A valuable account of an extraordinary man, although most readers will have to accept Hawking’s genius on faith.

STEPHEN HAWKING

A MEMOIR OF FRIENDSHIP AND PHYSICS

Our era’s leading physicist receives an insightful send-off.

Stephen Hawking (1942-2018) was the world’s most famous scientist. Sadly, it was his paralysis, rather than his discoveries, that made him almost universally recognizable. In 2003, Hawking contacted physicist and author Mlodinow to help with his popular science writing. Here, the author recounts their friendship as well as Hawking’s earlier life and makes an earnest attempt to explain his work. In 1963, beginning doctoral studies at Cambridge, Hawking developed amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a progressive nerve degeneration that leads to paralysis and death. This devastating news, writes Mlodinow, left Hawking with “the choice of wasting away in spirit as well as body or finding a world of the mind in which he could still function. Where some in his situation found God, Stephen found physics.” Almost completely paralyzed by 1990, he continued work despite requiring 24-hour care. An American foundation helped at first, but it was popular writing, beginning with his 1988 bestseller, A Brief History of Time, that enabled him to bear the massive expenses associated with this care. Einstein’s iconic 1905 theory of special relativity, with its revelations on time, mass-energy, and light, have revolutionized our daily lives and technology. However, Hawking concentrated on Einstein’s 1915 theory of general relativity, which explains how gravity and space deviate from Newton’s simpler laws only at extremes—the massive gravity of stars and black holes or cosmic distances and times. As a result, scientists largely ignored it until Hawking took an interest in the 1960s. His controversial findings on the nature of black holes galvanized fellow physicists. The Big Bang idea originated in 1927, but Hawking’s calculations provided evidence that it happened. Mlodinow doesn’t delve deeply enough into Hawking’s unique brilliance, but he provides an illuminating portrait of perseverance and determination.

A valuable account of an extraordinary man, although most readers will have to accept Hawking’s genius on faith.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4868-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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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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