An exemplary biography, at once sympathetic and unsparing. Readers will admire Einstein’s greatness as a thinker, but they...

EINSTEIN

HIS LIFE AND UNIVERSE

A comprehensive and marvelously readable life of the eminent scientist—and more, the eminent counter-culturalist, rebel, humanist and philanderer.

“A century after his great triumphs, we are still living in Einstein’s universe,” writes Aspen Institute president and former CNN head Isaacson (Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, 2003, etc.), “one defined on the macro scale by his theory of relativity and on the micro by a quantum mechanics that has proven durable even as it remains disconcerting to some.” Brave enough to tread on such highly specialized ground, and working with newly available archival materials, Isaacson lucidly explains the finer points of Einstein’s theories. One, the general theory of relativity, had its birth, Isaacson writes, while Einstein was struggling to write an article on his special theory of relativity; sitting in his office in Bern, where he worked as a patent-examiner, he had the thought, “If a person falls freely, he will not feel his own weight”—“the happiest thought in my life,” Einstein recalled—but underlying it is some formidable work in physics and mathematics that took Einstein many subsequent years to express, and Isaacson acquits himself very well in taking readers along some strenuous paths of reasoning. Along with the science, Isaacson gives us an Einstein with whom it might have been fun to enjoy a stein of beer—unless you were married to him, a different story altogether, for by Isaacson’s account, Einstein was sufficiently sure of his own genius and the needs it entailed that he refused to be tied down by the ordinary rules applied to husbands and fathers. One daughter he even abandoned without a look back, but this was typical of his nonconformity, which, Isaacson writes, was characteristic of Einstein until the very end of his life.

An exemplary biography, at once sympathetic and unsparing. Readers will admire Einstein’s greatness as a thinker, but they will now know that he, like all other idols, had feet of clay. See Jürgen Neffe's Einstein (2007) for more on the subject.

Pub Date: April 10, 2007

ISBN: 0-7432-6473-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2007

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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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