An enjoyable read, especially if you’ve got a thing for pirates.




A look inside the world of professional treasure hunters, focused on the search for a sunken pirate ship.

Journalist Kurson (Crashing Through: A True Story of Risk, Adventure, and the Man Who Dared to See, 2007, etc.) tells the story of John Chatterton and John Mattera and their quest for the Golden Fleece, a pirate ship sunk off what is now the Dominican Republic in the 1680s. Joseph Bannister, the ship’s captain, was an English merchant captain who turned pirate. Chatterton and Mattera learned about the ship from Tracy Bowden, himself a legend among treasure hunters, who hired them to find the ship. Kurson focuses on the long, often frustrating search, interspersed by library research in New York and Spain. He gives brief biographies of the two men, tough, driven characters thriving in a world in which death is usually one mistake away. There’s a fair share of drama as they run into debt, argue with each other and with Bowden, and deal with threats to their mission, ranging from claim jumpers to international bans on treasure hunting. Their breakthrough came when they realized the key to the search was the character of the pirate himself. Along the way, readers get a capsule history of the “Golden Age of Piracy,” from about 1650 to 1720, when the likes of Blackbeard, Captain Kidd, and Henry Morgan were active. Kurson has done an impressive amount of research, and he has a good sense of painting scenes, though readers might sometimes wonder where the line is between straight reporting and entertainment. The book tends to jump around too much, though given the long stretches in which the protagonists’ search for Bannister’s ship was stalled, it’s easy to understand why. In the end, Chatterton and Mattera come across as modern heroes, the kind of men the modern world often finds it hard to make a place for.

An enjoyable read, especially if you’ve got a thing for pirates.

Pub Date: June 16, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4000-6336-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2015

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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