Although occasionally too technical, an autobiography with universal appeal.


An Immigrant's Journey into the Cosmos


In Misconi’s (Studies of A Laser/Nuclear Thermal Hardened Body Armor, 1992, etc.) third book, an Iraqi native follows his dream and becomes one of the top space scientists in the United States.

Becoming a space scientist is difficult under any circumstances, but for Misconi, it was even more difficult than usual. A native of Iraq when that country’s space program was in its infancy, Misconi decided at a young age that space science was his career passion, which he pursued with single-minded determination. Today, having worked on such projects as the space shuttle, Skylab, and the Strategic Defense Initiative, or “Star Wars,” he is one of the leading experts in the U.S. on the myriad possibilities and problems in space. The book chronicles the path Misconi took to reach his current orbit. The account of his early years in Iraq is particularly interesting, showing that life in the pre–Saddam Hussein years wasn’t easy either, as when Misconi feared he would get in trouble for merely reporting that an ice sculpture statue of a general was melting. He was then the only astronomer in Iraq, and he recalls doing TV broadcasts with guns pointed at him. After he made his way to the U.S., Misconi’s research was often financed by “soft money” (i.e., grants and such), a precarious position due to the uncertainty of what would happen once the grant expired. While the book is mostly written so that non–rocket scientists can understand it, it doesn’t always qualify as light reading, particularly with sentences like: “The precession of the perihelion of Mercury was not due to the general relativity as Einstein postulated but due to the oblateness of the sun.” Still, following Misconi’s career—from conversing with astronaut Buzz Aldrin to working on high-profile space projects—shows that reaching for the stars isn’t impossible.

Although occasionally too technical, an autobiography with universal appeal.

Pub Date: May 18, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4917-6165-6

Page Count: 298

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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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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