An often engaging, personal account of a complicated subject.


Bringing Life


Atkinson’s debut memoir recounts the hardships and rewards of working to develop war-torn Afghanistan. 

Beginning with his memories of the attacks of 9/11, Atkinson details his journey to working in Afghanistan during the outbreak of the war. What began as a two-month commitment became a nearly seven-year excursion, during which he oversaw multiple construction projects and endured the harsh realities of working in the region. His experiences highlight the joy and purpose that his work provided him, and also the immense danger and political corruption that threatened it, often in close proximity. Early in the memoir, for example, he recounts meeting with a local governor to discuss a road development project only for the governor to be killed two weeks later by a suicide bomber. In the memoir’s final chapters, the author writes how he became a victim of extortion that led to his wrongful imprisonment. Atkinson’s deeply held Christian faith informs his interpretations of these many experiences, and they provide a constant source of reflection throughout the memoir. It unfolds in a series of somewhat fragmentary chapters, each focused on a particular project or incident. Like the photos that accompany each chapter, they offer readers candid snapshots of the country, the Afghan people, and the people working with them or serving in the armed forces. Throughout, Atkinson avoids condescension or judgment, even when his faith and background put him in conflict with the people he encounters. The memoir’s most engaging moments focus on the hardships he experienced, although the author rarely dwells on them negatively, instead referring back to his faith for guidance. This tone, combined with the scattered structure, results in a compelling, if uneven, narrative.

An often engaging, personal account of a complicated subject. 

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4827-7621-8

Page Count: 242

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2015

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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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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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