An important, comprehensive resource for the study of those most mysteriously, enduringly impressive structures. (b&w...




A Czech professor (Egyptology/Charles Univ.) summarizes the latest research on the design and construction of pyramids, leads a guided tour of virtually all of them, and smacks the naughty hands of those who believe that extraterrestrials were behind them.

Richly illustrated, Verner’s volume displays both a deep respect for the research of Egyptologists and a comprehensive knowledge of it. He reveals that even today debates rage over some of the most fundamental issues in his discipline—and that there are pyramids remaining to be discovered. Beginning with a swift history of the European interest in pyramids (properly crediting Napoleon for his role in studying and preserving the structures), he offers an engaging, lucid account of Egyptian religion, which conceived “earthly life [as] merely an episode on the way to eternity.” He describes in precise, graphic detail the preparation of mummies, the mortuary process, and the construction of the pyramids, noting the Egyptians’ impressive knowledge of engineering and mathematics and concluding that moving such huge stones to such heights involved ramps, lifting devices, oxen, and many men—though nowhere near as many as have often been suggested. His longest discussion is reserved for a description of each pyramid, beginning with the Third Dynasty (ca. 2680 bce) and concluding with the Thirteenth (about 1,000 years later). Pyramid junkies will no doubt find all of this riveting; general readers, like slave laborers, will weary after a few centuries. Still, Verner occasionally drops entertaining tidbits amid the dry estimates of pyramid height and quality of stone, as when a fight among family dogs estranges early-20th-century experts Cecil Firth and Battiscomb Gunn, and when Verner discusses the Great Sphinx and eviscerates pseudo-scientific “pyramidologists.” (Alas, there’s no map of Egypt with the principal sites marked.)

An important, comprehensive resource for the study of those most mysteriously, enduringly impressive structures. (b&w illustrations throughout)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-8021-1703-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2001

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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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