On Seas of Glory delves no deeper than the History Channel would, but its digressions, anecdotes, and prejudices make for an...




Bombastic title aside, an engaging if quirky history of the US Navy.

Former naval aviator Lehman (Making War, 1992), who went on to become Secretary of the Navy under Ronald Reagan, is clearly a history buff. From his early chapters on, he mixes general history with thumbnail biographies of naval figures (beginning with the Revolution), not necessarily the most important. He then adds descriptions of battles and other incidents that strike his interest, and doesn’t hesitate to express personal opinions. Despite impressive engagements, the Colonies’ navy exerted little influence on the Revolution’s outcome. Privateering (really legalized piracy) was another matter, requiring much of the British fleet to devote itself to protecting commerce and stirring English merchants to call for peace. Lehman feels historians give privateering insufficient attention as a major weapon in warfare and suggests that our navy could put it to use today against, say, Iraq or Iran. He agonizes over government neglect of the navy after the war of 1812, delights in the fireworks of the Civil War, agonizes over the sea force’s decline afterward, delights in its rebirth at the end of the 19th century, and grumbles as it shrinks after WWI. He perks up, however, with WWII, describing with enthusiasm the war’s politics, strategy, and epic battles, and pausing for technical details and biographies of significant naval figures (as well as lesser ones, such as his father). As the cold war begins, Lehman reveals his conservative credentials, fuming at restraints on naval action in Korea and Vietnam and the refusal to unleash our power in the face of Soviet subversion. A happy ending comes with the election of Reagan, an avalanche of money for the Navy, and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

On Seas of Glory delves no deeper than the History Channel would, but its digressions, anecdotes, and prejudices make for an entertaining read.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2001

ISBN: 0-684-87176-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2001

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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