An opinionated guide to strong writing that’s full of examples and coherent instructions for producing readable prose.
In this writing guide, Tadros (The Book of Death, 2013, etc.) leads readers through the fundamentals of word choice, grammatical construction and rhetorical techniques, with insights drawn from his experience as a writing instructor. Examples of active and passive verbs, modifiers and conjunctions are drawn from a variety of sources, and although some will be familiar to readers of writing handbooks, there are welcome flashes of originality, such as illustrating the value of occasionally breaking grammatical rules, e.g., the use of Apple’s “Think Different” slogan. Touches of wry humor, like the introduction of “FANBOYS” as a mnemonic device to remember coordinating conjunctions—for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so—bring another appealing element of originality to the already well-covered subject. Each chapter focuses on a different aspect of writing techniques and, in addition to numerous examples, includes exercises for the reader. Addressing questions of usage and style, Tadros doesn’t hesitate to share his disapproval of some techniques: “Only self-important authors use turgid words such as utilise when a shorter, simpler word would better serve an audience.” (Yes, the book leans British.) While Tadros cautions readers against overblown prose, his own style often ventures into purple territory, as when he describes our “postmodern world infected with various strains of Staphylococcus relativism: a mind-dulling, host-disabling, culture-killing ideological parasite resistant to all forms of common sense and real-world experiences.” On the whole, however, the advice Tadros offers is balanced and reasonable, and it will bring both clarity and effectiveness to the writing of those who follow it.

An engaging and impassioned, if occasionally idiosyncratic, handbook for writers looking to achieve prose that is correct and elegant.

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-0987553065

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Nightlight Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2014

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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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