Another winning book from a historian whose passion for his subjects saturates his works.

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THE MEN WHO UNITED THE STATES

AMERICA'S EXPLORERS, INVENTORS, ECCENTRICS AND MAVERICKS, AND THE CREATION OF ONE NATION, INDIVISIBLE

Using a nifty structure around the five classic elements of wood, earth, water, fire and metal, Winchester (Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms, and a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories, 2010, etc.) celebrates the brains and brawn that forged America’s Manifest Destiny.

The author tells the story of the tremendous movement East to West of pioneers, explorers, miners, mappers and inventors whose collective labors made the U.S. truly e pluribus unum. Men take most of the spotlight here. Lewis and Clark’s Native American guide Sacagawea is one of the only females singled out by the author, who writes that she was “the key that opened the gates of the West and allowed the white men through.” Nonetheless, Winchester can tell a good yarn with evident relish, enlisting the element in question to aid in delineating his big themes: Thomas Hutchins’ visionary survey system of 1785 became the model for parceling up the vast expanse of the American West, township by township; William Maclure made the first truly detailed geological map of the U.S. in 1809; the discovery of the “fall line” in many American rivers suddenly rendering them impassable prompted the brilliant use of the canal system as employed by Loammi Baldwin; the building of the interstate road system, beginning with the very first in Cumberland, Md., constructed by John McAdam’s new crushed-rock method in 1812; and finally, the advent of the ubiquitous telegraph wires across the country by 1860, carrying information and spelling the beginning of the new age and the end of the old. In between these milestones are a myriad other stories of American ingenuity, which Winchester recounts with enormous gusto and verve.

Another winning book from a historian whose passion for his subjects saturates his works.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-207960-2

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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