The story of the obscure civil servant who became the world’s most famous cynic.

Art historian and New York Times contributor Unger (Magnifico: The Brilliant Life and Violent Times of Lorenzo de’ Medici, 2008) offers a captivating biography of Italian philosopher and playwright Niccolò Machiavelli (1469–1527), whose classic book, The Prince, remains a definitive handbook for practicing politicians. Born into an old, down-on-its-luck family, Machiavelli grew up in the small, independent Republic of Florence at a time of peace and prosperity. The fabulously rich Medici family ruled; great artists like Sandro Botticelli and Leonardo da Vinci flourished; and bright young Machiavelli, with little money or influence, came of age aimlessly, devoting his free time to reading, whores and gambling. Yet he was ambitious. At 29, he became Second Chancellor, serving as a diplomat and handling state correspondence for 14 years. Prickly and abrasive, he was dismissed in 1513 over policy decisions leading to the fall of the republic. With no means of supporting his wife and children, Machiavelli began writing his small book on the secrets of statecraft based on his own observations during government service. He hoped The Prince would lead to a new government job; instead, the book propelled him into political and literary history. Against the background of war and rivalries between Italian states, Unger traces the development of Machiavelli’s cynical, secular, anti-clerical views, and examines the blunt precepts of his masterpiece that announced “the coming of the modern world.” Shattering cherished assumptions about God-centered government, Machiavelli declared that rulers must rule by whatever means necessary. Now commonplace, his original, pragmatic insights simply stated what he called “the actual truth of things.” Ironically, writes Unger, despite his disdain of honesty, he was actually “the most honest” and least Machiavellian of men. Lively, well-researched portrait of a master political strategist.


Pub Date: June 14, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4165-5628-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2011

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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