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GEORGE F. KENNAN

AN AMERICAN LIFE

The long-awaited authorized biography of George F. Kennan (1904–2005), the creator of America's Cold War containment strategy.

Kennan commissioned Gaddis (History/Yale Univ.; The Cold War: A New History, 2006, etc.) to write his life story back in 1981, on condition that the work not be published until after his death. Then 75, Kennan lived to be 101. Now the story can be told, and it is well worth the wait. At the beginning of his diplomatic career in the late 1920s, Kennan, along with a handful of others, was recruited into the Russian Studies section of the State Department's Eastern European division by Robert Kelley, and he helped FDR's Ambassador William Bullitt open diplomatic relations. Gaddis has had unique access to official papers, Kennan's own publications and documents, the diary that he kept throughout his life and his correspondence, especially to his sister. This access will be especially revealing for those interested in discovering more about the period from 1944 to 1952, which saw victory in World War II, the development of the atomic bomb, the adoption of containment, the beginning of the Cold War and the adoption of the Truman Doctrine. Throughout the book, Kennan’s papers make clear what he was responsible for, and what he wasn't. Gaddis also provides intriguing accounts of Kennan's work with the Marshall Plan, his establishment of a training program for upcoming officers in the military and diplomatic service and his work with Frank Wisner and the Office of Policy Coordination. But of equal interest are his later life at Princeton's School of Advanced Studies and his relations with subsequent Presidents, including Bill Clinton, whose expansion of NATO after the collapse of the Soviet Union Kennan forcefully objected to. A well-rounded treatment of the life of a man who made significant contributions to his country and the world at large.

 

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-59420-312-1

Page Count: 800

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2011

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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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