Readers interested in the essential work of military special forces will be inspired by McRaven’s adventures.

SEA STORIES

MY LIFE IN SPECIAL OPERATIONS

A retired four-star admiral serves up a readable memoir that’s long on blood and guts—including those of Osama bin Laden.

McRaven (Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life...And Maybe the World, 2017) grew up a military brat—and a Texan when his father was sent to San Antonio after suffering a mild stroke (“something to do with cigarettes and Jim Beam whiskey, the doctor would say”). He also grew up in the 1960s under the influence of James Bond movies and The Man from U.N.C.L.E., all of which would come into play when the young Navy ensign applied to become a SEAL, “reportedly the toughest physical training in the entire military.” Certainly the drill instructors worked McRaven hard; of an entering class of 155, he writes, only 33 completed training and became SEALs. He himself would serve longer than any other SEAL, rising to become the commander of the entire U.S. Special Operations Forces. His book is anecdotal but without many surprises for anyone with military experience, but his account of finding and killing bin Laden is one of the best in the literature, told from the eagle’s-eye viewpoint of one who oversaw the entire operation. There his story shines, full of twists and turns ranging from the politics of the military’s engagement with the intelligence community (“those CIA officers who disliked SOF the most seemed to be our staunchest supporters”) to confirming that it was indeed bin Laden the SEALs and other special ops troops had killed. (McRaven recounts ordering a 6-foot-2 SEAL to lie next to the corpse of the 6-foot-4 bin Laden to be sure that they’d gotten the right guy.) It’s a story with many heroes but of cold professionalism as well; as the author tells it, “I had no sense of relief, no internal exhilaration, no feeling of victory,” not until his men were safely home.

Readers interested in the essential work of military special forces will be inspired by McRaven’s adventures.

Pub Date: May 21, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5387-2974-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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

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BECOMING

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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