Beard’s enthusiasm for her subject is infectious and is well-reflected in her clever, thoroughly enjoyable style of writing....

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S.P.Q.R.

A HISTORY OF ANCIENT ROME

The acclaimed classicist delivers a massive history of ancient Rome, which “continues to underpin Western culture and politics, what we write and how we see the world, and our place in it.”

Beard (Classics/Cambridge Univ.; Laughter in Ancient Rome: On Joking, Tickling, and Cracking Up, 2014, etc.) writes fascinatingly about how Rome grew and sustained its position. More importantly, she sorts the many myths from history. As in her previous illuminating works, she is no myth builder; she is a scholar who reaches down-to-earth conclusions based on her years of dedication to her subject. This is no simple chronological biography of rulers. The author provides a broad overview of how events from the rape of Lucretia to Caracalla’s granting of citizenship to everyone (except slaves) strengthened and eventually weakened the empire. The rulers of Rome never planned a land grab to build an empire. As the author points out, they didn’t even have maps. However, they continued to conquer peoples, took slaves and bounty, and made their men part of the army and, eventually, citizens. Beard writes of the reformers who fed the people and instituted laws of compensation for abuse. What they failed to do was establish a policy of succession, instead leaving it to luck, improvisation, plots, and, usually, violence. Because the author is such an expert linguist who is exceedingly comfortable in her field, she is able to step back to see the entire Roman world. Throughout the narrative, Beard refers to works by Polybius, Livy, Suetonius, and Tacitus, as well as the prodigious correspondence of Cicero and Pliny the Younger. She shows us how to engage with the history, culture, and controversies that made Rome—and why it still matters.

Beard’s enthusiasm for her subject is infectious and is well-reflected in her clever, thoroughly enjoyable style of writing. Lovers of Roman history will revel in this work, and new students will quickly become devotees.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-0871404237

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 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...

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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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