Scott teaches us that the past is a work in progress influenced by political and religious ideas and powerful rulers and...

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ANCIENT WORLDS

A GLOBAL HISTORY OF ANTIQUITY

A welcome broadening of our understanding of antiquity.

In the ancient world, there was a remarkably diverse environment of ideas, knowledge, and beliefs existing among the Mediterranean, the Middle East, India, and China. Scott (Classics and Ancient History/Univ. of Warwick; Delphi: A History of the Center of the Ancient World, 2014, etc.) focuses on developing relationships between and within communities from the 6th century B.C.E. to the 5th century C.E. That period was characterized by a significant rethinking of political ideas, societal governance, and interpersonal relationships. The author divides the book into three sections covering political systems, wars, and religion. Of course, the earlier in time a historian searches for sources, the fewer are available, but Scott boldly dives into any and all sources. What little is available was written long after events and was influenced by the chroniclers’ time and tendencies. Many readers of Western history are woefully ignorant of events in China, India, Bactria, and the Seleucid and Ptolemaic empires. In this period, wars and political strife did not necessarily lead to collapse. Instead, within the chaos, societies evolved and mutated into fragile new ideologies, subject to both growth and revision. As Antiochus III drove Ptolemy IV out of the Levant, Hannibal almost took over the Roman Empire and Philip V of Greece pretty much got nowhere except to keep switching alliances. In China, the head of the Qin state rejected Confucianism for its opposite, legalism, until it was replaced by the Han dynasty. While violent wars tied ancient worlds together, only two great empires emerged with nothing but instability between. The nomadic peoples, by nature moving with all their goods, also brought religion, from China into India as Christianity moved east across the Silk Road.

Scott teaches us that the past is a work in progress influenced by political and religious ideas and powerful rulers and individuals, and he proves that we need to continue to study and learn.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-465-09472-1

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 8, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

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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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