An engrossing work rich in insights and anecdotes.

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BLACKETT'S WAR

THE MEN WHO DEFEATED THE NAZI U-BOATS AND BROUGHT SCIENCE TO THE ART OF WARFARE

Little-known story of the Allied scientists whose unconventional thinking helped thwart the Nazi U-boats in World War II.

With the largest fleet of submarines (U-boats) in the war, Germany dominated early fighting in the Battle of the Atlantic, destroying much Allied shipping. During three months in 1940 alone, U-boats sank more than 150 ships; U-boat commanders were celebrated as daring heroes back home. By war’s end, U-boat crews would suffer the highest casualties of all German forces. Military historian Budiansky (Perilous Fight: America’s Intrepid War with Britain on the High Seas, 1812–1815, 2011, etc.) offers an excellent, well-researched account of the unlikely group of some 100 British and American scientists whose ideas halted the Nazi submarine menace. Foremost among them was British experimental physicist Patrick Blackett, a controversial socialist and later Nobel Prize winner, who directed operational research for the Admiralty during the war. His teams of scientists brought “a scientific outlook and a fresh eye” to problems that had previously been addressed by tradition and gut instinct. Drawing on math and probability theory, the scientists developed effective solutions to issues such as armor placement on RAF aircraft, the optimal size of warship convoys to protect merchant ships (larger was better), and the proper use of plane-delivered depth charges. Their work doubled or tripled the effectiveness of the Allied campaigns against U-boats; writes the author: “It is no exaggeration to say that few men did more to win the war against Nazi Germany than Patrick Blackett.” Especially fascinating is Budiansky’s account of Blackett’s successful effort to urge the wartime mobilization of scientists at a time when the military greatly distrusted intellectuals and civilians. The scientists’ contributions to the war effort secured “a permanent institutional foothold” for scientific advice in government.

An engrossing work rich in insights and anecdotes.

Pub Date: Feb. 20, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-307-59596-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

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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