Dense and definitive—best appreciated with a record player handy.




A comprehensive chronicle of the jazz legend’s life.

The name Thelonious Monk (1917–1982) has long been surrounded by a kind of tragic mystique. Few question his unparalleled talent, but the taint of mental illness has cast him as a bit of an outsider. With this encyclopedic portrait, Kelley (History and American Studies and Ethnicity/Univ. of Southern California; Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination, 2002, etc.) attempts to correct the many misconceptions, both personal and musical, that haunted Monk throughout his life and attended his image in the press. To combat the charge that Monk had no formal training and no knowledge of classical music, the author offers numerous examples from his childhood and teen years, when he rattled off Rachmaninoff at top speed. Kelley’s anecdotes show a humorous, generous and outspoken man who was beloved by family and friends—almost the opposite of the brooding, quizzical persona with which he greeted the press. From his formative years in the fertile soil of 1930s Harlem, Monk was a New Yorker through and through. He struggled to rise from penury and play his music for audiences that didn’t really understand his “weird” chord progressions and unique rhythms. Eventually he achieved the recognition he deserved, though his rise to success was long and difficult. At the height of his career, mental illness plagued him everywhere but at the piano. Written with the full cooperation of Monk’s wife, there can be little doubt that Kelley gets the facts straight. He includes plenty of firsthand accounts from those who knew the musician best, and his actions are meticulously recorded. However, few of Monk’s own words make it onto the pages, and the author does not attempt to devise overarching themes from his experiences. Ultimately the subject remains elusive. The degree of detail in this straight-ahead biography makes it unsuitable for the casual fan, but jazz aficionados will cherish it.

Dense and definitive—best appreciated with a record player handy.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-684-83190-9

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2009

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 11

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller


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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?