A somewhat nostalgic, still hopeful look at the residue of American intervention in Afghanistan, from a journalist who knows...




A prominent journalist embedded with the U.S. troops chasing the Taliban from Afghanistan in 2001 returns to observe the new facts on the ground.

Returning to Afghanistan in the summer of 2013 for a fact-finding mission, former NBC News correspondent and current roving reporter and author Sites (The Things They Cannot Say: Stories Soldiers Won't Tell You About What They've Seen, Done or Failed to Do in War, 2013, etc.) offers not only a thorough roundup of the military state of affairs, but also a good sense of how the Afghanis are coping and looking ahead. The author moves geographically through the country, having entered from Tajikistan on the northern border, as he did crossing the Amu Darya River in 2001, to Kabul; then to Jalalabad and Tora Bora; and finally to Wardak and Logar provinces and the perilous combat outposts. As American troops continue to withdraw from the country, training the Afghan National Police to take over, with more or less success, Sites gauges how the police feel about assuming control. The central government of Hamid Karzai has proven ineffective, and the warlords seem to be arming to address the renewed Taliban threat. Sites worries that without a national identity, they will have a hard time beating the Taliban, especially minus the services of the legendary Northern Alliance strongman Ahmad Shah Massoud, who was assassinated in 2001. Destroyed and abandoned military hardware litters the landscape, while the memory of lost journalist comrades like Johanne Sutton is gripping and poignant. During his journey, Sites interviewed military commanders, such as Northern warlord Nabi Gechi, as well as international aid workers and former Taliban warriors, and he visited the Kabul zoo, a heroin den under the Pul-e-Sokhta Bridge, and residential centers for addicted women and children.

A somewhat nostalgic, still hopeful look at the residue of American intervention in Afghanistan, from a journalist who knows the terrain.

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0062339416

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Perennial/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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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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