An engaging, poignant portrayal of one of the most significant of Russian leaders.

GORBACHEV

HIS LIFE AND TIMES

The long-awaited biography of the enigmatic Soviet leader whose “new thinking” sent shock waves throughout the Soviet Union and indeed the world.

Taubman (Emeritus, Political Science/Amherst Coll.), who won the National Book Critics Circle Award and Pulitzer Prize for Khrushchev: The Man and His Era (2003), is perfectly qualified to delve into the political psyche of Mikhail Gorbachev (b. 1931), who had everything to do with ending the Cold War and managed to emerge—rather miraculously unscathed—from the layers of Soviet intrigue. The author delivers a series of intriguing questions to drive his page-turning, chronological narrative—e.g., “how did he become Communist party boss despite the rigorous imaginable arrangement of checks and guarantees designed to guard against someone like him?” From his earliest years, Gorbachev, the son of peasants, developed a remarkable self-confidence derived from a tremendous intelligence and dedication to join the great mission of his country. His early education at Moscow State University, work on a collective farm, and formative first job as head of the Komsomol regional committee in Stavropol gave him a good sense of how “rotten” the inner workings of the Soviet system had grown. Moreover, his close relationship with his wife, philosopher Raisa Titarenko, provided him an intellectual partner with whom to exchange and develop his ideas of reform. Those ideas evolved through the de-Stalinization campaign of the Khrushchev years and the subsequent smashing of the Prague Spring of 1968. Indeed, Gorbachev referred to himself as a “man of the sixties” who gradually ascended the ranks under Leonid Brezhnev and was the only viable leader who remained to take the reins in 1985 after the power vacuum left by the deaths of the aged leaders Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko. He was young, groomed, well-read in texts once banned by the Soviets, and Westernized, and he had a glamorous, intellectual equal as a wife—all of which allowed him to take the world by storm. Taubman follows it all with gusto.

An engaging, poignant portrayal of one of the most significant of Russian leaders.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-393-64701-3

Page Count: 768

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: July 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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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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