Absorbing work by a strong, capable writer and teacher who imparts his vast knowledge with great style and clarity.




A comprehensive and accessible study of two great ancient cities that finally came to fatal blows.

As a scholar of both Roman and Jewish studies, Goodman (Jewish Studies/Oxford) displays impressive depth in his fleshing out of the two cities in terms of their sense of identities, communities, lifestyles, government, politics and religion. Relying on the writings of the “main witness” Josephus, a priest in Jerusalem who eventually turned sides, Goodman demonstrates how Roman rule of Judea was relatively benign since Herod was appointed king in 40 BCE and devoted himself to rebuilding Jerusalem and embellishing his Temple. Both cultures adapted to the Hellenism pervasive in the area since Alexander’s conquest, and both were fairly tolerant of diversity. The first signs of trouble, writes Goodman, were mainly isolated skirmishes “largely internal to Jewish society rather than symptoms of widespread resentment to Roman rule.” After a series of venal Roman governors, the Captain of the Temple, Eleazar son of Ananias, persuaded his fellow priests in 66 CE to stop offering sacrifices made to the Jewish God on behalf of the Roman emperor—an assertion of war by the ruling elite. Roman reaction was swift and brutal over the next four years, culminating in Emperor Vespasian’s instructions to his son Titus to squelch the rebellion at any cost. With the razing of the Temple in the summer of 70 CE, 60 years of rebellion followed, and Hadrian’s new Roman city Aelia Capitolina was established on the site. Goodman pursues the growth of the Church in the wake of Constantine’s embrace of Christianity, which changed the nature of the region and pushed Jews increasingly to the margins. He also devotes a fine epilogue to the origins of anti-Semitism.

Absorbing work by a strong, capable writer and teacher who imparts his vast knowledge with great style and clarity.

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-375-41185-4

Page Count: 624

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2007

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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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