A book characterized by deep research and a seamless weaving together of the details of different lives.

RAY & JOAN

THE MAN WHO MADE THE MCDONALD'S FORTUNE AND THE WOMAN WHO GAVE IT ALL AWAY

A dual biography of the man who made McDonald's ubiquitous and his third wife, who, after his death, spent the last two decades of her life becoming one of most generous philanthropists in American history.

Journalist Napoli (Radio Shangri-la: What I Learned in Bhutan, the Happiest Kingdom on Earth, 2011) intended to write a sole biography of Joan Kroc (1928-2003), but she wisely decided to first document the life of Ray Kroc (1902-1984), who rose to become a billionaire via fast food after decades of marginal success as a traveling salesman hawking various products. Joan Beverly Mansfield Smith was playing piano and singing in a St. Paul, Minnesota, lounge when she caught the attention of her future husband, more than 25 years her senior. The romance was complicated not just by the age difference, but also due to the fact that Ray and Joan were both already married, with children in the mix. Ray would not be denied, although the road to remarriage took years to pave. Joan felt passion as well, apparently not fully comprehending Ray's alcoholism, his authoritarian personality, his unpleasant prejudices against almost everybody different from himself, and his inability to wrest attention from the business of expanding McDonald's. Publicly, Joan mostly suffered in silence until Ray's death, but behind the scenes, she often went about her life in a passive-aggressive manner. Napoli skillfully assembles the saga of their lives as a couple and just as skillfully portrays Joan's blossoming as a philanthropic force after Ray's death. She donated hundreds of millions of dollars to causes he would have vetoed, including hospice care, alcoholism treatment, AIDS research, Salvation Army recreation centers in low-income areas, National Public Radio, and much more. In the author’s telling, Ray never emerges as a sympathetic man, but Joan slowly morphs into a sympathetic heiress.

A book characterized by deep research and a seamless weaving together of the details of different lives.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-98495-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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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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