Wholly captivating natural history.



An entire book devoted to the odd caracara? Yes, and the narrative rarely lags.

Meiburg, a journalist and leader of the band Shearwater, begins with Darwin, whose 1831-1836 voyage around the world has provided evergreen material for natural historians since. During his trek, Darwin visited the Falkland Islands, which, along with the Galápagos, are the only New World lands that Europeans actually discovered because they were never inhabited. There he encountered a handsome, raven-sized bird of prey, the striated caracara, distantly related to the falcon, whose bizarre behavior persuaded him to devote “more ink to their antics in The Voyage of the Beagle than he gave any other bird.” Meiburg’s enthusiasm matches Darwin’s, and readers will share it. Unlike the fresh-meat diet of most birds of prey, caracara eat nearly everything, including insects, carrion, garbage, mucus, feces, and, according to Falkland lore, “cans of engine grease.” Possessing an insatiable curiosity and intelligence, they have no fear of man, a recipe for extinction, which may be their fate. After a vivid description of the bird, its life on the isolated islands, and a torrent of amusing anecdotes, Meiburg steps back to deliver the big picture. Since the 1990s, scientists agree that birds descended directly from dinosaurs and have flourished since the larger creatures went suddenly extinct 65 million years ago. From 700 species identified during the age of dinosaurs, more than 10,000 bird species live today, far outnumbering mammals. Not only a fine writer, the author is clearly an adventurer, and he devotes other entertaining chapters to treks into the high Andes and South American jungles in search of other caracara species. He also detours regularly into the life of William Henry Hudson (1841-1922), the British naturalist and ornithologist who was acclaimed during his lifetime but is now known mainly for Green Mansions, a romantic novel set in the Venezuelan jungle.

Wholly captivating natural history.

Pub Date: March 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-101-87570-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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