A lively, chatty exploration of a life that veered in many intriguing directions.



The biography of a little-known figure who escaped Nazi Germany as a teenager and, after a colorful series of careers, went to work as a cataloger for the Library of Congress for two decades.

The first book by fellow librarian Stewart takes advantage of Ruth Rappaport's (1923-2010) voluminous diaries and letters as well as an oral history recorded a few weeks before her death, all now stored at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. In 1938, then 15-year-old Rappaport, “a diligent, intense, bespectacled bookworm who questioned everyone and everything,” boarded a train for a visit from her home in Leipzig to Zurich and then refused to go back with the mother who, like her father, would later die in a concentration camp. In Zurich, she was taken in by a series of foster families, one of which complained that she was “spoiled and self-important,” while she waited to get a visa to the United States. A year later, she moved in with her wealthy aunt and uncle in Seattle, where she continued a heavy involvement with the Zionist movement that she had begun back in Germany. After years of dropping into and out of college and working for various papers in Israel, Paris, and New York, she settled on librarianship as a career. In Saigon during the Vietnam War, she was responsible for establishing a network of libraries for those in all of the armed forces. Then, from 1971 to 1993, she worked as a cataloger at the Library of Congress, where her first job was to recatalog a collection that included “pornography, erotica, race-track guides and other items confiscated by the FBI.” Stewart is frank about Rappaport's prickly personality, her tendency to carry on with married men, and the idealism that led her to abandon one project or person after another. Those details, coupled with more admirable qualities like curiosity and drive, serve to make her an entertaining presence.

A lively, chatty exploration of a life that veered in many intriguing directions.

Pub Date: May 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5039-0415-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Little A

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...


A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...


The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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