A top-notch intellectual biography.

Biography of Roger Williams (1603–1683), the 17th-century rebel whose ideas led to the formation of the Rhode Island colony on the American continent.

Popular historian Barry (The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History, 2004, etc.) planned to write a book about America during after World War I, with the narrative built around the role of religion in public life. But as he researched the history of church-state relations in England and America, he kept running up against Williams, who, with his wife and other Puritan refugees, sought to escape persecution for their religious beliefs. Settling in Massachusetts, however, Williams began to feel a new form of religious persecution. His evolving beliefs about the need to separate church and state, and the related need to respect the liberty of the individual, led to his expulsion from Massachusetts. Williams barely survived a snowy winter in the woods, and his journey for a spot where individual liberty could thrive led him to build a city called Providence, in what would much later become the state of Rhode Island. Barry skillfully demonstrates the physical hardships faced by Williams and his intrepid followers. He also delineates the Williams’ intellectual influences, including jurist Edward Coke and Francis Bacon, the philosopher of science. In Massachusetts, Williams simultaneously won the respect of and clashed with the colony’s governor, John Winthrop, who is more than a foil throughout the biography. Barry compares and contrasts the theological and political thought of Williams and Winthrop to emphasize the remarkably fresh, daring thinking of the Rhode Island founder.

A top-notch intellectual biography.

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-670-02305-9

Page Count: 436

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2011


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



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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