A well-supported, wide-ranging history of the Western world.




How European culture has shaped the world for the past 500 years.

MacLennan (Spain and the Process of European Integration, 1957-85, 2001, etc.), the director of the Cervantes Institute in London, worries that the European Union is being unfairly attacked and European unification eroded by revivals of nationalism. To counter those forces, he offers a sweeping history from the 16th century to the present, making a compelling case for European influence throughout the world. Aimed at readers who may wonder, “what has Europe done for us?” the author surveys Europe’s achievements, synthesizing histories of different nations as well as overviews by historians such as Norman Davies, Niall Ferguson, and Felipe Fernandez-Armesto. The Renaissance, writes MacLennan, introduced decisive changes in what was “a relatively backward, inward-looking civilization.” “The market economy, the state, and the knowledge-based society” propelled Europe “to take the lead over all other civilizations.” Exploration was spurred by improved sailing technology and daring adventurers. With Columbus’ discovery of America, Spain transformed itself into a global empire, with Portugal, France, and Britain following in overseas expansion, establishment of trade networks, and economic development between Europe and the rest of the world. The age of empire was also the age of economic, social, and political revolutions. The French Revolution, MacLennan asserts, proved transformative for the Western world by promoting equality rather than “a closed elite that monopolized power” and wealth. As European nations extended into Asia, the clash between East and West resulted in cohabitation in India, the Philippines, and Southeast Asia; Westernization of Japan; but resistance by the Chinese, who increasingly looked inward. MacLennan traces the influence of European culture through immigration, colonialism in Africa, and intellectual migration and exile after the world wars. He contrasts the American dream of individual accumulation of wealth with the European dream of a socially and economically harmonious society, underscored by the idea of soft power, “the ability to shape the behavior of others through appeal and attraction.”

A well-supported, wide-ranging history of the Western world.

Pub Date: July 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68177-756-6

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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