A solid retelling of an inspiring story.




A novel perspective on American history that focuses on the story of the country's founding documents and the Americans who composed, safeguarded, and preserved them for the benefit of future generations.

American History magazine contributor Puleo (The Caning: The Assault that Drove America to Civil War, 2012, etc.) concentrates not on the drafting of the Declaration of Independence and other documents but rather their preservation. Near the beginning of World War II, Franklin Roosevelt had requested that Archibald MacLeish, Librarian of Congress, prepare a plan to safeguard the nation's key founding documents. He feared that Hitler would bomb the capital city. MacLeish had to select the documents to protect as well as safe storage sites. That endeavor provides Puleo with a unique frame for a recounting of the history of the physical documents and their continued existence as well as the revered history of their creation. The author's fast-moving presentation combines the familiar stories of their adoption and passage with those of their subsequent production and dissemination. The Declaration of Independence passed on July 2, not July 4, and the official signing didn’t take place until a month later. Only after four more months did all the names appear on the copy held by the printer. The author makes it clear not only how dangerous it was to be associated with those awe-inspiring documents, but also how threatened they were. Without the courageous initiative of Dolly Madison, for example, it is doubtful the treasures could have been saved from destruction in the fires set by the British during the War of 1812. The drafting and circumstances of delivery of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address helps round out the picture. In addition to threats, anniversaries and celebrations continue to call forth efforts to preserve and protect these precious documents from enemies and the passage of time.

A solid retelling of an inspiring story.

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-250-06574-2

Page Count: 432

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


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

Did you like this book?