A useful, educational tome featuring top-drawer contributors—though female scholars are woefully underrepresented.




A fluidly fashioned collection of essays about how the roster of American presidents shaped the executive duties as defined in the Constitution.

Editor Gormley (Dean, Duquesne Univ. School of Law; The Death of American Virtue: Clinton vs. Starr, 2010, etc.) assembles an evenhanded consideration of each president’s operating style and effectiveness, from George Washington to Barack Obama. Each executive has had to assume the constitutional duties of the office: serving as the commander in chief of the Army and Navy, appointing ambassadors and judges, granting reprieves and pardons, delivering the State of the Union address to Congress, and vetoing legislation. Yet the Constitution is maddeningly vague on specifics and even, as Gormley notes in his crisp introduction, seems to assume “that the president and Congress will have to duke it out, battling over the parameters of their respective powers,” as most evident in the current political climate under President Obama. Precedent has established the strictures of the office, starting with Washington’s keen sense of caution in respecting the separation of powers (he only used the veto twice) and in exercising executive restraint; he stepped down after two terms in order to avoid the appearance of a long-reigning monarch. Yet these precedents were exploded during the four terms of Franklin Roosevelt, who expanded emergency executive powers during extraordinary “times of war and hysteria.” James Monroe’s historic Monroe Doctrine (1823) first set the principles that guided foreign policy in the Western Hemisphere, while the death in office of William Henry Harrison forced the determination of succession from then on. Each scholarly essayist—all of whom provide extensive notes at the conclusion of each chapter—pinpoints a defining presidential moment, from the Emancipation Proclamation of Abraham Lincoln to Watergate and the presidential pardon of Richard Nixon to the navigation of war powers under both of the Bush administrations.

A useful, educational tome featuring top-drawer contributors—though female scholars are woefully underrepresented.

Pub Date: May 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4798-3990-2

Page Count: 680

Publisher: New York Univ.

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

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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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