A well-balanced and illuminating history of the Cold War.

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FOR THE SOUL OF MANKIND

THE UNITED STATES, THE SOVIET UNION, AND THE COLD WAR

The Cold War began under murky and not entirely planned circumstances governed by individual personalities. So, writes Leffler (History/Univ. of Virginia; The Specter of Communism: The United States and the Origins of the Cold War, 1917–1953, 1994, etc.), did it end, thanks to two personalities in particular.

The U.S. and the Soviet Union made sometimes uncomfortable allies in the war against Hitler, but they were allies all the same. When that war ended, Leffler observes, there was a world to divide up; Stalin had his agenda, but so did Harry Truman, who demanded that America enjoy 85 percent of any given pie rather than a nice 50-50 split. Stalin took a dim view of that math; and in all events, when the U.S. announced that it would never again be caught napping or give up its military superiority, and that it would “hold the atomic bomb as a ‘sacred trust’ for all mankind,” Stalin felt hemmed in, even blackmailed. Leffler does a creditable job of depicting the ensuing Cold War from the point of view of the Soviet leadership as well as from the already well-documented American one, and he turns up surprises: one, for instance, that the Soviet leadership, urged along by Lavrentiy Beria, was exploring the possibility of allowing German to reunify as a neutral power, a far better alternative in his mind than “a permanently unstable socialist Germany whose survival relied on the support of the Soviet Union.” That plan went nowhere: Stalin died; Beria was executed; and another generation of East-West confrontation would ensue. Leffler’s interest lies in the personalities of the leaders who enabled détente, and finally an end to the Cold War—foremost among them, in his assessment, Mikhail Gorbachev, who “made the most fundamental alterations in his own thinking” in order to accept a fundamental shift in the world’s political order. (Reagan had something to do with it, too, writes Leffler. But Jimmy Carter and Leonid Brezhnev? Useless.)

A well-balanced and illuminating history of the Cold War.

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-8090-9717-3

Page Count: 624

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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...

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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

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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