As with all of Johnson’s work, a highly readable, deeply researched look into a little-explored corner of history.

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ENEMY OF ALL MANKIND

A TRUE STORY OF PIRACY, POWER, AND HISTORY'S FIRST GLOBAL MANHUNT

The logo of modern capitalism isn’t properly the dollar sign but instead the skull and crossbones.

Wide-ranging as always, Johnson, author of such bestsellers as Everything Bad Is Good for You and How We Got to Now, locates the origins of our current dog-eat-dog economic condition in the actions of a flotilla of 17th-century pirates. Led by a mutineer named Henry Every, six ships converged at the mouth of the Red Sea, just where modern pirates gather today, to raid the fleets of the declining Mughal Empire. They attacked one huge ship that had the misfortune of having a cannon misfire even as a lucky shot from the pirate fleet took down the main mast. Aboard was a fortune in diamonds—and a harem that the pirates, as might be expected, treated as their own. The attack set in motion a number of things. For one, the British East India Company, sensing weakness, moved to secure a foothold in India while thwarting Parliament’s regulatory efforts to weaken the power of that early corporation. For its part, the British government declared Every and company to be enemies of mankind to be killed upon sight. Every disappeared, but some of his shipmates were not so fortunate. Johnson writes with vigor and evident fascination for Every and his exploits—that foundational mutiny, for instance, “one of those rare moments from history where we can re-create an almost second-by-second account of the actions.” His equation of their “radical dream of economic and political liberation” with the behavior of modern moguldom is arguable, but the predatory, sociopathic nature of the pirates is surely not. This makes it ever stranger that Every, now almost unknown, should have been a rock star in his day, and especially in a media-innocent time when brigands such as Walter Ralegh and Edward Teach commanded much public notice.

As with all of Johnson’s work, a highly readable, deeply researched look into a little-explored corner of history.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1160-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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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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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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WHY WE'RE POLARIZED

A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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