Packed with anecdotes that will appeal to dedicated military buffs, but the encyclopedic prose will lose average readers.




A history of the Joint Special Operations Command, one of the most elite and little-understood pieces of the American military.

While most people know about Delta Force and SEAL Team 6, few have heard of their umbrella group, JSOC. The secret organization was first designed to rescue American captives during the Iran hostage crisis, and although the crisis was resolved before JSOC could unleash its elite units, the group grew exponentially over the next two decades. Naylor (Not a Good Day to Die: The Untold Story of Operation Anaconda, 2005) provides a whirlwind tour of the organization’s many covert operations, from apprehending Manuel Noriega in Panama to hunting war criminals in the former Yugoslavia. But the author’s primary interest is the war on terror, beginning with 9/11. Not only does he characterize JSOC as the allied forces’ most essential wing, but he also describes the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq as a major opportunity for American task forces. As Lt. Col. Pete Blaber put it, “At this point, the staff of our higher headquarters was ready to approve just about anything we brought to them—and they did.” Naylor delivers an unquestionably comprehensive history, but the prose sometimes drowns in names, dates, and clinical anecdotes. Occasionally, the author provides vivid visual descriptions, but most of the book is devoid of human faces. The prose is written in emotionless Army-speak, and many of Naylor’s sources spoke, as can be expected in such a book, on condition of anonymity. As one nameless official describes JSOC, “It was so, so top secret that it was extremely difficult to do our job.” In the prologue, the author admits that this secrecy slowed his research. His information is strong, but his story is monotonous, and the final chapter dully peters out.

Packed with anecdotes that will appeal to dedicated military buffs, but the encyclopedic prose will lose average readers.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-01454-2

Page Count: 560

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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