One of the best treatments to date of America’s rapid transition from the Depression to the wartime power it became.


THE RISE OF THE G.I. ARMY, 1940-1941


A richly detailed history of the rebuilding of American military power in the run-up to World War II.

In 1939, when Hitler invaded Poland, the U.S. Army had fewer than 120,000 men in uniform; Gen. Douglas MacArthur said they all could have fit into Yankee Stadium. Recognizing that war was all but inevitable, President Franklin Roosevelt took steps to revitalize the nation’s military, and his most important move was likely the appointment of Gen. George Marshall as chief of staff of the Army. Marshall had been prepared for the job due to his leadership in the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps, in which young men learned discipline and skills that coincidentally prepared them for life in the Army. The CCC, writes Dickson, “became a driving force for improving the Army and facilitating the education and professional development of key officers.” The establishment of a peacetime draft in 1940—against strong opposition from isolationists in Congress and elsewhere—was also a key element. Marshall gave the Army’s officer corps a vital shot in the arm with his creation of Officer Candidate School, allowing talented men to rise to command positions without a degree from a traditional military academy. Dickson also highlights the war games that took place in 1941, especially a large exercise in Louisiana just before Pearl Harbor where both Dwight Eisenhower and George Patton proved their abilities. The author provides a wealth of fascinating detail; even those familiar with the general history of the period will learn something new. Especially intriguing are Dickson’s discussions of the rise of the United Service Organizations, with shows headlined by Bob Hope and other stars, and the implications of a universal draft for black Americans.

One of the best treatments to date of America’s rapid transition from the Depression to the wartime power it became.

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8021-4767-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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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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