A thoughtful and entertaining analysis of why so many still want to ditch their clothes and let it all hang out.




An open-minded writer drops his skivvies at various locations around the world in an amusing and earnest attempt to understand the appeal of nudism.

Smith (Raw: A Love Story, 2013, etc.) first entered the world of stark naked nudism to the beat of Rick James’ “Super Freak” at a Southern California resort dedicated to the nude lifestyle. Thus began a globe-trotting journey that would take him to some of the weirdest and wildest clothing-verboten resorts in the world. He relates how he hiked in the nude, sailed in the nude, and munched on croissants in the nude. However, despite the novelty and sensory overload, the author’s chief impression is one of bemused and blasé indifference. “I never would’ve thought seeing a hundred naked people around the swimming pool would be dullsville, but it is,” he writes. The situation was racier in Cap d’Agde, France. When night fell, the nature-loving denizens of the curious seaside community emerged from their apartments dressed in clothes, albeit predominately six-inch pumps, leather skirts, and fishnet undies appropriate for an evening of swinging debauchery. With solid reporting and scholarship, Smith delves into the genesis of the global nudism movement, constantly enlivening material that could have gotten stale. It turns out that the enduring American version of nudism has its origins in pre–World War II Germany, where even the powers that be had to acquiesce to its popularity among the public. Even today, the author finds that no matter how tolerant or enlightened they may have become, societies must still struggle with just how much nudity is acceptable. Is it tolerable to allow a naked man to shop for dinner at the local market? What about his rights? Smith makes you laugh and think.

A thoughtful and entertaining analysis of why so many still want to ditch their clothes and let it all hang out.

Pub Date: June 2, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8021-2351-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2015

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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