Military buffs will turn up their noses at this well-written but unnecessary book, and beginners will be confused by the...

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A HISTORY OF WAR IN 100 BATTLES

Despite the title, this is not a coherent history but rather isolated, generously illustrated accounts of battles from ancient Egypt to the present day.

Collections of battle descriptions are one of the most lowbrow forms of military history, and readers will wonder why prolific and respected author Overy (History/Univ. of Exeter; The Bombers and the Bombed: Allied Air War Over Europe 1940-1945, 2014) chose such a moth-eaten genre. After a dozen-page introduction on the culture of battle (“Battle is not a game to plug into a computer but a piece of living history—messy, bloody and real. That…has not changed in 6,000 years”), he delivers two- to four-page chapters on his chosen 100 battles, divided into six categories. Readers must accept these on faith, although they do provide the author the opportunity to write six astute introductions. Thus, “leadership” characterizes Cannae, Hastings, Trafalgar and Kharkov under, respectively, Hannibal, William the Conqueror, Nelson and Von Manstein. Generals Marlborough, Custer, Washington and Eisenhower certainly possessed leadership qualities, but Overy has no doubt that Blenheim, Little Big Horn, Yorktown and the invasion of Normandy were examples of “deception.” Readers curious to know the common features of Marathon, the Somme, Gettysburg and Stalingrad will learn that these demonstrated “courage in the face of fire.” Limiting himself to just three significant battles (Agincourt, Waterloo, the Somme), John Keegan wrote a classic, The Face of Battle (1976). Entire volumes have covered a single significant battle, and Wikipedia often does a superior job explaining the obscure and unknown.

Military buffs will turn up their noses at this well-written but unnecessary book, and beginners will be confused by the sketchy historical background and absence of maps. The illustrations are little help since they are mostly portraits of leaders or artists’ renderings of battles, vivid but purely imaginary.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2014

ISBN: 978-0199390717

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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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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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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WHY WE'RE POLARIZED

A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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