An erudite and ordered reading of Augustine’s Confessions and a worthy addition to any library on early Christianity.

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AUGUSTINE

CONVERSIONS TO CONFESSIONS

A comprehensive literary biography of the great Christian thinker Augustine (354-430).

Fox (Ancient History/New Coll., Oxford Univ.; Travelling Heroes: In the Epic Age of Homer, 2009, etc.) adds a hefty tome to the library of works on St. Augustine of Hippo, focusing mostly on his famous Confessions. Written in the late fourth century, Confessions remains a foundational work of Christian thought. Fox guides readers on an epic journey through the book and the life that inspired it. Presuming a familiarity from his audience with Confessions and with Augustine, Fox systematically explores his subject’s well-documented life and provides in-depth background and commentary capable of assisting even seasoned scholars in a deeper understanding of the great autobiography. For instance, Fox presents a lengthy, detailed, and nuanced explanation of the Manichaean heresy that Augustine fervently followed for a time. Thorough background on topics such as this, obscure today but foundational to a full reading of Confessions, provides a true service to readers. Fox sees Augustine’s early life as a series of conversions, either toward ways of thinking or away from certain lifestyles. Once he had thoroughly accepted orthodox Christianity, however, in the famous garden scene described in Confessions, the focus changed. Augustine ceased to undergo conversions and instead began a period of confession in his life, a grappling with his past that culminated in his writing (or dictating, as Fox theorizes) his great prayer, the Confessions. As Fox notes, “books and people alternate importantly in Augustine’s intellectual journey,” and he explores the many ancient texts that influenced the young Augustine as well as the many people who helped shape him. Fox’s writing is coherent and approachable, but the book is not for casual readers of Augustine. It represents a close analysis of both Confessions and of Augustine himself, leaving few stones unturned.

An erudite and ordered reading of Augustine’s Confessions and a worthy addition to any library on early Christianity.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-465-02227-4

Page Count: 688

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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

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BECOMING

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

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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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