A thoughtful journey into little-known spots along the Colorado Plateau. Thybony, a northern Arizonabased writer locally known for a comprehensive guide to hiking the Grand Canyon, has an affinity for places not found on any map. The Burntwater of his title is one, a place whose Navajo name commemorates a shepherd's having melted ice there by building a circle of fire around it; elsewhere he takes us to other poetically named places like Crazy Jug Point, Tsegi, and Oraibi. Thybony is on a quest to understand the traditional Navajo blessing H¢zh¢ naninaadoo (``Go in beauty''), a formula that younger Navajo consider old-fashioned but that stayed with Thybony from the moment he first heard it. ``Only later did I learn about the Navajo idea of beauty and how it moves through life like a wind,'' he writes. ``It's not the beauty of surfaces alone, but an indwelling beauty that enfolds and completes, a life-restoring beauty.'' Informed by a deep knowledge of anthropology, geology, and history, Thybony's quest takes us inside the rock home of the Hopi elder Don Talayesva, author of the classic autobiography Sun Chief, ``a man running from angels''; into haunted side-canyons along the Colorado River, where Thybony affectingly recalls his brother's death in an airplane crash over Grand Canyon; and into the backcountry of western New Mexico, the birthplace of the atomic bomb and of a world ``where the dead could no longer be counted, where numbers gave way to sheer mass, where death became nameless.'' The author's love of the land is evident at every turn, and his essays deepen our understanding of both these mysterious places and of people who seek beauty within and without them. Gracefully written, this is outstanding reading for armchair travelers and habituÇs of the Four Corners country alike.

Pub Date: April 10, 1997

ISBN: 0-8165-1456-9

Page Count: 125

Publisher: Univ. of Arizona

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1997

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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