An unquestionably valuable service, well-written and tremendously informed, for the families of airmen lost during the Cold...




A passionate look at the hidden role played by aerial spying during the Cold War.

The Cold War ended just a little over a decade ago, and it will probably be many years before its complete history is set down. But here, Burrows (Journalism/NYU; This New Ocean, 1998, etc.) fills in some of the blanks by providing a detailed account of aerial intelligence between 1950 and 1970. Far from providing just a technical history, the author highlights the stories of the aviators and crew who risked (and occasionally suffered) capture, torture, and death in the service of a country that was often oblivious to their existence. Many readers will be surprised to learn that no fewer than 163 airmen died as a result of reconnaissance missions, most of which were not acknowledged at the time. To this end, much of this story reads as an oral history provided by the surviving pilots, including many harrowing tales of survival and imprisonment. However, Burrows does not neglect the technical dimensions of aerial intelligence, such as the development of the SR-71 Blackbird, which replaced the famed U2, and the dawn of the satellite era, which largely, but not completely, supplanted the use of spy planes. Burrows is also careful to place aerial spying in its larger institutional and political contexts. His chapter on General Curtis LeMay and the Strategic Air Command is chilling, but made comprehensible by his attention to the atmosphere of Cold War paranoia that prevailed at the time. Burrows rightly emphasizes the benefit of the knowledge gained from aerial intelligence but downplays the tensions produced by the illegal over flights of other nations’ territory.

An unquestionably valuable service, well-written and tremendously informed, for the families of airmen lost during the Cold War—and for everyone else now beginning to process the meaning of that part of recent history.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-374-11747-0

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2001

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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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