A deft memoir that, despite the self-indulgent posturing about unique family dynamics, is oddly engaging.

AN OBAMA'S JOURNEY

MY ODYSSEY OF SELF-DISCOVERY ACROSS THREE CULTURES

An Obama about whom we haven’t heard a lot seeks, in the story of his cosmopolitan life, to find himself.

The author is a half brother of the president. Ndesandjo’s mother, Ruth, was the third wife of Barack Obama Sr. Ndesandjo (Nairobi to Shenzhen, 2009) lived with both parents at home in Kenya. Obama Sr., in whom the author saw a “terrible magnificence,” was an abusive womanizer and drunkard. After seven years, Ruth had had enough. She left and wed the solid, caring man whose name the author bears. Peripatetic young Ndesandjo failed to be admitted to Harvard, where his father and brother had excelled, and he struggled with life and studies at Brown and at graduate school at Stanford. There, he was discovered cheating, but he managed a master’s degree in physics, as well as an MBA from Emory. After Emory, it was on to a series of jobs and beautiful women. The author was also quite proficient at the piano, performing publicly. There were difficulties with creditors, though, which finally subsided when Ndesandjo immigrated to China 12 years ago, where he married and studies Chinese and calligraphy. Still, he struggles to come to terms with his mixed racial heritage, noting that he often feels like an outsider. Though not lacking in pride and ambition, how can his considerable talents match the achievements of his brother, the POTUS? They first met decades ago in a fraught encounter; Barack had seemed distant. But Ndesandjo, just around the time of the 2008 presidential campaign, became eager to restore the family connection. The result was a visit to the White House and some family squabbles over access to the president. The author is simultaneously quite accomplished and quite needful of praise. Stressing his sensitivity, he begins each chapter with a favorite evocation of music, from Schumann to Fats Waller.

A deft memoir that, despite the self-indulgent posturing about unique family dynamics, is oddly engaging.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-1493007516

Page Count: 392

Publisher: Lyons Press

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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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 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

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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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