An engrossing examination of how archaeologists re-create much of human history, piece by painstaking piece.

LIVES IN RUINS

ARCHAEOLOGISTS AND THE SEDUCTIVE LURE OF HUMAN RUBBLE

Science reporter Johnson (This Book Is Overdue!: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All, 2010, etc.) explores the work of archaeologists.

In her latest endeavor, the author, who makes a habit of looking into atypical subjects and then writing about them with brio and dash, takes on the discipline of archaeology, which is on a bit of a hot streak, thanks to technological advances, war, commercial development, violent weather and warming temperatures, all doing their parts to reveal our past. On her journeys, Johnson attended a field-training school—on St. Eustatius in the Caribbean—where she received a glimmering of how backbreaking, tedious work can be imbued with high suspense. Throughout, she demonstrates a learned hand in her minibiographies of various practitioners of the discipline—e.g., Joan Connelly of New York University, who told the author, “Good archaeology fills in the blanks of history. It tells the losers’ story. It teases out the history that falls between the cracks.” Much like Mary Roach, another sharp writer who often tackles a single topic, Johnson casts her net widely, from the Caribbean to Stony Brook and Fishkill, New York, to the Pine Barrens of New Jersey to Agios Georgios, a small village in Greece. However, she’s also mesmerized by the smaller-scale elements: gorgeous blue beads from the wreck of an old galleon, the never-ending steam of lectures and conferences (“The audience at an archaeology lecture is ancient. I watched them stream in, drawn to slides of artifacts and talk of ruins: snowy-haired, with canes and sensible shoes. They listened with hunger”) and the pure, magical allure of the lost: “significant sites that are so humble in appearance, or buried, or otherwise hidden.”

An engrossing examination of how archaeologists re-create much of human history, piece by painstaking piece.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-0062127181

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more