A BRIEF HISTORY OF MOTION

FROM THE WHEEL, TO THE CAR, TO WHAT COMES NEXT

Standage nimbly touches all the bases in this sprightly historical race.

A 5,000-year-long road trip.

Economist deputy editor Standage’s previous books have a wry quirkiness about them, and his latest fits nicely alongside A History of the World in 6 Glasses and An Edible History of Humanity. The author’s methodology involves statistics and facts in moderation, leavened with humorous trivia in the service of entertaining and informing readers. Here, the author offers a witty, expansive, evolutionary look at transportation history. “It all starts with the wheel,” he writes. The wheel’s origin has been debated for centuries but was likely first made in the Carpathian Mountains during the Copper Age, and it found wide use with the invention of the horse-drawn chariot. “The adoption of the wheel,” however, hit a “bump in the historical road” with the rise of cavalries. Carts and wagons were already in use, and the horse was the way to go, but in the 16th century, the four-wheeled coach became popular. They could create barriers and carry small cannons. As road conditions improved, stagecoaches and the larger omnibus gained favor. The steam engine led to the first powered vehicle and the locomotive, and “railways transformed urban life.” A human-powered running bicycle appeared in 1817, followed by the pedal-driven bicycle, which could “stay upright as if by magic.” The internal combustion machine begat the motorcycle and then, in 1886, the three-wheeled Motorwagen, which helped reduce the number of unhealthy manure-strewn streets. Although expensive, their popularity grew. In 1908, Ford launched its $850 Model T, and by 1923, the revolutionary, mass-produced car’s price had fallen to $298. As their numbers increased, so did fatalities, the rise of traffic lights, paved roads, highways, and suburbia. The author drives on through gas stations, car culture, drive-in restaurants, pollution, and electric and autonomous cars to the finish line.

Standage nimbly touches all the bases in this sprightly historical race.

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63557-361-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

NIGHT

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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