A thoughtfully engaging memoir of a life in books.



The editor of the New York Times Book Review writes about a book journal begun in adolescence that unexpectedly came to chronicle her own life story.

As a child, Paul (Parenting, Inc.: How the Billion-Dollar Baby Business Has Changed the Way We Raise Our Children, 2008, etc.) found her greatest solace in books. They were private spaces where she could safely indulge her most intimate obsessions with and curiosities about any topic. The author’s first effort at writing her own narratives ended with her feeling disgusted at the angst-ridden teen humiliations she routinely “vomit[ed]” into her diary. Her second, more successful effort consisted of a list that cataloged every book she had read, her “Book of Books,” or “BOB.” On this plain, gray book's unlined pages, Paul was able to “take charge of my own story and make it better” while maintaining both the objectivity and anonymity she prized. It was only much later that she realized Bob also granted access to “where I’ve been, psychologically and geographically,” at different periods in her life. The Norton Anthology of English Literature recalled her college years and how the university was “full of lessons about just how much I didn’t know.” A memory of how she had mistranslated another title, The Grapes of Wrath (“what had I said? The Plums of Fury”), for her French study-abroad host family reminded her of the escape Paris would come to represent after she started her professional life. Some books, like Thalia Zapatos’ A Journey of One’s Own, inspired Paul to take leaps of faith that led to several years of traveling around the world and temporary residence in Thailand. Others, like Lucy Grealy’s The Autobiography of a Face, helped her cope with major life crises. Intelligent, unique, and wise, Paul’s book not only remembers a life lived among and influenced by books. It also reveals how the most interesting stories exist less as words printed on pages and more as “stories that lie between book and reader.”

A thoughtfully engaging memoir of a life in books.

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62779-631-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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