A concise, educational overview of some of the men and women who have carved out spots in the annals of history and why they...

An acclaimed historian gives her take on some of the important people who have shaped the present world.

In this compendium of the 2015 Massey Lectures, MacMillan (International History/Oxford Univ.; The War that Ended Peace: The Road to 1914, 2013, etc.) analyzes a variety of historical global leaders—e.g., Otto von Bismarck and Franklin Roosevelt—and gives snippets of their early lives and the ways their upbringings influenced their decisions. She studies the human trait of hubris and how people such as Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, and Margaret Thatcher were victims of their own arrogance. The author commemorates adventurers and explorers, as well as those willing to go out on a limb, for their daring and bravado. She discusses Richard Nixon and his start of a relationship with China and Samuel de Champlain, who bravely crossed the Atlantic nearly 30 times in his quest to explore the coast of North America and the St. Lawrence River. MacMillan also considers the roles women played as they accompanied their husbands to North America and India or set out on their own to places like Albania. The author adeptly navigates a host of personal journals and diaries, which have given modern historians fresh insight into the everyday comings and goings of ordinary people. Without these writings, we would not be able to fully comprehend certain historic moments—e.g., the years leading up to and through World War II as seen through the eyes of a German Jew. Although some of the people MacMillan has chosen are not well-known, their accomplishments are no less important than those well-recognized by first or last name. Her prose is succinct and informative, and even when her transitions from one person to another are not the smoothest, the information imparted is solid.

A concise, educational overview of some of the men and women who have carved out spots in the annals of history and why they should be remembered. Fans of the author are in for another treat.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4870-0005-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: House of Anansi Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015


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



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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