More engrossing work from a gifted practitioner of narrative nonfiction.

A TRUCK FULL OF MONEY

The Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner tells the story of a maverick software engineer and entrepreneur’s remarkable life.

The digital revolution was in its infancy when Paul English’s talent for computers revealed itself in the mid-1970s. With only rudimentary computer training, the teenage English created programs that let him alter his computer teacher’s attendance files. However, writes Kidder (Strength in What Remains, 2009, etc.) in this brief but well-told biography, he was an unmotivated student who got into fights and graduated high school near the bottom of his class. Exceptional SAT scores earned him a tuition-free education at the University of Massachusetts, which English only decided to attend because “the school had a student jazz band.” His attitude changed after he discovered the UMass computer science department. What he learned there, as well as in the programming jobs he had outside the university, gave him insight into the emergent “society of programmers,” which included individuals who were as introverted, eccentric, and awkward as English. After earning his master’s degree, English worked briefly as a coder before moving into management at Interleaf, a company that created software products for technical publishing. During this early period in his career, he discovered that he also had a flair for entrepreneurship. At the same time, he learned that the energy that drove him to extended bouts of manic coding came from bipolar disorder. After he left Interleaf in the mid-1990s, English co-founded a high-tech firm, Boston Light, in 1998, which he then sold for a profit the next year. His greatest financial coup came a decade later, when his travel site, Kayak, sold for $1.8 billion. Yet English ultimately found that his greatest fulfillment came not from his work as an engineer and entrepreneur but from using his fortune to help the homeless in Boston and underprivileged in Haiti. While eminently readable as a biography, Kidder’s book is also a trenchant study of the new American economy and the technological world that built it.

More engrossing work from a gifted practitioner of narrative nonfiction.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9524-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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