Good fun for fossil freaks.




An intriguing story of dinosaur smuggling.

New Yorker staff writer and National Magazine Award winner Williams debuts with an account of a 38-year-old American fossil hunter who, in 2012, sold the reassembled bones of a 24-foot-long T. bataar from Mongolia at auction in New York. The illicit $1 million sale—the skeleton was returned to Mongolia—marked the downfall of Eric Prokopi, a fossil enthusiast who had peddled specimens to museums and collectors for years. In this densely detailed, wide-ranging narrative, the author uses the taciturn and constantly cash-short Prokopi’s adventures in bone-hunting as a window on the world of fossil collecting. Dinosaurs roamed the Earth for 165 million years, but it was only recently, in 1994, that the first natural history auction occurred, creating heightened interest among wealthy buyers and providing cover for the sale of illegal fossils and forgeries. Williams delves into all aspects of the fossil business, from explorations in the Gobi Desert to Tucson’s innumerable trade shows to natural history “field clubs” to the frequent conflicts between scientists and commercial dealers. She describes a colorful array of paleontologists, tradesmen, and hobbyists, including pipe insulator Frank Garcia, who unearthed the richest Pleistocene fossil bed in North America, and the celebrated Indiana Jones–like explorer-zoologist Roy Chapman Andrews, who became a 1920s hero after discovering dinosaur eggs. The flow of her story of science and crime is sometimes interrupted—rather than enhanced—by lengthy descriptions of people and events. Passages about Prokopi’s dribbling wine down his shirt at an auction preview and his wife’s penchant for house-flipping convey little beyond the need for editing. At other times, the author’s deep reporting yields memorable passages on desert car caravans and the assembly of dinosaur skeletons. She brings to life an unlikely mix of museum officials and bone salesmen as well as the single-minded pursuit of “income and adventure” that drove her smuggler-protagonist to Mongolia in the service of paleontology and profit.

Good fun for fossil freaks.

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-38253-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Hachette

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 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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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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