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

A BRIEF HISTORY OF MOTION

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

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 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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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 lucid, astute text that unpacks the myths of Russian history to help explain present-day motivations and actions.

THE STORY OF RUSSIA

An expert on Russia delivers a crucially relevant study of a country that has been continuously “subjected to the vicissitudes of ruling ideologies.”

Wolfson History Prize winner Figes, one of the world’s leading authorities on Russian history and culture, shows how, over centuries, Russian autocrats have manipulated intertwined layers of mythology and history to suit their political and imperial purposes. Regarding current affairs, the author argues convincingly that to understand Putin’s aggressive behavior toward Ukraine and other neighboring nations, it is essential to grasp how Russia has come to see itself within the global order, especially in Asia and Europe. Figes emphasizes the intensive push and pull between concepts of East and West since the dubious founding of Kievan Rus, “the first Russian state,” circa 980. Russia’s geography meant it had few natural boundaries and was vulnerable to invasion—e.g., by the Mongols—and its mere size often required strong, central military control. It was in Moscow’s interests to increase its territorial boundaries and keep its neighbors weak, a strategy still seen today. Figes explores the growth of the “patrimonial autocracy” and examines how much of the mechanics of the country’s autocracy, bureaucracy, military structure, oligarchy, and corruption were inherited from three centuries of Mongol rule. From Peter the Great to Catherine the Great to Alexander II (the reformer who freed the serfs) and through the Bolsheviks to Stalin: In most cases, everything belonged to the state, and there were few societal institutions to check that power. “This imbalance—between a dominating state and a weak society—has shaped the course of Russian history,” writes the author in a meaningful, definitive statement. Today, Putin repudiates any hint of Westernizing influences (Peter the Great) while elevating the Eastern (Kievan Rus, the Orthodox Church). In that, he is reminiscent of Stalin, who recognized the need for patriotic fervor and national myths and symbols to unite and ensure the oppression of the masses.

A lucid, astute text that unpacks the myths of Russian history to help explain present-day motivations and actions.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-2507-9689-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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