An expansive nuts-and-bolts historical survey from a keen military mind.

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INVISIBLE ARMIES

AN EPIC HISTORY OF GUERRILLA WARFARE FROM ANCIENT TIMES TO THE PRESENT

Wall Street Journal contributor and Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow Boot (War Made New: Technology, Warfare, and the Course of History: 1500 to Today, 2006, etc.) follows the long, quirky history of insurgency, from Bar Kokhba to Bin Laden.

The slippery definition of guerrillas (Spanish for “little wars”) underscores the challenging task faced by the author. In this systematic though not always chronological study, Boot examines how guerrilla forces have always “employ[ed] stealth, surprise and rapid movement to harass, ambush, massacre, and terrorize their enemies while trying to minimize their own casualties through rapid retreat,” tactics that have proven highly effective throughout history, especially as the fight moved into the realm of winning public opinion. The author divides his narrative into various epochs, beginning in Mesopotamia and continuing through the long-running struggle against the Roman Empire, warfare in China around the time of Sun Tzu, the centuries of battles between England and Scotland, the Haitian and Greek wars for independence, the struggle for Italian unification, the ascent of Mao Zedong and present-day battles with terrorist organizations. He also examines the many examples of guerrilla warfare in America, including the revolution against Britain, the “forest wars” of the eastern U.S., the battles of the Ku Klux Klan and civil rights agitators. The creation of the “guerrilla mystique” in the 1960s and ’70s, thanks to Castro, Guevara and Arafat, emphasized radical ideology as the guerrilla motivation, paving the way for the next deadly wave by parties of God, jihadists and suicide bombers.

An expansive nuts-and-bolts historical survey from a keen military mind.

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-87140-424-4

Page Count: 784

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2012

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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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Not only the definitive life, but a tour de force by a master.

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EDISON

One of history’s most prolific inventors receives his due from one of the world’s greatest biographers.

Pulitzer and National Book Award winner Morris (This Living Hand and Other Essays, 2012, etc.), who died this year, agrees that Thomas Edison (1847-1931) almost certainly said, “genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration,” and few readers of this outstanding biography will doubt that he was the quintessential workaholic. Raised in a middle-class Michigan family, Edison displayed an obsessive entrepreneurial spirit from childhood. As an adolescent, he ran a thriving business selling food and newspapers on a local railroad. Learning Morse code, he spent the Civil War as a telegrapher, impressing colleagues with his speed and superiors with his ability to improve the equipment. In 1870, he opened his own shop to produce inventions to order. By 1876, he had money to build a large laboratory in New Jersey, possibly the world’s first industrial research facility. Never a loner, Edison hired talented people to assist him. The dazzling results included the first commercially successful light bulb for which, Morris reminds readers, he invented the entire system: dynamo, wires, transformers, connections, and switches. Critics proclaim that Edison’s innovations (motion pictures, fluoroscope, rechargeable batteries, mimeograph, etc.) were merely improvements on others’ work, but this is mostly a matter of sour grapes. Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone was a clunky, short-range device until it added Edison’s carbon microphone. And his phonograph flabbergasted everyone. Humans had been making images long before Daguerre, but no one had ever reproduced sound. Morris rivetingly describes the personalities, business details, and practical uses of Edison’s inventions as well as the massive technical details of years of research and trial and error for both his triumphs and his failures. For no obvious reason, the author writes in reverse chronological order, beginning in 1920, with each of the seven following chapters backtracking a decade. It may not satisfy all readers, but it works.

Not only the definitive life, but a tour de force by a master.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9311-0

Page Count: 800

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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