A historian harshly assesses the Bush Administration’s efforts to combat terrorism and wage war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Brushing aside the former president’s claim that he cannot be fairly judged until after his death, Anderson (History/Texas A&M Univ.; The Pursuit of Fairness: A History of Affirmative Action, 2004, etc.) insists that the legacies and lessons of the Bush presidency are already ripe for appraisal. After supplying useful potted histories of Iraq, “the Improbable Country,” and Afghanistan, “the Graveyard of Empires,” and a 30-year review of U.S. policy toward and battles with al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, the author brings the reader up to 9/11. From there, he focuses on George W. Bush’s presidency, an account of unrelieved hubris, malfeasance, deceptions and incompetence. The short version, widely available prior to this book’s publication, is as follows: Having ignored signals that should have alerted them to al-Qaeda’s attacks, Bush officials pressed for laws that curbed domestic civil liberties, even as they engaged in extra-legal methods to fight a misguided and certainly misnamed “war on terror.” Then, taking advantage of a traumatized electorate, an incurious, revenge-minded president, aided by Cheney, Rumsfeld and a brace of Pentagon neocons, abetted by a pliant CIA and a duped Colin Powell, cherry-picked evidence, lied to the country and rushed into a disastrous war for oil in Iraq against an unsavory dictator, easily demonized because he possessed WMDs, an accusation never proven. This horribly wrong turn in Iraq squandered the world’s good will, allowed Osama bin Laden to escape capture and the Taliban to regroup in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, a mismanaged, bloody Iraq occupation depleted our treasury, depressed our military and robbed us of any moral credibility. Untroubled by the succeeding administration’s adoption of many of the Bush policies—Guantánamo remains open, the Patriot Act was extended—or by recent upheavals in the Muslim world that have demonstrated once again the difficulties of a properly calibrated American diplomatic and military response, Anderson approvingly cites a fellow professor’s judgment that, when it comes to Bush, there may be “no alternative but to rank him as the worst president in U.S. history.” A relentlessly tendentious account sure to delight Bush critics and infuriate admirers.


Pub Date: July 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-19-974752-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2011

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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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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

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