With a firm grasp of tactics, strategy, and the sociopolitical landscape, O'Donnell captures the horror and absurdities of...




O'Donnell (First SEALs: The Untold Story of the Forging of America’s Most Elite Unit, 2014, etc.) deploys a fusillade of fact and fresh research in a Revolutionary War history rich in irony and event.

A Band of Brothers–like account of the Maryland Immortals, the first elite unit of the Continental Army and one of the few to fight in both the North and South, the book is a thorough chronicle of the nine-year saga of citizen soldiers who fought valiantly but that history had all but forgotten. The author concludes that were it not for this core group's girding of the American Army and its efforts at critical junctures, the war likely would have been lost. He vividly describes a war marked by slaughter, brutality, incompetence, and extraordinary privation, as well as valor, restraint, resourcefulness, and endurance, putting paid to many oversimplified accounts of a complex struggle, especially with regard to the vicious battle between the Whigs and the Tories. O'Donnell also presents a well-delineated cast of unheralded Marylanders (Mordecai Gist, John Eager Howard, William Smallwood, Jack Steward, Otho Holland Williams, and Nathaniel Ramsey), the major American commanders (George Washington, Nathanael Greene, Daniel Morgan, et al.) and their British counterparts (Richard and William Howe, Cornwallis, Henry Clinton, and Banastre Tarleton). Although readers will admire O'Donnell's exhaustive research, skilled organization of the material, and the high readability of the writing, the multitude of armies, brigades, regiments, companies, and divisions, etc., whose exploits he relates can be difficult to keep straight. This is no less true of the differing aggregates of Maryland units that turned the tide in many a battle, not just the 400 men who saved the army from annihilation at the Battle of Brooklyn.

With a firm grasp of tactics, strategy, and the sociopolitical landscape, O'Donnell captures the horror and absurdities of the war better than most, but the density of detail may render it more appealing to confirmed military buffs than general readers.

Pub Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8021-2459-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: Oct. 20, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2015

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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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