A vivid, suspenseful story of women determined to defy gravity—and men—to fulfill their lofty dreams.




In the decades between the world wars, women took to the skies as daring, record-breaking fliers.

Drawing on abundant sources, including letters, published and unpublished memoirs, newspaper reports, and archival material from more than a dozen museums and historical collections, O’Brien (Outside Short: Big Dreams, Hard Times, and One County’s Quest for Basketball Greatness, 2013) has fashioned a brisk, spirited history of early aviation focused on 5 irrepressible women. Amelia Earhart was the most famous among them, but the others were no less passionate and courageous: Louise McPhetridge Thaden, tall, stately, and, even as a child, “a follower of boyish pursuits,” according to her mother; Ruth Nichols, who chafed at a future as the socialite daughter of wealthy parents; Ruth Elder, determined to be the first woman to fly across the Atlantic; and Florence Klingensmith, who trained as a mechanic so she could learn planes inside and out but whose first aviation job was as a stunt girl, standing on a wing in her bathing suit. In 1928, when women managed to get jobs in other male dominated fields, fewer than 12 had a pilot’s license, and those ambitious for prizes and recognition faced entrenched sexism from the men who ran air races, backed fliers, and financed the purchase of planes. They decided to organize: “For our own protection,” one of them said, “we must learn to think for ourselves, and do as much work as possible on our planes.” Although sometimes rivals in the air, they forged strong friendships and offered one another unabated encouragement. O’Brien vividly recounts the dangers of early flight: In shockingly rickety planes, pilots sat in open cockpits, often blinded by ice pellets or engine smoke; instruments were unreliable, if they worked at all; sudden changes in weather could be life threatening. Fliers regularly emerged from their planes covered in dust and grease. Crashes were common, with planes bursting into flames; but risking injury and even death failed to dampen the women’s passion to fly.

A vivid, suspenseful story of women determined to defy gravity—and men—to fulfill their lofty dreams.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-328-87664-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

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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