A thorough study deeply informed by on-the-ground reporting.




Economist Latin American columnist Reid (Forgotten Continent: The Battle for Latin America's Soul, 2008) provides a knowledgeable overview of the vast, vibrant country that will host the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics.

The seventh largest economy, the third largest food exporter, the world’s fourth most populous democracy, a country of enormous natural resources, including self-sufficiency in oil, Brazil has had a peaceable, productive recent rise in fortune. However, that emerges from a history of colonialism, slavery and poverty, writes the author. He touches on such recurrent Brazilian problems as the lack of political organization, which was noticeable as early as the Tupi-speaking Indians’ first encounter with Portuguese seafarer Pedro Álvares Cabral on the Brazilian coast in 1500. (They had neither the metals nor the domesticated animals prevalent in the nearby, highly developed Incan, Aztec or Mayan civilizations.) Reid also sifts carefully through the reasons for and long-term ramifications of Brazil’s huge demand for African slaves between 1500 and 1866. The shorter route to Africa, the exchange of export goods for slaves, the inability to attract free labor and the high mortality in its tropical climate are among the factors he explores. Food shortages and poor diet would plague the Brazilian people (and their economy) up until the modern era. The expulsion of the Jesuits in the 18th century left an “education vacuum,” and the Portuguese crown did not encourage the building of universities; the vacuum remains problematic today. Although the Europeans turned Brazil into a highly stratified and patriarchal society, Reid notes that they also fostered the rich blending of African, Indian and Portuguese people and cultures that formed “the main achievement of the colonial period.” In the 20th century, Brazil built a strong nation-state, beginning with dictator-turned–elected president Getúlio Vargas, through the rule of the generals to the forging of a democracy after the 2002 electoral triumph of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

A thorough study deeply informed by on-the-ground reporting.

Pub Date: June 10, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-300-16560-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


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.


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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