Though the narrative is occasionally as dense as a rain forest, it will be rich and rewarding for the determined explorer.

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AMERICAN COVENANT

A HISTORY OF CIVIL RELIGION FROM THE PURITANS TO THE PRESENT

A philosophically and academically rigorous argument that charts one way to political reconciliation in these divisive times.

At the outset, Gorski (Sociology and Religious Studies/Yale Univ.; The Protestant Ethic Revisited, 2011, etc.) declares that he’s not writing for scholars, but although he generally adheres to that aim, he sometimes crafts thick paragraphs with multiple allusions that might daunt general readers. His work is also organized in a traditional academic format, featuring introductions, conclusions, lists of points and distinctions, and more than 70 pages of endnotes and bibliography. Nonetheless, this is an important work, one that returns us to our national origins, examines the evidence about our founding—and our founders—concerning religion and its interactions with public policy. Gorski dispels any number of hazy historical beliefs, on both sides of the political spectrum, including the notion that the United States is a Christian nation or that we are an entirely secular nation. He spends much time defining, and refining, his terms and categories and includes the work of many philosophers, historians, writers, and political figures to illuminate his points. Some are names quite familiar—e.g., Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King Jr., Jerry Falwell, and George W. Bush, while others will be principally familiar to academics (Robert Ingersoll and John Rawls). Gorski is frank and unapologetic about his own left-of-center leanings and issues dire warnings about what will happen if we fail to heal our divisions. Unfortunately, most of his suggestions at the end of the book are unlikely to occur—e.g., “make civic holidays into holidays again”—and though he warns about public ignorance, it’s surprising that he does not emphasize more emphatically the absolute necessity of improving our system of public education.

Though the narrative is occasionally as dense as a rain forest, it will be rich and rewarding for the determined explorer.

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-691-14767-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 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 48 LAWS OF POWER

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...

NIGHT

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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