A plausible and provocative hypothesis on how methods of memorization may have laid the groundwork for many mysterious...



A thought-provoking theory on “memory palaces” and their significance to ancient ancestral civilizations.

Science writer Kelly’s (Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies, 2015) thorough, fascinating examination of indigenous cultures of Australia and New Zealand led her to a new anthropological philosophy on how Stonehenge and other prehistoric monuments were built and their shared purpose. Throughout her doctorate studies, the author invested increasing amounts of time studying the knowledge patterns of primitive, nonliterate societies and the ways in which orality made shared knowledge memorable and applicable. Though widely considered to be intellectually inferior, indigenous cultures like the aborigines of Australia, among many others, developed complex exchanges of encyclopedic knowledge through methods of memory and repetition, perfected over centuries of practice and adaptation. Kelly believes these place-associative memorization systems, whether patterned through songs, dance, mythological stories, stars, landscape, or handheld totems, were instrumental in generating the knowledge necessary to construct what have become some of the world’s most mystifying architectural wonders. Deepening her research, the author applied these mnemonic techniques to her own life, experimenting with local landscapes and honing personal memory skills with representational imagery; she used activities as simple as a walk with her dog to illustrate and apply this ancient technique. Most interestingly, Kelly then applies this theory to the ancient monuments that have confounded and fascinated mankind for centuries. These include Stonehenge, which the author brilliantly and painstakingly analyzes in time period stages, the extraordinary monolithic moai of Easter Island, the expansive geoglyphs in the southern Peruvian desert, and the stone rows and circles of Neolithic France and Britain. Kelly believes all of these were constructed as memory aids to ancient elders, and she generously addresses each location with cleareyed, occasionally dense, yet absorbing prose while drawing important attention to a radical new idea about the real purpose of these historic marvels.

A plausible and provocative hypothesis on how methods of memorization may have laid the groundwork for many mysterious extant monuments.

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-68177-325-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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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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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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