An engrossing, delightful descent into a life of books.

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Martial Bliss.

THE STORY OF THE MILITARY BOOKMAN.

Colt (Defend The Valley, 1994) tells the story of a Manhattan-based mom-and-pop military bookstore in this memoir.

In September 1975, after Harris Colt learned that his small brokerage firm was shuttering, he said to his wife, Margaretta, “It’s time for the bookstore.” Although she had no idea what he was talking about, she was soon helping her husband realize his lifelong dream: to open a rare and out-of-print bookshop specializing in military history. Despite the risks of renting a storefront in Manhattan, including its proximity to dangerous neighborhoods and the fact that American interest in anything military was at a low ebb, the Military Bookman opened shop at 170 E. 92nd St. the next summer. This is Margaretta’s account of a quarter-century of selling books; of becoming an expert in the many histories, accounts, manuals, memoirs, and ephemera that make up the military market; and of learning to wrangle the obsessive collectors who seek them out. It chronicles the shifting landscape of Manhattan in the last decades of the 20th century and the changing tastes of the American public regarding warfare (always reflective of the politics of the time). Most of all, it’s the story of a couple who dedicated their lives and livelihoods to a small, peculiar field and the community that arose to embrace them. Colt is a surprisingly urgent and elegant writer, particularly when she gets into the minutiae of her merchandise: “One of my favorites was an anomaly, the rare depiction of Napoleonic battles by a Chinese artist, with a godlike view above the fray, almost aerial perspectives of tiny, ignorant armies on a not-too-darkling plain.” Expect no high human drama, though: although the characters are colorful, the books themselves are the focus of this memoir. For some, that may prove uninteresting after 50 pages, but never mind those people: this is a read for the reading-obsessed, for those who truly love the physicality, variety, and dynamism of the printed medium and for whom a day in the musty stacks of a darkened shop sounds like something close to paradise.

An engrossing, delightful descent into a life of books. 

Pub Date: June 17, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5088-4944-5

Page Count: 346

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2015

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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