A heartfelt, affecting book that sheds new light on one of the darkest moments in recent history.

ORDINARY HEROES

A MEMOIR OF 9/11

A former assistant chief of the New York City Fire Department delivers a firsthand account of the terrible events of 9/11.

Pfeifer opens at a firehouse on Duane Street, where two young French filmmakers were shooting footage for a documentary tracing the making of a firefighter in the training of a young recruit. All that was needed was a fire. Pfeifer and the crew got far more than they bargained for when they watched the first hijacked plane crash into the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m. “As the closest chief in lower Manhattan,” writes the author, “I knew instantly I was going to be the first chief on the scene and would have to take command.” Upon arrival, he had to make difficult decisions: It would take firefighters 60 minutes to reach the 93rd floor, where the fire was raging. Meanwhile, the building was already beginning to teeter, finally requiring Pfeifer to go against the ingrained culture of the FDNY and withdraw his crews from the building and leave the area before the towers fell. That process was completed just before 10:28 a.m., when, as Pfeifer writes, “For the first time, I realized that both towers had completely collapsed. The buildings were not hiding behind the smoke. They no longer existed.” In the aftermath, Pfeifer—all of whose company survived, even though 343 firefighters, including his brother, would not—analyzed failures of communication that kept firefighters and police from coordinating their efforts, which he would see through to a thoroughgoing reform that paid off when US Airways 1549 crash-landed in the Hudson River in 2009. He also pioneered cross-agency counterterrorism efforts. “The heart of crisis leadership is the ability to sustain hope by unifying efforts to solve complex problems in the face of great tragedy,” he writes, and this account shows the great strides forward that he helped engineer after just such a tragedy.

A heartfelt, affecting book that sheds new light on one of the darkest moments in recent history.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-33025-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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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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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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