An intermittently interesting but overlong book that is not likely to make much of a buzz.

THE MOSQUITO

A HUMAN HISTORY OF OUR DEADLIEST PREDATOR

A wandering treatment of one of life’s constant annoyances and worse.

“We are at war with the mosquito,” writes former military officer Winegard (History and Political Science/Colorado Mesa Univ.; The First World Oil War, 2016, etc.). There’s reason for that: There are something like 110 trillion mosquitoes floating around humankind’s ankles and nostrils at any given moment, and when you count up the death toll from malaria, Zika virus, dengue fever, and the like, mosquitoes are responsible for some 830,000 human deaths per year, logarithmic orders from the 10 or so humans who fall victim to sharks. Indeed, writes the author, doing the math, as many as half of all the humans who have ever lived may have fallen to mosquitoes, especially in the days before we discovered quinine, gin and tonics, and DDT. The case isn’t overwrought; yellow fever alone is a cause for much misery in Africa and has otherwise been “a global historical game-changer.” Winegard’s drawn-out survey of history covers ground that is largely well known, including the role of mosquito-borne illnesses in the American Revolution and Civil War and the long effort, planned under Julius Caesar but not effected until Benito Mussolini’s reign, to drain the Pontine Marshes outside Rome. The author does uncover some lesser-known moments, however, such as the malaria research conducted by Chinese scientists during the Vietnam War, and he’s good on why some human populations seem more vulnerable to mosquito-borne illnesses than others. Overall, the book is serviceable but less fluent than Sonia Shah’s The Fever, David DeKok’s The Epidemic, Michael Osterholm and Mark Olshaker’s Deadliest Enemy, and other popular accounts of all the malign things that await us out in the open air. And readers could probably have done without the anemic valediction to the fanged female at the close: “My judgment of her now vacillates between that sincere, loathing revulsion and a genuine respect and admiration.”

An intermittently interesting but overlong book that is not likely to make much of a buzz.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4341-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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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 PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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