An endlessly entertaining and informative treatment of a vast, sometimes difficult subject.

THE POWER MAKERS

STEAM, ELECTRICITY, AND THE MEN WHO INVENTED MODERN AMERICA

Business historian Klein (The Change Makers: From Carnegie to Gates, How the Great Entrepreneurs Transformed Ideas Into Industry, 2003, etc.) brings the steam and electrical power revolutions memorably to life.

The author enlivens the narrative in two ways. First, he tethers it to three industrial exhibits—the Centennial Exhibition of 1876 in Philadelphia, the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago and the 1939 World’s Fair in New York—all occurring within the span of a lifetime, each neatly showcasing for the common man (and the general reader) the successive fruits of the power revolution and together linking the steam to the electric era. Second, he sprinkles lively portraits of the uncommon men responsible for the stunning transformation in the way we live: James Watt and the steam engine, Michael Faraday and the electromagnetic motor, Thomas Edison and the incandescent lamp. Klein also tells the story of Edison’s principal rival, George Westinghouse; the eccentric visionary Nikola Tesla; Samuel Insull, who figured out how to deliver electricity cheaply to the masses; and scores of lesser-known figures who played a significant role in the advancement of the technological revolution. In addition to his comprehensive discussion of the discoveries, inventions and improvements, Klein also explains the centrality of politics, finance and public relations to the development, marketing and widespread adoption of the many wonders coming from progressive workshops like Menlo Park. From steamships, locomotives and trolleys, to telephones, radios, record players and a host of household appliances, the era was packed with astonishing developments that came with dizzying speed. The author makes room for a few cautionary tales about the blessings of this new technology, about the rampant materialism it helped inspire and about the damage inflicted during the rush to the future. For the most part, though, the book is a paean to the genius of an age not long past and a tribute to the men who made—far more than any politician or statesman—the modern world.

An endlessly entertaining and informative treatment of a vast, sometimes difficult subject.

Pub Date: June 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-59691-412-4

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2008

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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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