A masterfully written political road map for anyone wondering how we got to where we are, a bad place indeed.

BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE

NEWT GINGRICH, THE FALL OF A SPEAKER, AND THE RISE OF THE NEW REPUBLICAN PARTY

Politics is war without blood, said Mao, but Newt Gingrich emerges as red in tooth and fang in this thoughtful study of his politics in action.

According to Zelizer’s (History and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.; The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society, 2015, etc.) account, Gingrich had acquired a thirst for political power by high school, announcing to a teacher that he intended to move to Georgia “to create a Republican Party.” That there was already such a party didn’t matter: He wasn’t in charge of it, and that was his first aim, certain as ever of the correctness of his views and the wrongness of his opponents. It took a few failed runs, but Gingrich rose steadily through the ranks of the Republican Party in Congress, undercutting his allies while waging ugly, unforgiving battles against his enemies. Gingrich, writes Zelizer, learned valuable lessons in leadership style and strategy alike from Richard Nixon, whom he credits with having gone after the overlooked blue-collar (and traditionally Democratic) vote shunned by the liberal/moderate wing of the GOP; he also changed the terms of the argument from “establishment versus outsider, not liberal versus conservative.” There are few admiring moments in the book since Gingrich is not an admirable man, but the author does give him points for chutzpah. After all, Gingrich based his empire-building campaigns in Congress on a war against corruption even as he was as guilty of it as anyone. Still, building much of his power on a concerted action to remove Speaker of the House Jim Wright from his post, he “made his biggest impact on the GOP by defining what partisanship should look like and by expanding the boundaries of what was permissible in the arena of congressional warfare.” In the bargain, writes Zelizer in this sharp, lucid portrait, he drew people even more radical than he into the party; in the end, they overthrew him, too.

A masterfully written political road map for anyone wondering how we got to where we are, a bad place indeed.

Pub Date: April 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-59420-665-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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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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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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