This episodic, warm exploration of identity and culture is both wide-eyed and surprisingly wise.

WILD LIFE

DISPATCHES FROM A CHILDHOOD OF BABOONS AND BUTTON-DOWNS

Coming-of-age between a baboon research camp in Africa and a private school in Pennsylvania.

The daughter of American professors and primatologists, Roberts spent her early years in Kenya in the Amboseli National Park, “close enough to the border with Tanzania to see Mount Kilimanjaro.” A brief spell in Philadelphia left her feeling that her new home was “too big inside and not enough outside.” When her parents moved the family back to a remote camp on a game reserve in Botswana, it signaled new adventure. The author’s meticulous child’s view stitches back-and-forth vignettes of a carefree girlhood among wildlife and a rougher existence at school in Pennsylvania. Refreshingly, Roberts avoids many common stereotypes of Africa; she clearly captures its many wonders as well as its perils, such as a mamba that she shot with an air rifle. Lush descriptions linger over flora and fauna, providing an immersive narrative that will have readers admiring the author’s mostly charming adventures, from piloting a boat at age 10 to joining her parents on their baboon watch. Roberts also shows us the everyday rigors of living in tents and enduring the oppressive heat, which often left them simply seeking shade from 9 to 5, when “it was too hot to function.” Recounting her time in the U.S., the author emphasizes her feelings of displacement and difficulties navigating many rite-of-passage moments. The chapters about high school turn more serious, and the pace slows as Roberts turns her attention to familiar adolescent pains. She weaves broader topics, such as the HIV crisis in Botswana, into a later chapter, and while she longs for the days at baboon camp, “American Keena has given me some important experiences as well.” The journey’s end is elegiac yet hopeful: “The wardrobe door may have closed on Narnia, but that doesn’t mean the story is over.”

This episodic, warm exploration of identity and culture is both wide-eyed and surprisingly wise.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4515-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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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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