A gripping history of 75 years of Russian-American conflict with the dismal conclusion that we seem outmatched.



Under Putin no less than Stalin, Russia represents America’s greatest threat, according to this unnervingly insightful history by the Pulitzer Prize–winning historian.

After 1945, unwilling to risk nuclear Armageddon, the U.S. and Soviet Union confined themselves to political warfare, meaning, as George Kennan wrote, “employment of all the means at a nation’s command, short of war, to achieve its national objectives.” This is not the same as nonviolence. As illustrated in Weiner’s National Book Award–winning history of the CIA, Legacy of Ashes (2007), America’s first decades after the war featured elaborate, covert military actions, most of which flopped. After the news got out in the 1970s, the CIA dialed them back, but it was always true that CIA money and propaganda achieved far more than dirty tricks. To this point, the author’s account breaks little new ground; not so after the 1989 collapse of the Soviet Union. Weiner’s uncomfortably convincing opinion is that the U.S. screwed up royally, rubbing Russia’s nose in their failures and proclaiming that democracy had demonstrated its superiority. Aware that expanding NATO to the east would infuriate Russia’s new leaders, in 1990, Secretary of State James Baker promised never to do so—and then broke that promise. Ironically, Stalin’s paranoid vision of the West conspiring to surround his nation with enemies became true. Putin took power in 2000 with the aim of making Russian great again. Unable to match America’s massive military, he created an immense intelligence and cyberwarfare establishment that, after flexing its muscles by crippling nearby nations, has concentrated on the U.S. Weiner then delivers a dismaying account of the avalanche of hacking, disinformation, and social media manipulation that began in 2014 with the object of sowing dissention. The author astutely observes that this strategy involves keeping Trump in office, and there’s no doubt of Trump’s fervent and frightening subservience to the Russian leader.

A gripping history of 75 years of Russian-American conflict with the dismal conclusion that we seem outmatched.

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-62779-085-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: April 5, 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...


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 handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.


Bestselling author Haig offers a book’s worth of apothegms to serve as guides to issues ranging from disquietude to self-acceptance.

Like many collections of this sort—terse snippets of advice, from the everyday to the cosmic—some parts will hit home with surprising insight, some will feel like old hat, and others will come across as disposable or incomprehensible. Years ago, Haig experienced an extended period of suicidal depression, so he comes at many of these topics—pain, hope, self-worth, contentment—from a hard-won perspective. This makes some of the material worthy of a second look, even when it feels runic or contrary to experience. The author’s words are instigations, hopeful first steps toward illumination. Most chapters are only a few sentences long, the longest running for three pages. Much is left unsaid and left up to readers to dissect. On being lost, Haig recounts an episode with his father when they got turned around in a forest in France. His father said to him, “If we keep going in a straight line we’ll get out of here.” He was correct, a bit of wisdom Haig turned to during his depression when he focused on moving forward: “It is important to remember the bottom of the valley never has the clearest view. And that sometimes all you need to do in order to rise up again is to keep moving forward.” Many aphorisms sound right, if hardly groundbreaking—e.g., a quick route to happiness is making someone else happy; “No is a good word. It keeps you sane. In an age of overload, no is really yes. It is yes to having space you need to live”; “External events are neutral. They only gain positive or negative value the moment they enter our mind.” Haig’s fans may enjoy this one, but others should take a pass.

A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-14-313666-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Penguin Life

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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