Though the story suffers somewhat in the telling, Starr is proud of his accomplishments, and he deserves to be.

IT TAKES A SCHOOL

THE EXTRAORDINARY STORY OF AN AMERICAN SCHOOL IN THE WORLD'S #1 FAILED STATE

One man’s amazing accomplishment in founding a school amid a series of daunting challenges.

Feeling unfulfilled in his career as a successful hedge fund manager, Starr invested $500,000 of his own as seed money for a secondary school in impoverished Somaliland. It is the homeland of his uncle, a place where formal education had long ended with third grade. Otherwise, the author knew little about the African country until he was already committed to the project. Nor did he bring much expertise in founding and running a school; he had just “one undergraduate education class at Emory,” and he had been something of an educational underachiever throughout his schooling. “People have commented that it took a tremendous confidence, bordering on arrogance, to think that I could take students from Somaliland and get them to the point where they could compete in the world’s best universities.” If there is a weakness to the narrative, it involves perspective and tone. Not that Starr is a glory hog—he gives full credit to his students, who have been accepted at the likes of Harvard and Oberlin. However, if Tracy Kidder had written this book, it would have a different perspective on the teachers who failed to fulfill their one-year contracts, the partner with whom Starr had a bitter falling out over control and credit, and the local population that feared the first white man many of them had ever seen was a missionary in disguise, intent on converting their children from Islam to Christianity. The author’s invocation of “my favorite college book, Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged,” suggests that he subscribes to the “great man” theory of cultural accomplishment. Nonetheless, it’s hard to argue with Starr’s impressive results: “as of May 2016, Abaarso students have earned approximately $15 million in scholarships and financial aid, and the 2016-2017 school year will see almost ninety students studying around the world.”

Though the story suffers somewhat in the telling, Starr is proud of his accomplishments, and he deserves to be.

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-11346-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Nov. 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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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 48 LAWS OF POWER

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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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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