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

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 Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015


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



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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