Tailor-made for trivia lovers and readers who don’t mind the scenic route. Those looking for a more straightforward...



In a roving, digressive memoir, Vogue contributor Sullivan (The Thoreau You Don't Know: What the Prophet of Environmentalism Really Meant, 2009, etc.) traces Revolutionary War history in and around New York and New Jersey.

Looking down from the top of the Empire State Building, the author saw a war landscape he believed to be neglected. Inspired to bring the Revolutionary War history of his hometown into his own present, Sullivan embarked on a long, twisting journey. Though his motives were somewhat muddled from the beginning, his recreational, relaxed plan was to cross the Delaware River, venture into the mountains, and finish the journey by visiting sites and memories inside New York City. Readers are sure to learn plenty from his travels, including little-celebrated battles and long-forgotten soldiers whose stories never made history textbooks. Throughout, the author meanders through his recounting of history, never ignoring a possible detour. In one instance, the fact that a building bearing a Revolutionary War plaque now houses a Trader Joe’s store leads to a footnote about colonists boycotting imported English goods and then ends in an anecdote about the kidnapping of Theo Albrecht, the now-deceased former owner of Trader Joe’s. Much of the book reads like a journal edited to add more information rather than to streamline thoughts. Considering Sullivan’s obvious passion for many of the tangential subjects—associated art and literature, for example—a book of essays might have been a more appropriate project for a general audience.

Tailor-made for trivia lovers and readers who don’t mind the scenic route. Those looking for a more straightforward narrative are likely to be frustrated.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-374-21745-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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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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