An absorbing, thoroughly researched life of a singular thinker.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • National Book Critics Circle Finalist



Making an impressive book debut, journalist Carter offers a sweeping, comprehensive biography of economist, political theorist, and statesman John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946), one of the most influential figures of his time.

As the author shows, Keynes’ prescription for staving off financial disaster led to an important government post for the duration of World War I. “Dispatched to summits all over the world, called to parliamentary debates in the House of Commons, and welcomed into the social circles of the British political elite,” Keynes became Great Britain’s top financial adviser. Carter ably traces the evolution of his thought: He became disillusioned with classical economic theory, which held that market forces always would result in stability, and he came to realize that imperialism promoted inequality rather than spreading humanitarian values. In 1919, he mounted a “devastating attack” on the Treaty of Versailles, predicting with chilling accuracy that the treaty “would march Europe to economic ruin, dictatorship, and war.” In his many economic treatises, Keynes tried to synthesize “the practical, risk-averse, anti-revolutionary conservatism” of Edmund Burke and “the radical democratic ideals advanced by Rousseau.” Although he became hugely wealthy and enjoyed the privileges of his class, at heart, Carter notes, Keynes was an idealist who tried “to democratize the trappings of ruling-class life.” In his personal life, Keynes was a sometimes admired, sometimes cattily dismissed member of the Bloomsbury group of artists and writers, counting among his friends Virginia and Leonard Woolf, Lytton Strachey, and Duncan Grant. He had many male lovers until he met, and married, the dazzling ballerina Lydia Lopokova. Assessing his subject’s legacy, Carter asserts that Keynesianism “is not so much a school of economic thought as a spirit of radical optimism” that “was for a time synonymous with liberal internationalism—the idea that shrewd, humane economic management could protect democracies from the siren songs of authoritarian demagogues and spread peace and prosperity around the globe.”

An absorbing, thoroughly researched life of a singular thinker.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-50903-5

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?