A sturdy scholarly biography that will appeal most to Roebling devotees and civil engineering buffs.

ENGINEERING AMERICA

THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JOHN A. ROEBLING

A hefty biography of John A. Roebling (1806-1869), renowned for designing and constructing suspension bridges and other engineering marvels.

Haw builds on his previous research on the Brooklyn Bridge to create this dense, prodigiously researched portrait of Roebling, who designed numerous projects but is perhaps best known for his initial plans for the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge before his death. Roebling grew up in Germany and came to the U.S. in 1831, leading fellow German settlers to unclaimed land in rural Western Pennsylvania, where they tried to establish a self-sufficient town despite unfavorable soil and bad weather. Butler County became a base of operations for Roebling, his growing family, and later immigrants from Germany. In this mostly chronological narrative, Haw establishes early on that Roebling exhibited visionary tendencies across a wide range of disciplines. As the author notes, “he was fundamentally a seeker and a believer….So much of John’s life had been spent reaching toward a goal that was just out of reach, be it another shore or a new way to build or to organize society or the afterlife.” Haw also explains that some of those visions could be considered crackpot, aggravated by Roebling’s sometimes cruel and even violent behavior. As the countless details of Roebling’s life unfold, some readers are likely to tire of his unpleasant personality. Fortunately, those elements arrive in relatively short bursts, and Haw devotes lengthy sections to the art and science of suspension bridge building, not only by Roebling, but also by his engineering rivals. The “times” of Roebling’s life, as depicted by the author, are often more interesting than the life itself. For example, Haw explores how the fates of developing cities rose and fell depending on Roebling’s bridge-building successes and failures. The bridges even played a role in the Underground Railroad, and for a few compelling pages, Harriet Tubman appears in the narrative, which is grounded in massive research that may be overwhelming for general readers.

A sturdy scholarly biography that will appeal most to Roebling devotees and civil engineering buffs.

Pub Date: May 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-19-066390-2

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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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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BECOMING

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...

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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