A tender, engaging, and environmentally timely work.


Altschuler shares memories and lessons learned during his time living off the grid and connecting with nature in this memoir.

In 1977, when the author was 30, he felt burned out by his job as a prison social worker, had recently divorced, and felt a sense of aimlessness. This led him to take a break from his urban existence and move into a small cabin in the woods at the base of Southwestern New Hampshire’s Barrett Mountain. The single-room abode, originally a tool shed, had no electricity, no telephone, and no indoor plumbing, although an outhouse was attached to the main structure. His goal was to devote himself to writing and seek inner calm. He would do so for more than three years. The physical rigors of sustenance—chopping wood for his stove, collecting water from a nearby stream, foraging, and planting—quieted his mind, and during his first summer, he began writing, narrating, and producing what became a popular five-minute local radio program, Backwoods Cabin. On Christmas Eve 1977, his car was vandalized, and foot power became his sole mode of transportation; the slower pace allowed him to focus on, and write about, his spiritual connection with the natural world. This memoir suffers from some occasional repetition and long-winded philosophizing. However, there’s often a compelling, Zen-influenced musicality and immediacy to Altschuler’s prose—a wistfulness that’s occasionally tinged with humor, which makes the work especially effective when read in short bursts. Of the melting snow that signaled the arrival of spring, for instance, he writes, “For there arose a certain pain and sadness seeing this ace starter, snow, slink off the mound toward the dugout, knocked about by a slurry of cheap singles.” When he finally returned to city life, he settled across the continent in Berkeley, California, bringing this same descriptive attention to his frequent forays along the winding trails that abut the city: The lives of the local hummingbird and red-tailed hawk, he writes, “meant singing, sipping, soaring without a moment’s doubt, with total trust in the truth of the present.”

A tender, engaging, and environmentally timely work.

Pub Date: March 9, 2021

ISBN: 979-8-71-194572-7

Page Count: 259

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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