Scholarly and contextually rich, yet accessible and reasonably succinct.



A fresh look at one of history’s most dynamic and controversial figures.

He intends neither to bury nor overly praise Caesar (100–44 BCE), states Freeman (Classics/Luther College; The Philosopher and the Druids: A Journey Among the Ancient Celts, 2006, etc.), simply to set forth his life and times as ancient Rome’s most celebrated yet often reviled leading citizen. The recovered works of Suetonius, Caesar’s first biographer, do not cover his childhood in an aristocratic family lacking both influence and wealth. Freeman’s willingness to venture educated guesses—clearly labeled as such—on Caesar’s early schooling and training significantly help readers apprehend a human will singularly bent on destiny. The young Caesar who emerges here seems strikingly modern. Ambition and intellect drove every action; his courage was obvious, though frequently calculated for maximum effect. Freeman stresses that while he had the audacity to challenge more senior politicians and sometimes the entire Senate, Caesar always stayed on message when courting public sentiment. He combined a striking instinct for political power with palpable oratorical mojo, and he added the ability to cultivate an aura of military genius, sending elaborate dispatches from the battlefield that were publicly read aloud in Rome—to the disgust of his hapless political foes. Abstaining from moralizing, Freeman frames any judgments of Caesar in the context of his own time, when a reputation for clemency could be gained by cutting a man’s throat before his crucifixion. Caesar made himself enormously wealthy at the expense of both his enemies (selling slaves in victory) and the Roman provincial administration, the author notes, and as the Ides of March approached a man with every reason to believe no one in his world could refuse him was about to meet those who would.

Scholarly and contextually rich, yet accessible and reasonably succinct.

Pub Date: May 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-7432-8953-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2008

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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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