A great read for any book lover.

The surprising journey of a special book.

Davis (Mona Lisa in Camelot: How Jacqueline Kennedy and Da Vinci’s Masterpiece Charmed and Captivated a Nation, 2008, etc.) follows the remarkable tale of “Number 45,” one of the finest copies of the Gutenberg Bible in existence. The author focuses the narrative on the life of book collector Estelle Doheny, whose oil-tycoon husband was at the center of the infamous Teapot Dome scandal of the 1920s. In 1950, she purchased the Gutenberg as the crowning achievement of her life as a collector and as a devout Catholic. Doheny’s various attempts to purchase a Gutenberg, and the dealers, scholars, and members of her household who took part in the quest, make for engrossing reading. However, the story of Number 45 is far deeper and richer, beginning with the unsurpassed skill and ingenuity of Gutenberg himself. This particular copy went on to be owned by three intriguing modern owners before Doheny. Through the stories of these three wealthy men, the author explores the significance of rare book collecting in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The collectors themselves all have interesting backgrounds, as well—e.g., Charles William Dyson Perrins, heir to the Lea & Perrins worcestershire sauce fortune as well as a once-famed porcelain dynasty. After Doheny’s death, Number 45 was used in scientific experiments to determine the components of Gutenberg’s inks. She had left the Bible—and the entirety of her rare-book and art collection—in the care of a Catholic seminary, but church authorities decided to sell everything in the late 1980s, and Number 45 changed hands yet again, landing at a Japanese firm for a record $5.4 million. Davis does a fine job telling a fascinating story that touches on the origin of books, the passion of collectors, the unseen world of rare-book dealers, and the lives of the super-rich, past and present.

A great read for any book lover.

Pub Date: March 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-59240-867-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: TarcherPerigee

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019


If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998


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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