A well-written addition to the publisher’s “Eminent Lives” series.

FRANCIS CRICK

DISCOVERER OF THE GENETIC CODE

Short biography of a giant in molecular biology.

English science writer Ridley (Nature Via Nurture, 2003, etc.) posits that Francis Crick (1916–2004) was one of the greats, on par with Einstein, Darwin and Galileo. That claim may surprise those familiar with him primarily as James Watson’s coauthor on the famous paper describing DNA’s double helix. But the author, who knew Crick, argues that his work to establish the precise correspondence between specific DNA bases and the proteins they encode is a discovery as crucial as gravity or evolution. Ridley traces Crick’s origins from a middle-class family of modest means. (His grandfather, an amateur naturalist, once exchanged letters with Darwin.) Trained as a physicist, Crick worked on defense projects involving mines and torpedoes during WWII and came out of the war with no clear direction. He decided to try biology, with a quixotic notion of finding the key to life. Landing a slot at Cambridge University’s Cavendish Laboratory, he quickly established himself as a nonstop talker with an annoying laugh. Though a good theorist, he had problems with authority figures and was expected to leave once he finished his doctorate. Then Watson came to Cambridge; their joint assault on the structure of DNA is one of the best-known stories in modern science. Ridley covers the key details with keen insights into the pair’s relationship, then moves on to Crick’s role in solving the triplet code embedded in the DNA molecule. Nor does the text neglect his later work in both molecular biology and in attempting to solve the problem of consciousness. Crick comes across as a likable, highly motivated man without undue foibles; portraits of his coworkers and the period are also sharply drawn.

A well-written addition to the publisher’s “Eminent Lives” series.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-082333-X

Page Count: 192

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2006

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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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