Perhaps better dipped into than read through. Still, an entertaining look at presidents at play.

PRESIDENTIAL DIVERSIONS

FROM GEORGE WASHINGTON TO GEORGE W. BUSH

Thumbnail sketches of America’s 43 presidents, highlighting the amusements, pastimes and hobbies that helped each shoulder the weight of office.

Grant and Harding appear never to have risked working too hard while in office, but most chief executives were type-A personalities who had to be coaxed by family and friends into taking time out for pleasure. Reagan, like Lincoln and FDR before him, took refuge in humorous storytelling, a talent foreign to the rigid Polk, Buchanan and both Adamses. For most of our presidents, their job’s all-consuming nature left little time for diversions. Accordingly, Boller (Presidential Campaigns, 2004, etc.) sometimes pads by relating how each man spent his leisure time before and after office. Eisenhower’s and Ford’s football days were long behind them by the time they entered the White House; Jimmy Carter started writing poetry and Bush I took up skydiving after their presidencies ended. Boller’s decision to include a chapter on each of the presidents occasionally leads to strained connections. It’s also a stretch to give each chief exec his very own adjective: “studious” Rutherford B. Hayes, “bookish” James A. Garfield, “doughty” Grover Cleveland, etc. Still, taken together, some interesting trends emerge. Presidential exercise? Watch horseback riding give way to walking, then to running and mountain biking. Presidential reading? See Greek and Roman classics replaced by Zane Grey and Ian Fleming. Swimming, fishing and golf emerge as the most popular presidential sports, cards the favorite game. Boller identifies still another constant: the inescapably political dimension to anything a president does, even how he chooses to spend his leisure. Benjamin Harrison was criticized for boating on Sundays; McKinley and Kennedy both hid their enthusiasm for golf (too “undignified” in 1896, too much like Ike in 1960); and Truman moved his poker games from the White House to the presidential yacht.

Perhaps better dipped into than read through. Still, an entertaining look at presidents at play.

Pub Date: June 4, 2007

ISBN: 0-15-100612-1

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2007

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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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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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