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

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FOR SMALL CREATURES SUCH AS WE

RITUALS FOR FINDING MEANING IN OUR UNLIKELY WORLD

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. 7, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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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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