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FOR SMALL CREATURES SUCH AS WE

RITUALS FOR FINDING MEANING IN OUR UNLIKELY WORLD

Profound, elegantly written ruminations on the exquisite splendors of life enjoyed through a secular lens.

The daughter of the prestigious “astronomer of the people” offers ethereal wisdom and worldly guidance based on the philosophy of her parents.

Sagan’s debut, a lushly written amalgam of memoir and manual, traces her life as the daughter of Carl and writer/producer Ann Druyan and how she came to appreciate the wonder in the everyday. Raised in a secular household, the author was educated through straightforward scientific explanations, but her father’s death when she was just 14 left more questions than answers. More than two decades later, she carries on his guiding principles within her own family. In her first book, she ponders a variety of rapturous events, milestones, ancestral influences, and sage affirmations on life and death. The author offers commentary on her and her husband’s semi-sacred daily rituals, affording readers intimate glimpses into their coupling, wedding ceremony, joyful togetherness, misunderstandings, and sweet reconciliations. She shares fond memories of her family home, where world history frequently became an educational opportunity, and reveals the reverent methods she now employs to spiritually reconnect with the memory of her beloved father. Sagan’s narrative is heavily steeped in rituals: lighting candles, costuming, or meditating on and celebrating significant events and milestones in her life. Early in the book, the author remarks on the staunch secularity of her parents, an independent perspective and lifestyle passed down to her and her family. She open-mindedly explores the differences between those who have become ossified by religious protocol and those who rejoice in unfettered enjoyment of the natural world and the science underlying nature’s beauty. “Religion, at its best, facilitates empathy, gratitude, and awe,” she writes. “Science, at its best, reveals true grandeur beyond our wildest dreams. My hope is that I can merge these into some new thing…as we navigate—and celebrate—the mysterious beauty and terror of being alive in our universe.”

Profound, elegantly written ruminations on the exquisite splendors of life enjoyed through a secular lens.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1877-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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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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INTO THE WILD

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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