A readable if superficial analysis of the moral basis of east Asian society. Over the course of a generation, the nations of east Asia have become, to varying degrees, prosperous industrial societies. And a social miracle has accompanied the economic miracle, notes Reid (former Tokyo bureau chief for the Washington Post), namely, social stability. Nations such as Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan all enjoy extremely low crime rates. Divorce is rare. Public education is superb; economic equality is more a fact than a goal. These societies work, and in comparison, ours doesn’t. Why? Reid holds east Asian values responsible. For the region’s people generally adhere to the tenets of Confucianism, and Confucianism preaches social harmony as an end in itself. Thus, to break or disregard social mores brings shame upon the self, one’s family, and one’s society. Reid writes knowingly about Confucian thought and shows, through sharply drawn anecdotes, how harmony is pursued and practiced on a daily basis in east Asia. Yet he doesn—t find Confucian moral values to differ all that much from those of the West and its Judeo-Christian tradition. The main difference, for Reid, lies in the fact that east Asian societies will go to extraordinary lengths to instill moral values in every member (and this, he claims, Americans don—t do, although they should). There are flaws in his logic, however. The author never questions, for instance, the psychic cost of socially mandated conformity, nor does he discuss the often highly unequal status of women in east Asia. And he doesn—t consider how differing social policies, rather than simply differing emphases on values, may account for east Asia’s success. Reid presents an interesting thesis but doesn—t quite convince. (Author tour)

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-679-45624-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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