A solid concept led astray by the perceived need to entertain the masses, à la the History Channel.

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THE CITIES THAT BUILT THE BIBLE

A lighthearted exploration of the history of the Bible, as seen through cities key to its development.

Cargill (Classics and Religious Studies/Univ. of Iowa), who has appeared on numerous TV documentaries, takes a populist approach to this history of the Bible. Never hesitating to use a pun, tell a personal story, or make a pop-culture reference (“If this sounds a lot like the plot of Mike Myers’s So I Married an Axe Murderer…”), the author writes for the masses, and it is intermittently entertaining; sometimes, though, it becomes annoying. Cargill’s approach toward explaining the history of the Bible makes sense. He sets out to introduce readers to a dozen cities that were formative in the stories behind, the writing of, or the later understanding of the Old and New Testaments. Beginning with the etymology of “Bible” as stemming from the Phoenician city of Byblos, the author dives into a chapter-by-chapter account of various cities and how they shaped the text of the Bible. At times, that role was through historical events. For instance, Jerusalem was the site of a number of stories in both the Old and New Testaments. In other cases, the role is indirect, as is the case with Ugarit, a city that gives us deeper understanding into the many ancient gods worshiped primarily by non-Jews and discussed throughout the Old Testament. Finally, there are cities that influenced our reading of the Bible—e.g., Alexandria, whose library preserved many texts from the same time period as the Bible, or Qumran, whose Dead Sea Scrolls gave us fresh insights into how Jews lived in connection with their texts in a particular ancient era. Cargill’s exploration of the role of cities is certainly intriguing and could be greatly expanded and deepened.

A solid concept led astray by the perceived need to entertain the masses, à la the History Channel.

Pub Date: March 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-236674-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: HarperOne

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2016

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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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