An enjoyable account of an amazing human accomplishment.




A gung-ho English cyclist tackles the Iron Curtain Trail, aka the Euro Velo 13.

In this daring “ride too far,” as his wife put it, Moore (Gironimo!: Riding the Very Terrible 1914 Tour of Italy, 2015, etc.) chronicles a grueling 10,000-km bike ride over 90 days and through 20 countries, most of which were formerly in the Eastern Bloc. The real kicker here is not the distance—from Kirkenes, Finland, to Tsarevo, Bulgaria, on the Black Sea coast—but the type of vehicle he rode: an archaic East German–made MIFA 900, which was to Iron Curtain biking until 1990 as Trabants were to driving. A three-month car trip Moore took with his wife in 1990, just weeks after the Berlin Wall came down, serves as a nostalgic frame for this ambitious trek and informs the author’s affection for the small-framed “Communist shopping bicycle” he insisted on using in the name of authenticity—though he had to modify it somewhat for the journey. Starting in Finland in March, he faced deep snowfall and incredulous observers along the way, and there are some hilarious photos accompanying the tweets he made at the time and sketches of the route. The main worries were how to get enough to eat, which was a real problem in Romania (he lost many pounds), and fending off the stray dogs that often followed him menacingly. What he witnessed—through Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Greece, and so on—was the state of the demise of socialism. Some places were more triumphant than others, and the most troubling country was Russia, where he glimpsed the shocking polarization between rich and poor. Moore offers a smattering of history—World War II and the Soviet era—in this engaging, elucidating narrative, though some American readers may tire of the spasmodic writing and relentless Briticisms.

An enjoyable account of an amazing human accomplishment.

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-68177-299-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Oct. 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2016

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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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