An expert life of a giant of science.


A fresh biography of Galileo (1564-1642).

Books on Galileo are not scarce, but the latest from astrophysicist Livio features the author’s unique insights as well as his concern about the current fashion for giving ideology priority over truth. Livio rocks no boats by describing Galileo as history’s first scientist. The Greeks believed that understanding the universe required thinking; they despised research because human senses are imperfect. In contrast, Galileo wondered about natural phenomenon, observed carefully, performed experiments (in a time before thermometers, stopwatches, and even minute hands), meticulously recorded the results, and—most importantly—publicized them widely in lectures, letters, and books. For 40 years, he was the most famous scientist in Europe, a position he maintained even after his disastrous conflict with the church, after which he spent his final decade under house arrest. Most readers know that the Inquisition condemned Galileo for claiming that the sun did not revolve around the Earth. That the biblical passage describing Joshua stopping the sun (emphasized by prosecutors) proved him wrong seems wacky, but Livio points to several current beliefs that are no improvement. The author’s criticism of science denial and a long section marshaling evidence in favor of climate change and evolution will neither enlighten science-minded readers nor persuade those who disagree. Livio is not alone in believing that people with a deeply held false belief will change their minds if presented with facts. However, research studies invariably show that they won’t. The author truly excels in his explanations of Galileo’s findings as well as his descriptions of the culture of Renaissance Italy. Popular histories extol the scientist’s use of the just invented telescope to galvanize Europe with astronomical discoveries—the moons of Jupiter, phases of Venus, and the mountains on Earth’s moon—but Livio gives equal time to his revelations of the laws of motion, which marked the birth of modern physics.

An expert life of a giant of science.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-9473-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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