opponent acts with particular brilliance, a scarce quality among Confederate leaders. With most of the population and media on the East Coast, writes the author, both sides’ obsession with the fighting in Virginia disguised the steady retreat of the Confederacy. Robert E. Lee’s triumphs notwithstanding, the war in the East remained a stalemate until his sudden collapse in 1865. In the West, notes the author, Union armies began advancing in 1861 and continued with barely a pause.

Though James McPherson is still the preeminent Civil War historian, no reader should pass up the chance to read Keegan.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-307-26343-8

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2009

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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