Engaging revelations about land and property, often discouraging but never dull.

The latest sweeping, satisfying popular history from the British American author and journalist, this time covering a topic that many of us take for granted.

Having bought 123 acres north of New York City, Winchester muses on what land ownership means. At the most basic level, it means that “you have the right to call the police to throw anyone else off what the title documents say belongs to you.” Bronze Age farmers began the process of defining boundaries, but human ingenuity, technology, and avarice produced increasingly accurate markers, surveys, and maps that delineated national borders, a matter of obsessive concern to governments around the world. Winchester delivers a riveting history of mapmaking, which culminated over the past few centuries as heroic surveyors trudged with their instruments thousands of miles to produce charts that were both beautiful and dazzlingly precise. (For a particularly illuminating example, see Winchester’s The Map That Changed the World.) For most of history, human yearning for land outstripped that for money, and the author offers familiar, disheartening accounts of mass acquisitions and theft: Native America (and Australia, Canada, and New Zealand) to Whites, Arab Palestine to Jewish immigrants, Africa to European powers. Readers looking for inspiration will perk up to read about the Netherlands, which acquired its land from the sea and didn’t evict anyone. Although less well known than tech billionaires, America’s land billionaires are prospering, increasing their holdings by 50% since 2007. In fact, the top 100 own land equal to the size of Florida. With some exceptions, they are strangers to public spirit and sometimes fiercely opposed to anyone setting foot on even their wilderness property. The chapters on the Stalin-ordered mass famine in Ukraine and the shameful World War II imprisonment of Japanese Americans (and confiscation of their property) make for painful reading but important historical reminders. The author also discusses climate change and the land that continues to disappear as rising temperatures melt the ice caps.

Engaging revelations about land and property, often discouraging but never dull.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-293833-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020


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


A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.

A thoughtful program for eradicating poverty from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Evicted.

“America’s poverty is not for lack of resources,” writes Desmond. “We lack something else.” That something else is compassion, in part, but it’s also the lack of a social system that insists that everyone pull their weight—and that includes the corporations and wealthy individuals who, the IRS estimates, get away without paying upward of $1 trillion per year. Desmond, who grew up in modest circumstances and suffered poverty in young adulthood, points to the deleterious effects of being poor—among countless others, the precarity of health care and housing (with no meaningful controls on rent), lack of transportation, the constant threat of losing one’s job due to illness, and the need to care for dependent children. It does not help, Desmond adds, that so few working people are represented by unions or that Black Americans, even those who have followed the “three rules” (graduate from high school, get a full-time job, wait until marriage to have children), are far likelier to be poor than their White compatriots. Furthermore, so many full-time jobs are being recast as contracted, fire-at-will gigs, “not a break from the norm as much as an extension of it, a continuation of corporations finding new ways to limit their obligations to workers.” By Desmond’s reckoning, besides amending these conditions, it would not take a miracle to eliminate poverty: about $177 billion, which would help end hunger and homelessness and “make immense headway in driving down the many agonizing correlates of poverty, like violence, sickness, and despair.” These are matters requiring systemic reform, which will in turn require Americans to elect officials who will enact that reform. And all of us, the author urges, must become “poverty abolitionists…refusing to live as unwitting enemies of the poor.” Fortune 500 CEOs won’t like Desmond’s message for rewriting the social contract—which is precisely the point.

A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.

Pub Date: March 21, 2023

ISBN: 9780593239919

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023

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