Enjoyable and informative—one of the best books on the topic in years.




Propulsive story of the mythologized, misunderstood universe of motorcycling.

Johnson (White Heat, 2007, etc.) balances his nerdy-gearhead side with precise, vivid prose and a clear understanding of his subject’s history and technology. The author views the motorcycle as several things—fascinating narrative of technical advancement within an unforgiving marketplace, an eternal social metaphor and the most physically exhilarating experience available. He begins with an intimate discussion of the mythic “open road” (“the landscape writes itself on your body, mile after mile”), reflecting his devotion to his lifelong obsession. Involved with motorcycles for 40 years, he grew up riding, starting with the smallest cycles available to a risk-entranced child, and has ridden nearly every kind of bike: high-end Italian Ducatis, off-road bikes, a Japanese touring cycle and various obscure, much–sought-after British bikes. Johnson ties broad personal experience to countless aspects of the topic, including valuable pointers on how to behave around “one-percenters,” outlaw bikers. He establishes expertise with a highly detailed history of the motorcycle’s development, which began nearly 150 years ago, and became popular enough in the early 20th century so that in the United States and Britain “manufacturers sprang up everywhere”—most of which were slain during the ’70s by the Japanese Big Four (Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki and Suzuki). Johnson argues that innovation has always been propelled by daredevils and eccentrics on the far edge of racing and high-risk riding, leading to no shortage of competitive shenanigans. The author seems addicted to competition and speed himself, covering the insular worlds of “flat-track” (cement) racing, motocross (dirt racing), hill scrambles (crazily risky and incongruously family-friendly), world prestige races like the Isle of Man TT and the Dakar Rally, and the world-record cult that revolves around the Bonneville Salt Flats. Johnson captures the obsessive excitement of motorcycle culture with enough verve to make nonriders understand, and jealous, although he doesn’t undersell its dangers.

Enjoyable and informative—one of the best books on the topic in years.

Pub Date: July 27, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4165-5032-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2010

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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