Inspiring reading about women who have shown “that it’s all right to occupy our humanity.”

IN PRAISE OF DIFFICULT WOMEN

LIFE LESSONS FROM 29 HEROINES WHO DARED TO BREAK THE RULES

Karbo (Julia Child Rules: Lessons on Savoring Life, 2013, etc.) sketches the lives of 29 extraordinary women.

The author defines “difficult” women as those who believe their “needs, passions, and goals are at least as important as those of everyone around” them. In this book, Karbo creates word portraits—accompanied by drawings—of modern women who refused to let any social, cultural, or personal barriers stand in the way of their respective “mission[s].” Her subjects run the gamut from writers, artists, and performers to athletes, politicians, and media executives and include luminaries such as J.K. Rowling, Josephine Baker, Billie Jean King, Helen Gurley Brown, and Hillary Clinton. Karbo begins each portrait with one word that helps describe the woman: Rowling is “feisty,” Baker “gutsy,” King “competitive,” Brown “relentless,” and Clinton “ambitious.” She then highlights those parts of her subjects’ lives that have earned them reputations as “difficult.” Despite monumental success as a novelist, Rowling refused to allow herself to be “imprisoned by her role as creator of one of the most beloved fictional universes in literary history.” Dancer Baker dared to shake “body parts no one knew you could shake” up until four days before her death at age 68. King, who beat fellow tennis player Bobby Riggs in a 1973 “battle of the sexes” tennis match, fought tirelessly for “equal pay, equal treatment [and] equal respect” for women athletes. For more than 50 years, Brown advocated that women should not only enjoy the glamorous life, but also become sex objects, the better to enjoy the sexual freedom. Clinton kept moving forward toward lofty goals like the presidency despite the sexual and political scandals that rocked her husband’s administration. Refreshingly frank, Karbo’s book celebrates women who forged provocative identities and found life fulfillment despite the odds they faced.

Inspiring reading about women who have shown “that it’s all right to occupy our humanity.”

Pub Date: Feb. 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4262-1774-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: National Geographic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2017

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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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