A sober, monumental and unflinchingly critical account of a problematic institution.

ENEMIES

A HISTORY OF THE FBI

Drawing on thousands of pages of recently declassified documents and oral histories, Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner Weiner (Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA, 2008, etc.) delivers an authoritative and often frightening history of what has been, in effect, America's secret police.

The history of the FBI is easily divided into two periods: the J. Edgar Hoover period and after. In 1924, before he was 30, Hoover took over a tiny, tawdry Bureau and built it into a fearsome empire he ruled as a personal fiefdom until his death in 1972. The Bureau under Hoover did as it pleased and answered to no one. Illegal wiretapping, bugging, black-bag jobs—the organization did it all in the service of Hoover's relentless pursuit of communist subversives real and imaginary. In the process he assembled files of devastating information on thousands of Americans from the presidents on down. Much of this scurrilous information was obtained on the direct orders of presidents and attorneys general, and was supplied to them for their own uses. After Hoover's death, these abuses were reined in, but the Bureau has since endured a series of flawed directors who have proven unable to bring order to its sprawling and insular chaos or overcome a culture of rigidity and bureaucratic ineptitude. Weiner focuses on the FBI's activities investigating and attempting to prevent subversion and terrorism and writes little about the Bureau's pursuit of gangsters and white-collar criminals, which has taken up far fewer resources than the public supposes. A major theme is the difference between investigations intended to support criminal prosecutions and those intended to disrupt potential subversive activity. The former require strict adherence to constitutional safeguards; the latter, however necessary they seemed at the time, have all too often trampled on civil liberties. Striking an appropriate balance between liberty and security remains an ongoing challenge for the FBI. Weiner contributes much new, troubling and thoroughly substantiated information to any serious consideration of that issue.

A sober, monumental and unflinchingly critical account of a problematic institution.

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4000-6748-0

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 24, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 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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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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