Waste, restoration, and efforts to use a scarce resource wisely: Doyle speaks well to issues that are as pressing today as...




A vigorous look at American history through the nation’s waterways.

In at least some measure, writes Doyle (River Science and Policy/Duke Univ.), federalism was born of an effort to regulate the use of waterways that, in the eastern portion of the country, often lay entirely within individual states: the James, for instance, in Virginia, and the Hudson in New York. In the 18th century, private river companies had formed with “modest ambitions: keeping their river cleared of logs, sandbars, and any other blockages.” The newly formed federal government stepped in, placing rivers in the national domain; it’s no accident, writes the author, that the U.S. Military Academy was sited alongside a river, since its graduates were trained to be river engineers above all else. Where states retained power, they sometimes governed for the eventuality of a flood, as with the levee districts along the Mississippi in the South. However, when Ronald Reagan’s administration made moves to revert power to the states, “this meant putting the impetus back on local and state governments to spend their own money on projects,” which was a nonstarter. Doyle links subsequent developments in taxation, environmental policy, energy, and resource management to the management of water, with all its many tangles; as he notes, for example, “fences dividing fields or lines dividing a map; both are intuitive. Dividing water is not so intuitive.” Thus, the fight continues over such things as the allocation of the Colorado River or the ownership of the mouth of the Columbia. Doyle is not the first to look at history through the lens of water; Wallace Stegner and Donald Worster, among others, have written signally important books in the field. This book is a comparatively minor entry alongside them but still worthy of a place in any water-centered library.

Waste, restoration, and efforts to use a scarce resource wisely: Doyle speaks well to issues that are as pressing today as in the first years of the republic.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-393-24235-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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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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