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JOHN AUBREY, MY OWN LIFE

A creative, engaging, and profoundly moving account of a man’s fierce desire to discover, understand, and preserve.

A historian and literary critic offers a unique and revealing look at the life of English philosopher John Aubrey (1626-1697), told in Aubrey’s voice in the form of a diary.

Scurr (History and Politics/Cambridge Univ.; Fatal Purity: Robespierre and the French Revolution, 2006) has hit upon a compelling narrative device. Although she has traditional introductory and closing chapters, the bulk of the biography deals with the quotidian affairs of Aubrey, who was a friend and/or acquaintance of some of the great early Enlightenment names, including Christopher Wren, Robert Hooke (with whom Aubrey often hung out in coffee shops, new to London), Isaac Newton, Thomas Hobbes, and numerous others. Aubrey also lived during some of the most tempestuous times in English history—Charles I, Cromwell, the Restoration, the Great Fire of London, the ascent of William and Mary, the unspeakable violence practiced upon Roman Catholics: Aubrey wrote about all of it. Scurr also shows us, through Aubrey’s work, the birth and growth of science in England, including Hooke’s contention that Newton had stolen his ideas. As the author notes, Aubrey was obsessed with English history and geography. He did massive, detailed studies of the countryside (including Stonehenge), studies not duly credited until centuries later. But among the delights of Scurr’s account are the practices and beliefs that conflicted with the emerging science of his day—e.g., witchcraft, astrology, and primitive medicine (Aubrey recommended egg white and sugar to palliate/cure gonorrhea). We also witness Aubrey’s struggles with finances (he frequently borrowed from Hooke), his internecine struggles with his brother, his failures in love (one woman he’d hoped to marry took him not to the altar but to court—more than once), his aches and pains, and his moods.

A creative, engaging, and profoundly moving account of a man’s fierce desire to discover, understand, and preserve.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-68137-042-2

Page Count: 552

Publisher: New York Review Books

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Awards & Accolades

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  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015


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  • IndieBound Bestseller


  • National Book Award Winner


  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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NIGHT

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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