Good bedside reading for history buffs.

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PROFILES IN LEADERSHIP

HISTORIANS ON THE ELUSIVE QUALITY OF GREATNESS

Renowned historians describe the leadership secrets of presidents, generals, preachers, a baseball manager and others.

This bright anthology from the Society of American Historians gathers essays from top-flight historians—Sean Wilentz, David M. Kennedy, Jean Strouse, Alan Brinkley, David Levering Lewis, etc.—on the leadership skills of an array of Americans. As Isaacson (Einstein: His Life and Universe, 2007, etc.) notes in his introduction, a major theme is that the greatest challenge of leadership is knowing when to be pragmatic and when to adhere to principle, which is nicely illustrated by Brinkley’s piece contrasting Herbert Hoover as “a victim of his convictions” and Franklin Roosevelt as the experimenter. Kevin Baker shows how the celebrated baseball manager John Joseph McGraw shined as a master clubhouse psychologist. Evan Thomas points to Robert Kennedy’s insecurities as the source for his empathy for the downtrodden. David M. Kennedy finds that the ever-optimistic Dwight Eisenhower’s ability to elicit cooperation served him well at war and in the White House. Two pieces stand out, both on lesser-known historical figures. Frances FitzGerald vividly evokes the life of Charles Finney, an upstate New York evangelist of the 1800s, whose emotional preaching upset the established clergy and inspired temperance, abolition and other major reform movements. In a wonderful essay on Pauli Murray, an early civil-rights champion, Glenda Gilmore shows how this remarkable African-American—feminist, lawyer, poet, ordained Episcopalian priest and friend of Eleanor Roosevelt—relied on persistence and self-invention to become a powerful opponent of Jim Crow. Other essays cover Ulysses S. Grant, J.P. Morgan, Joseph (Chief of the Nez Perce Indians), W.E.B. Dubois and Wendell Willkie. In an analysis of leadership failures, Robert Dallek explains why our optimism over new presidents invariably leads to disappointment as they craft poor policies and stumble over foreign crises.

Good bedside reading for history buffs.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-393-07655-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2010

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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